War studies

Humanities research applied to contemporary challenges. UNSW Canberra has the largest concentration of military historians in Australia, and has long been a leading institution for the study of war.

What we do

Located at the Australian Defence Force Academy, we have provided education and research services to the Australian Defence Force for more than 50 years.

The War Studies Research Group brings together scholars looking to address modern defence and security challenges through applied historical research.

The Group has expertise across diverse areas within the history of conflict, including Australian and international military history, strategic policy, contemporary operations, operational analysis, the history of veterans’ care, naval history & space policy. The group works closely with industry partners within Defence, government, and academia to produce relevant and problem focused research and professional education.

The convenor of the War Studies Research Group is Dr Richard Dunley.

Research themes

The War Studies Research Group produces world-class military history for academic and popular audiences, and applied history products on contemporary challenges for the Australian Defence Force, the Department of Defence, and the Australian Government.

Our areas of specialisation include: 

Australian military history

The War Studies Research Group is the leading global centre for Australian military history. Our research is on the cutting edge of the field, combining traditional operational military history with new approaches. We have consistently generated substantial impact with public, academic and professional audiences.

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Strategy and policy

Members of the War Studies Research Group are regular contributors to the ongoing debates over defence strategy and policy within Australia. With a particular focus on drawing insight from historical experience they regularly contribute to both the academic discussion, and the wider public debate.

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Veterans history and policy

The effects of war and military service exist far beyond the battlefield; the War Studies Research Group conducts research into veterans’ experiences and government policies affecting veterans and their families from the First World War to today.

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Naval history

The War Studies Research Group is home to the only Australian based academics focused on naval history. Working closely with colleagues in the Maritime Security Research Group and the Naval Studies Centre, these scholars are uniquely well placed to conduct research into the Royal Australian Navy and Australia’s maritime context in both historical and contemporary settings.

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Space policy and history

The use of space is increasingly becoming vital to Australia’s national security, and researchers from the War Studies Group have made significant contributions to the understanding of Australia’s space policy. This has included research into the long history of involvement in civil and military space, the ways in which Australia has approached decision-making on space, and what it might aim to achieve in the future.

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Plus more

The War Studies Research Group produces much more, please visit regularly as we share more details about our studies, research and resources. 

Recent activities

  • UNSW Canberra historians Dr Rhys Crawley (senior lecturer) and Ms Nicole Townsend (PhD student) have been invited to present at the Chief of Army History Conference 2023. In accordance with the conference theme, ‘In Brown and Green Waters: Australian Army Operations in the Littoral’, Dr Crawley’s applied history will focus on the lodgment and logistic lessons from Gallipoli; building on her PhD research, Ms Townsend will examine the sustainment and relief aspects of Tobruk.

  • Dr Richard Dunley presented on naval shipbuilding at the Goldrick Seminar run by the Australian Naval Institute. Dr Dunley discussed the history of Australian naval shipbuilding, highlighting some of the continuities with the current challenges and lessons learnt from previous projects. This formed part of a productive wider conversation on the contemporary issues and opportunities with representatives from Navy and industry.

  • Dr Rhys Crawley was invited to present the results of his research, and lessons from the Official History of Australian Operations in Afghanistan, at the ‘International Expert Meeting’ in Amsterdam in September 2023. 

  • At the invitation of Brigadier David McCammon, UNSW Canberra War Studies Research Group’s Dr Rhys Crawley gave the keynote address at the Australian Army’s 3rd Brigade ‘Battle of Amiens’ commemorative dinner at Townsville in August 2023. 

  • Associate Professor David Stahel published his new book Hitler’s Panzer Generals with Cambridge University Press. This pioneering study reveals a complete picture of the men conducting Hitler's war in the East, with an emphasis on the private fears and public pressures they operated under.

Professional education

A variety of professional education options are available through the War Studies Research Group.

Our researchers leverage their expertise to provide learning packages in fields such as applied military history and strategic theory for practitioners and students across all levels of the JPME continuum.

Recent projects

  • A number of our researchers have recently produced applied history case studies as part of an Australian Army Research Centre funded project seeking to contextualise the shift towards littoral manoeuvre. These case studies included an exploration of experiences of the Australian Army in East Timor in 2006 and in the South-West Pacific in the Second World War, an examination of Australian amphibious logistics in the First and Second World Wars, and an examination of the maritime strategic theory underpinning the new concepts. Outputs of this project will be published in the forthcoming issue of the Australian Army Journal (vol. 19, no. 2).

