Dr Rob Johnson is the Director of the Oxford Changing Character of War Centre, Senior Research Fellow of Pembroke College, and Associate of the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford. He is a historian combining academic analyses with ‘knowledge exchange’ policy impact.

Dr Johnson advises and delivers direct support to government and armed forces in defence and security matters, transferring his knowledge in related academic and research fields. His bespoke advisory support is not limited to the United Kingdom, but is requested by US and European armed forces. The Director is now prominent within professional military education, as a member of the advisory panel of the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, lecturer for the Royal College of Defence Studies, and as the director of ‘insight and understanding’ study days and workshops. His former military career involved innovations in counter-terrorism, but also gives him a clear understanding of the requirements and thinking of the armed services. He is a visiting lecturer in the United States, Canada, Norway and NATO in Europe. 

Dr Johnson has delivered courses in Strategic Studies (Politics and IR) and the History of War (History), an unusual interdisciplinary combination for academics. He has offered postgraduate supervision on theses concerned with strategy, as well as undergraduate tutorials for a number of colleges, tuition on foreign exchange programmes, lectures in the undergraduate International Relations and General History circus and an unexamined lecture series on the history of war and strategy. He delivers teaching to overseas academic programmes, including those of Stanford, Harvard and Yale. 

Dr Rob Johnson’s primary research interests are in strategy, its development, and the history of war which informs it. His regional interest is in the Middle East, but he is familiar with a number of global conflict and security issues. In light of recent strategic challenges, his research has necessarily addressed hybrid warfare, unconventional operations and ‘War Amongst the People’, including terrorism, insurgency and counter-insurgency. He has also examined how conflicts can be terminated, through transition and negotiation.

Dr Johnson has also published on the issue of civil-military relations in the making of strategy, and has examined the problems of maintaining internal security, the dynamics of insurrection, and the role of auxiliary forces. He has written on strategic advantages and risks of partnering irregular indigenous forces. His work on grand strategy, defence policy and military strategy includes a study of the First World War in the Middle East. He has delivered papers on ‘cohesion in combat’, ‘joint operations’, ‘future operating environment’, ‘modernisation’ and ‘strategy-making in the twenty-first century’.

Currently he assists the British armed forces in planning for reconfigured structures and missions and is focused on the difficulties of ‘planning future war’ using historical examples. He is actively involved in developing doctrine. He also runs strategic exercises, including scenario-based learning processes grounded in history and recent conflicts, at the Royal College of Defence Studies, and lectures at the Higher Command and Staff Centre.

Dr Johnson became a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 2019.

Forthcoming Publications:

Rob Johnson, T E Lawrence ‘of Arabia’ on War (London: Bloomsbury, due 2019).

This book explores Lawrence’s ideas on war, through theory and practice, and how they were applied to the ’desert war’ of 1916-1918, and subsequently how Lawrence’s ideas have been interpreted and used by Basil Liddell-Hart and others, up to the present.

Robert Johnson and Charles Townshend, (eds), Oxford History of Modern War, (Oxford University Press, new edition due 2019).

RECENT Publications:

Robert Johnson and Janna Halaand Matlary, (eds), The United Kingdom’s Defence Policy Post Brexit: Coalitions, Alliances and Partnerships, (Palgrave, 2018).

This volume brings together work on British, American and European defence policy, assessing the changes of the last decades and the developments that are anticipated in light of ‘Brexit’ from the European Union.

Robert Johnson and Timothy Clack, (eds), Before Military Intervention: Upstream Stabilisation, including chapter ‘Assessing the Upstream Strategic Environment’, (Palgrave, 2018).

This volume examines attempts by Western militaries to reconfigure their forces and missions in conflict prevention or the averting of destabilisation that could generate conflict. The concept of upstream stabilisation and persistent engagement reflects on previous attempts in stabilisation and analyses what is new about the current Western approach.


Robert Johnson and James Kitchen, (eds), The Great War in the Middle East: A Clash of Empires, forthcoming (London: Routledge, 2018), including chapter ‘British Strategy and the Middle East, 1878-1918’.

Johnson, Kitchen and an experienced group of authors examine a variety of themes affecting the Middle East, including the military campaigns, the strategies, as well as the changes and continuities of that conflict.


