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Professor Alexander Watson

Staff details

PositionLecturer in History, Exams Officer
Department History
Email a.watson (@gold.ac.uk)
Phone+44 (0)20 7078 5357
Professor Alexander Watson

Academic qualifications

  • BA (Hons) in Modern History, Oxford University, 2000
  • DPhil in History, Oxford University, 2005

Teaching

BA Second and Third Year

MA

 

Professional projects

Professor Alexander Watson has written for The New York Times, Times Higher Education and History Today. On radio, Prof Watson was interviewed on the BBC World Service programme ‘World War One.  The Documentary’ and on the BBC’s ‘Good Morning Scotland’ programme.  Prof Watson has also worked with television, and appear in the German Channel ZDF’s documentary ‘Die suche nach den verlorenen Söhnen.  100 Jahre Erster Weltkrieg’ [‘The Search for the Lost Sons.  One Hundred Years of the First World War’].

 

Research Interests

Prof Watson's research focuses on the social, cultural and military history of Central Europe and Britain in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and above all in the First World War. Prof Watson is interested particularly in the human experience of ‘total war’. 

His book is Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary at War, 1914-1918 (London: Allen Lane, The Penguin Press, 2014). This new history retells the First World War from the perspectives of its instigators and losers, the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires. The book explains how these powers fought and were changed by the immense strains of the unprecedentedly horrendous and all-embracing warfare of 1914-18. It shows how ‘total war’ radicalised leaders’ war aims, and above all it reveals how essential popular commitment was in the struggle. It explores why ordinary Germans and Austro-Hungarians mobilised, and it shows how hardship and bloodshed ultimately eroded their support and fragmented their societies, bequeathing a fateful legacy of impoverishment, political extremism and racial hatred to East-Central Europe.

His first book, Enduring the Great War.  Combat, Morale and Collapse in the German and British Armies, 1914-1918 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), was a comparative investigation of German and British military resilience in 1914-18. It examined how soldiers coped psychologically on the Western Front and how military institutions functioned to coerce and support them, and it provided a new explanation for why the German army ultimately broke down in 1918.  The book was awarded the Institute of Contemporary History and Wiener Library’s Fraenkel Prize.

Prof Watson is now working on a history of minorities, integration and assimilation, concentrating on the states and peoples of East-Central Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Publications

Book

Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary at War, 1914-1918
Watson, Alexander. 2014. Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary at War, 1914-1918. London: Allen Lane, Penguin Books. ISBN 978-1846142215

Enduring the Great War. Combat, Morale and Collapse in the German and British Armies, 1914-1918
Watson, Alexander. 2008. Enduring the Great War. Combat, Morale and Collapse in the German and British Armies, 1914-1918. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521881012

Book Section

Mutinies and Military Morale
Watson, Alexander. 2014. Mutinies and Military Morale. In: Hew Strachan, ed. The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War. New Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 191-203. ISBN 978-0199663385

Morale
Watson, Alexander. 2014. Morale. In: Jay Winter, ed. The Cambridge History of the First World War. Vol. II. The State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 174-195. ISBN 978-0521766531

‘Indecisive Victory? German and British Soldiers at the Armistice, 11th November 1918’
Watson, Alexander. 2013. ‘Indecisive Victory? German and British Soldiers at the Armistice, 11th November 1918’. In: Kate Kennedy and Trudi Tate, eds. The Silent Morning: Memory, Culture and the Armistice, November 1918. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, pp. 286-308. ISBN 978-0719090028

‘Polscy żołnierze w armii niemieckiej podczas I Wojny Światowej – badanie motywacji bojowej’ [‘Polish Soldiers in the German Army during the First World War – a Study of Combat Motivation’]
Watson, Alexander. 2012. ‘Polscy żołnierze w armii niemieckiej podczas I Wojny Światowej – badanie motywacji bojowej’ [‘Polish Soldiers in the German Army during the First World War – a Study of Combat Motivation’]. In: Waldemar Rezmer, ed. Od armii komputowej do narodowej. IV Toruń: Uniwersytet Mikołaja Kopernika, pp. 153-64. ISBN 978-8323129158

Voluntary Enlistment in the Great War: a European Phenomenon?
Watson, Alexander. 2011. Voluntary Enlistment in the Great War: a European Phenomenon? In: Christine G. Krüger and Sonja Levsen, eds. War Volunteering in Modern Times. From the French Revolution to the Second World War. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 163-88. ISBN 978-0230228054

Article

Managing an 'Army of Peoples': Identity, Command and Performance in the Habsburg Officer Corps, 1914-1918
Watson, Alexander. 2016. Managing an 'Army of Peoples': Identity, Command and Performance in the Habsburg Officer Corps, 1914-1918. Contemporary European History, 25(2), pp. 233-251. ISSN 0960-7773

"Unheard-of Brutality": Russian Atrocities against Civilians in East Prussia, 1914-1915
Watson, Alexander. 2014. "Unheard-of Brutality": Russian Atrocities against Civilians in East Prussia, 1914-1915. The Journal of Modern History, 86(4), pp. 780-825. ISSN 0022-2801

Fighting for Another Fatherland: the Polish Minority in the German Army, 1914-1918
Watson, Alexander. 2011. Fighting for Another Fatherland: the Polish Minority in the German Army, 1914-1918. The English Historical Review, 126(522), pp. 1137-66. ISSN 0013-8266

‘Bereaved and Aggrieved: Combat Motivation and the Ideology of Sacrifice in the First World War’
Watson, Alexander and Porter, Patrick. 2010. ‘Bereaved and Aggrieved: Combat Motivation and the Ideology of Sacrifice in the First World War’. Historical Research, 83(219), pp. 146-64. ISSN 1468-2281

Culture and Combat in the Western World, 1900-1945
Watson, Alexander. 2008. Culture and Combat in the Western World, 1900-1945. The Historical Journal, 51(2), pp. 529-46. ISSN 0018-246X

‘Junior Officership in the German Army during the Great War, 1914-1918’
Watson, Alexander. 2007. ‘Junior Officership in the German Army during the Great War, 1914-1918’. War in History, 14(4), pp. 429-53.

‘Self-Deception and Survival: Mental Coping Strategies on the Western Front, 1914-18’
Watson, Alexander. 2006. ‘Self-Deception and Survival: Mental Coping Strategies on the Western Front, 1914-18’. Journal of Contemporary History, 41(2), pp. 247-68.

‘“For Kaiser and Reich”: the Identity and Fate of the German Volunteers, 1914-1918’
Watson, Alexander. 2005. ‘“For Kaiser and Reich”: the Identity and Fate of the German Volunteers, 1914-1918’. War in History, 12(1), pp. 44-74. ISSN 0968-3445

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