Michael Howard

Michael Eliot Howard

(1922-11-29)29 November 1922
London, England
Died30 November 2019(2019-11-30) (aged 97)
Swindon, England
EducationChrist Church, Oxford (MA)
TitleRegius Professor of Modern History
PredecessorHugh Trevor-Roper
SuccessorJohn Elliott
PartnerMark Anthony James (Civil Partnership: 2006–2019)[1]
Military career
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchBritish Army
Years of service1942–1945
Service number253901
UnitColdstream Guards
Battles/warsSecond World War
AwardsMilitary Cross

Sir Michael Eliot Howard OM CH CBE MC FBA FRHistS (29 November 1922 – 30 November 2019) was an English military historian, formerly Chichele Professor of the History of War, Honorary Fellow of All Souls College, Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Oxford, Robert A. Lovett Professor of Military and Naval History at Yale University, and founder of the Department of War Studies, King's College London.[1] In 1958, he co-founded the International Institute for Strategic Studies.[2]

In 2013, Howard was described in the Financial Times as "Britain's greatest living historian".[3] The Guardian described him as "Britain's foremost expert on conflict".[2]

Early life

Howard was born on 29 November 1922 in Brompton, London, the youngest son of Geoffrey Howard and Edith (née Edinger).[4] His mother was the daughter of Jewish immigrants from Germany, who later converted to Christianity. His father was the chairman of a manufacturing company.[4] Howard was educated at Wellington College and Christ Church, Oxford. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in 1946, which was later promoted to Master of Arts (MA) in 1948.[1]

Howard joined the British Army and was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the Coldstream Guards on 4 December 1942. He was given the personal number 253901.[5] He fought in the Italian Campaign, serving with the 3rd Battalion, Coldstream Guards, and came ashore during the landings at Salerno in September 1943. On 27 January 1944, during the First Battle of Monte Cassino, he was awarded the Military Cross (MC) "in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in Italy".[6]

Academic career

After Oxford, Howard began his teaching career at King's College London, where he helped to found the Department of War Studies.[7] From his position at King's he was one of Britain's most influential figures in developing strategic studies as a discipline that brought together government, military, and academia to think about defence and national security more broadly and deeply than had been done before.

He was one of the founders of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.[2] From his family, education, and service in the Guards, he had extensive connections at the higher levels of British society, and he worked them astutely to further his intellectual goals. He had close connections in the Labour Party but was also consulted as an advisor by Margaret Thatcher.[9]

Historical writing

Howard was best known for expanding military history beyond the traditional campaigns and battles accounts to include wider discussions about the sociological significance of war. [9] In his account of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, Howard looked at how the Prussian and French armies reflected the social structure of the two nations. He was also a leading interpreter of the writings of the Prussian military thinker Carl von Clausewitz, including preparing a translation of On War with the American historian Peter Paret.[2]

In addition, in both his inaugural and concluding lectures as Regius Professor, and in his popular and influential War in European History, Howard stressed the difference between traditional military history, which seeks to identify easily applicable lessons for the present from the history of past wars and military campaigns, and his own approach, which stresses the uniqueness of the historical past and the impossibility of deriving such lessons to guide modern strategic and tactical choices.[4]

In 1985, he delivered the Huizinga Lecture in the Dutch city of Leiden, under the title: 1945: End of an Era.[10] Howard helped found the Department of War Studies and the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives at King's College London. He was president emeritus of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which he also helped to establish, and a fellow of the British Academy.[2]

Personal life and death

In 1958, Howard met geography teacher Mark Anthony James, and they began a relationship. They entered into a civil partnership in 2006, and latterly lived in Eastbury, Berkshire.[4] Howard died at a hospital in Swindon on 30 November 2019, at the age of 97; James died two months later.[4]

Awards and honours

Howard was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1977 Birthday Honours and a Knight Bachelor in the 1986 Birthday Honours.[11][12] He was later appointed to the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) for services to military studies in the 2002 Birthday Honours and to the Order of Merit (OM) in 2005.[13][14] In 1988 he was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of War Sciences.[15] In 1992, he was awarded the Samuel Eliot Morison Prize for lifetime achievement given by the Society for Military History.[16]

Coat of arms of Michael Howard
A lion statant guardant tail extended Argent resting the dexter forepaw on a stag's head cabossed Or.
Quarterly: 1st & 4th Gules a bend Argent between six cross crosslets Or on a canton Azure a stag's head cabossed Argent (Howard); 2nd & 3rd Argent a fess Gules between two bars wavy Azure in chief three Cornish choughs Proper (Eliot).
Sola Virtus Invicta (Virtue Alone Invincible) [17]


External videos
video icon Booknotes interview with Howard on The First World War, 16 March 2003, C-SPAN


  1. ^ a b c "Howard, Sir Michael (Eliot), (born 29 Nov. 1922), Emeritus Professor of Modern History, University of Oxford, after 1989". Who's Who. 2007. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.20910.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Thorpe, Vanessa (30 November 2019). "Sir Michael Howard, distinguished historian, dies aged 97". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  3. ^ Max Hastings (13 September 2013). "Max Hastings' brief history of war". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 11 December 2022. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Holden-Reid, Brian (2023). "Howard, Sir Michael Eliot (1922–2019), historian". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/odnb/9780198614128.013.90000380880. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ "No. 35880". The London Gazette (Supplement). 26 January 1943. p. 531.
  6. ^ "No. 36349". The London Gazette (Supplement). 25 January 1944. p. 518.
  7. ^ "The Unrepentant Historian: Sir Michael Howard and the birth of War Studies". British Journal for Military History. 2022.
  8. ^ "Professor Sir Michael Howard | All Souls College". www.asc.ox.ac.uk.
  9. ^ a b Cowell, Alan (1 December 2019). "Michael Howard, Eminent British Military Historian, Dies at 97". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  10. ^ The Lecture is published in a Dutch translation, as: 1945: Einde van een tijdperk? (1986) Amsterdam: Bert Bakker. ISBN 90-351-0352-1.
  11. ^ "No. 47234". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 June 1977. p. 7089.
  12. ^ "No. 50551". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 June 1986. p. 2.
  13. ^ "No. 56595". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 June 2002. p. 25.
  14. ^ "No. 57645". The London Gazette. 20 May 2005. p. 6631.
  15. ^ Kungliga Krigsvetenskapsakademien, retrieved 2017-03-19.
  16. ^ "Samuel Eliot Morison Prize previous winners". Society for Military History. Archived from the original on 8 January 2018. Retrieved 25 December 2017.
  17. ^ Burke's Peerage. 2003.
  18. ^ Jones, Craig, ed. (2019). Fighting with pride : LGBTQ in the armed forces. Barnsley (South Yorkshire, England). ISBN 978-1-5267-6528-4. OCLC 1127052600.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)


Academic offices New title Head of Department of War Studies, King's College London 1962–1968 Succeeded bySir Laurence Martin