  • In March 2022, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) stood up the Defence Space Command, following trends in the United States, where the United States Space Command and United States Space Force (USSF) were created in 2019. Defence Space Command, and the Space Strategy that it launched at the same time, were a watershed moment in Australian space that marked the emergence of the domain into thinking on defence strategy and everyday business. In this, the decisions taken by the Australian Department of Defence reflect a broader expansion of Australia’s space efforts, not least in the 2018 creation of the Australian Space Agency. Nonetheless, while this has seen space enter into the national consciousness like never before, Australia is still in its early days of understanding what it wants from space as a nation.

Research funding

Dr Rhys Crawley, Netherlands Government fellowship, ‘The War in Afghanistan’, (2024-5)

Dr Margaret Hutchison, Lead Chief Investigator, Australian Army History Grants Scheme, ‘Transition’ (2022 – 2025)

Dr Margaret Hutchison, Chief Investigator, ARC Discovery Project, Veteran Suicide: Historical and Social Dimensions (2023 – 2026)

Dr Tristan Moss, Lead Chief Investigator, ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Project, ‘Australia and Space: Government policy and public imagination, 1957 – 2021’ (2021 – 2024)

Dr Tristan Moss, Chief Investigator, ARC Discovery Project, ‘A History of Sex in the Australian Defence Force (2021 – 2024)

Dr Thomas Richardson, Lead Chief Investigator, Australian Army History Grants Scheme, ‘Australian Army Counterinsurgency in South East Asia 1955-1975’ (2022 – 2025)

Our publications

    • Craig Stockings, (2023), Born of Fire and Ash: Australian operations in response to the East Timor crisis 1999–2000
    • Richard Dunley, (2023), 'Uncrewed naval vessels and the span of maritime tasks', Marine Policy, 149,
    • Tristan Moss, (2023), 'History and Australia's Space Policy', in The Foundations of Australia's Space Policy, Griffith Asia Institute, Brisbane, pp. 5 – 13
    • Richard Dunley, (2023), 'The end of the ‘lucky country’? Understanding the failure of the AUKUS policy debate', Australian Journal of International Affairs, 77, pp. 317 - 324,
    • Margaret Hutchison, (2021), '‘Old Age is Not a War Disability’: Debating Aged Care for Nurses of World War I in post-1945 Australia', Australian Historical Studies, 52, pp. 63 - 78
    • Tom Richardson, (2021) 'The Korean War', in Fighting Australia’s Cold War: The Nexus of Strategy and Operations in a Multipolar Asia, 1945–1965, ANU Press, pp. 73 – 92
    • Tom Richardson, (2021) 'The Malayan Emergency', in Fighting Australia’s Cold War The Nexus of Strategy and Operations in a Multipolar Asia, 1945–1965, ANU Press, pp. 115 - 135
    • Tristan Moss, (2021), 'Defending Australia’s land border: the Australian military in Papua New Guinea', in Fighting Australia’s Cold War: The nexus of strategy and operations in a multipolar Asia, 1945 – 1965, pp. 157 - 172,
    • Tristan Moss, (2021), 'Planning for war in Southeast Asia: the Far East Strategic Reserve, 1955 - 66', in Moss T; Dean P (ed.), Fighting Australia’s Cold War: The nexus of strategy and operations in a multipolar Asia, 1945 – 1965, pp. 95 - 114,
    • Rhys Crawley, Peter Londey & David Horner, (2019), The long search for peace: Volume 1, The official history of Australian Peacekeeping, Humanitarian and post-cold war operations: Observer missions and beyond, 1947-2006,
    • Rhys Crawley, D Baldino (ed.), 2018, Intelligence and the Function of Government, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne,
    • Rhys Crawley & John Blaxland, (2017), The Secret Cold War: The Official History of ASIO, 1975-1989

Our researchers

Head of School - Professor of History Craig Stockings
Head of School - Professor of History
Senior Lecturer in History Rhys Crawley
Senior Lecturer in History
History Discipline Coordinator -  Lecturer in History Richard Dunley
History Discipline Coordinator - Lecturer in History
Deputy Head of School (Education) Associate Professor in History David Stahel
Deputy Head of School (Education) Associate Professor in History