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Institute of Advanced Study

Lecture 3

Richard Holmes has spent much of his career considering men's behaviour in combat, and has accompanied British troops on operations in the Balkans and Iraq.  He contends that, despite technological advances, the experience of battle is essentially old-fashioned, and motivation stems largely from small factors (like the self-regard of small groups) rather than larger ones like patriotism, though soldiers like to believe that they are on the right side and that their actions have public support.  Soldiers often remember the peaks and troughs of war, shock, terror and squalour set alongside excitement and comradeship: the best of times, the worst of times, indeed.

Richard Holmes has worked for Cranfield University since 1986, setting up the Security Studies Institute and now serving as co-director of the Security and Resilience Group. He served as Director for the Reserve Forces and Cadets in the MOD, 1998-2001 and is President of the British Commission for Military History and the Battlefields Trust.

Richard Holmes's trilogy on the British soldier across history, Redcoat, Sahib and Tommy attracted wide acclaim: the latter was no 2 on the UK's non-fiction bestseller list.  His book Dusty Warriors, an account of 1st Battalion the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment's 2003 VC-winning Iraq tour, was widely and generally favourably reviewed: many commentators thought it the best account of contemporary operations published to date.

He has presented seven documentary series for BBC2, and is a regular broadcaster.