• True to Their Salt: Indigenous & Auxiliary Forces in Foreign Service (London & New York: Hurst-OUP, 2017)

• The Great War and the Middle East: A strategic Study (Oxford University Press, 2016)

• The Afghan Way of War (London and New York: Hurst-OUP, 2011)

• The Iran-Iraq War (New York and Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2010)

• Pulverfass Im Hindukusch: Dschihad, Erdol und die Grossmachte in Zentralasien (Theiss, 2008)

• Oil, Islam and Conflict in Central Asia since 1945 (London: Reaktion, 2007)

• Spying for Empire: The Great Game in Central and South Asia 1757-1947 (London: Greenhill, 2006)

• A Region in Turmoil: South Asian Conflicts Since1947 (London: Reaktion, 2005).

• British Imperialism (New York and Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002)

Official Publications (Consultancy)

• NATO Study: Urban Warfighting: Strategy and Operations, 2015

• NATO Study: Urban Warfighting: The Human Dimension, 2016

• NATO COE-DAT Study: Future Terrorism and Insurgency 2015

• The Future Operating Environment

• Global Strategic Trends

• Army Doctrine Publication Operations

• Army Doctrine Publication Counter-Insurgency

Edited Volumes

• At the End of Military Intervention: Historical, Theoretical and Applied Solutions to Stabilization and Drawdown, Rob Johnson and Timothy Clack, (eds), (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014) including chapters ‘Introduction’ and ‘India and Pakistan, 1947-48’.

• The British Indian Army: Virtue and Necessity, Rob Johnson, (ed), (Cambridge: CSP, 2014) including 3 chapters: ‘Introduction’, ‘Making a Virtue Out of Necessity, 1746-1947’ and ‘The Indian Army on Expeditionary Operations, 1856-1914: China, Persia, and East Africa’.

• The Gallipoli Campaign: The Turkish Perspective, Rob Johnson and Metin Gurcan, (eds), (Routledge, 2016) including ‘Introduction’ and ‘A Contested Historiography’

Chapters and Journal Articles

Insurgency and Internal Security

• ‘Command of the Army, Charles Gwynn and Imperial Policing: The British Doctrinal Approach to Internal Security in Palestine 1919-29’, article for Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, Special Edition, 2014

• ‘War Amongst the People’ and ‘The Consequences of a failed State’ in Afghanistan Revealed (London: Afghan Appeal Fund, and Frontline, 2013)

• ‘General Roberts, the Occupation of Kabul and the Problems of Transition, 1879-1880’, in War in History 20:3 (July 2013)

• ‘Managing Helmand: From Bost to Bastion’, in International Area Studies Review 15, 3 (2012): 279-300.

• ‘Mizh der beitabora khalqi-i’: A Comparative Study of Afghan-Pashtun Perspectives on Negotiating with the British and the Soviets, 1839-1989’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, Special Edition, 39, 4 (November 2011): 551-70.

• ‘The Army in India and Responses to Low-Intensity Conflict, 1936-46’, Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, 89, 358 (2011), 159-81

• ‘The Indian Army and Internal Security, 1919-1946’ in Kaushik Roy (ed.), The Indian Army in the Two World Wars (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2011)

• ‘Small Wars and Internal Security: The Army in India, 1936-46’, in Alan Jefferies and Patrick Rose, (eds), The Indian Army, 1939-1947: Experience and Development (London: Ashgate, 2012)

•‘Wars of National Liberation’ in Sibylle Scheipers (ed), Heroism and the Changing Character of War: Toward Post-Heroic Warfare?  (Palgrave, 2014)

•Lessons in Imperial Rule: Instructions for Infantrymen on the Indian Frontier (London: Greenhill, 2008)

•‘The 1897 Revolt and Tirah Valley Operations from the Pashtun Perspective’ (Williamsburg, VA., November 2009)

•‘Introduction’ to C.E. Callwell, The Tirah Campaign (London: 1911; repubd. Williamsburg, VA, 2009)

•‘‘‘True to Their Salt’’: Mechanisms for recruiting and managing military labour in the Army of the East India Company during the Carnatic Wars in India’, International Institute for Social History, Amsterdam, 2011 due to be published in Labour and the Military (Leiden, due June 2013)

•‘Conception et conduite de la contra-insurrection en Afghanistan’, in Strategies Arabo-Mussalmanes et Irrgularite : Cultures et Discourses de Guerre, Strategique 103 (2013) Proceedings of the Centre de Recherche des Ecoles de Saint-Cyr Coetquidan, Ecoles Militaires, Paris : 193-218


Justifications of Violence, War and Intervention

•‘Upstream Engagement and Downstream Entanglement: the Assumptions, Opportunities and Threats of Partnering Indigenous Forces’, Small Wars and Insurgencies (Special Edition).

•‘Transformation of War: The Collision of States and Sub-State Polities’, in Transformations of War, John Torpey and David Jacobson, (eds), (Temple, 2016).

• ‘War and Civilization: The Paradox of the Nature of War and Civilization’s Need for War’, chapter in an edited volume, Alex Linklater, (ed), War and Civilization, (Engelsberg, 2016).

•‘Killing in Close Combat: Contexts and Concepts on Cohesion and Killing from the First Word War to the Present’, chapter in edited volume, Anthony King, (ed), Combat and Cohesion, (OUP, 2014).

•‘The Romanticism of the Revolutionary: Warriors of National Liberation’, in R. Hanks, (ed), Roots of Violence (Stockholm: Ax:Johnson, 2013)

•‘Jihad and the ‘‘War on Terror’’: Intelligence, Ethics, and Justice in Pakistan and Afghanistan’, in Mark Phythian and Anika Bergman, Intelligence Ethics and the War on Terror (Routledge, 2011)

•‘Mutazafin and Taghutti [The Oppressed and Tyrants]: Iran and its International Relations’ in the Iran-Iraq War’, in Nigel Ashton, Ranj Alaaldin and Bryan Gibson, (eds.), The Iran-Iraq War: New International Perspectives (London and New York: Routledge, 2012)

•‘Justifying the Iraq War and Managing the Media’, in David Welch and Jo Fox, (eds.), Justifying War (Routledge, 2012)


Strategies of Security

•‘The East India Company, the Indian Army and the China Wars, 1839-1860’ in Peter Lorge and Kaushik Roy (eds), India and China (London and New York: Routledge, 2012)

•‘The Penjdeh Incident, 1885’ Archives 24, 100, (1999): 28-48.

•‘ ‘‘Russians at the Gates of India’’’: Planning the Strategic Defence of India, 1884-1899’ Journal of Military History (USA: Virginia Military Institute), 67, (July 2003): 697-743.

•‘Introduction’ to Major General Charles Metcalfe MacGregor, The Second Afghan War: The Official History (London: Frontline, due 2013)

•‘The Great Game and Power Projection, 1856-1914’, in Jeff Macris and Saul Kelly, (eds), Imperial Crossroads: The Great Powers and the Gulf (Routledge, 2012)

•‘Sir Peter Stark Lumsden’, entry for the Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: OUP, 2009)

•‘A Plain Tale of Pundits, Players and Professionals: The Historiography of the Great Game’ in Chris Moran and Christopher Murphy (eds), Intelligence Studies in Britain and the United States: Historiography since 1945 (Edinburgh University Press, 2013)

•History at the End of the World: History, Climate Change and the Possibility of Closure, Mark Levene, Rob Johnson, Penny Roberts (eds), (Penrith: HEB, 2010) including chapter ‘Climate Change, Resources and Future War: The Case of Central Asia’.

•‘Pakistan’s ISI and Covert Operations in Afghanistan’, in K.C Gustafson and P. Davies, (eds), Intelligence Elsewhere (Georgetown University Press, 2013)

•‘ ‘‘Uncertain Loyalties’’: Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and its Relationship with Western Intelligence Agencies’, in P.Major & C.R.Moran, (eds.), Spooked: Britain, Empire and Intelligence since 1945 (CSP: Cambridge, 2009)

•‘In the Service of Empire: Imperialism and the British Spy Thriller’, with C.R. Moran, in Studies in Intelligence, 54, 2, (June, 2010)

Other History of War

•Utmutato a Gyozelemhez (London: Athenaeum, 2011)

•Hur Man Vinner pa Slagfaltet (Stockholm: Fischer, 2011)

•How to Win on the Battlefield (London: Thames and Hudson, 2010) edited with Michael Whitby and John France

•‘Boys at War: The Ubiquity of Child Soldiers’, lectures at All Souls and Magdalen published for the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Trust.