Dr Laura Rowe

Senior Lecturer


01392 722049

My primary research interest focuses on the social and cultural history of the First World War and on the Royal Navy in particular, where I look primarily at issues of moral, discipline and combat motivation, and on the relationship between the navy as a military institution and the society from which it was drawn. I also have a wider interest in the cultural and social history of warfare, and of the commemoration and memorialisation of war in the first half of the twentieth century.

Research interests

I am currently finishing a monograph entitled Discipline and Morale in the Royal Navy in the Era of the Great War which is based on my PhD and post-doctoral research. This monograph is the first detailed study of the social history of the Royal Navy during and immediately after the First World War. It draws together three important historical strands: First World War studies, labour history, and naval history, and combines them in a cultural and social history of morale and discipline in the Royal Navy from 1914-20. It explores the clash between an Admiralty discourse of paternalism and the increasing desire for ‘democratism’ from some sections of the lower decks. In addition to being a study of language and representation it also explores the relationship between discourse, politics and actions, and then relates this to the progress of the war more generally.


My next project, They Also Served, will address a series of significant questions that have emerged in the literature on the commemoration of twentieth-century conflict over the past two decades. At the heart of the research and analysis will be an examination of how the commemoration of the air and sea wars evolved across the inter-war period; commemorative practices and memories of the conflict did not become fixed on 11 November 1918. Did commemorative practices reflect a particular notion of the war as both a global or ‘total’ conflict, and how were the particular contributions of the RAF and RN remembered? These are questions that played out both at a national and a local level during 1918-39. Moreover, how did the services themselves choose to remember their war experiences, which were in some respects difficult to reconcile to wider narratives of sacrifice in battle as defined by 1918?


Additionally I am working on two articles: one entitled ‘Homosexuality in the Royal Navy in the Era of the Great War’, and one entitled ‘No More Heroes? Naval Perceptions of Heroism in the Great War’. I am also completing a general history of the Royal Navy and the Great War as part of the new I.B. Tauris series on the History of the Royal Navy.


Recent Papers Given

  • ‘Combat Experience and the Royal Navy: Reconstructing Narratives’, given at the Third International Gallipoli Symposium, Çanakkale Foundation, Istanbul, 20th-21st April, 2012 – Convened by Dr Mehdi İlhan & Dr Ibrahim Güran Yumuşak
  • ‘Bolshevism and the British Fleet, 1917-1920’, given at University College Dublin’s Centre for War Studies seminar, 26th April, 2012
  • ‘Manning the Service: Masculinity in the Senior Service at the Turn of the 20th Century’, given at the ‘Engendering Gender: Production, Transmission and Change 1500-1950’ conference, University of Exeter, 20-23rd July, 2010 – Organised by Prof. Henry French
  • ‘Homosexuality and the Royal Navy in the Era of the Great War’, given at the British Commission for Maritime History, King’s College, London, 14th October, 2010
  • ‘Conceptualising Discipline in the Royal Navy in the Era of the Great War’, given at the National Institute for Defense Studies, Defense Ministry of Japan, 23rd April, 2010 – Convened by Prof. Tomoyuki Ishizu
  • ‘The Influence of Bolshevism on Royal Naval Mutinies during the British Baltic Mission, 1919’, given at the ‘From the Trenches to Versailles’ conference, Universidade Nova de Lisboa,  22nd-26th June 2009 – Organised by Anna Paula Pires
  • ‘Service and Self: Conflicting Identities of the Lower Deck during the First World War’, given at the Oxford Apéro, 29th January 2008 – Convened by Alisa Miller
  • ‘Their Lordships Regret that…’, at the fourth conference of the International Society for First World War Studies, in Washington, DC, 18th-20th October 2007– Organised by Dr Michael Neiberg
  • Physical Manifestations of Unrest in the Royal Navy’, at the Military History Seminar, All Souls, 7th March 2007 – Convened by Prof. Hew Strachan
  • ‘Counting Unrest’, at the ‘1917, Beyond the Western Front’ conference 16th-17th July 2007, University of Northampton – Organised by Prof. Ian Beckett


Recent Publications

  • James Kitchen, Alisa Miller & Laura Rowe (eds.) Other Combatants, Other Fronts: Competing Histories of the First World War (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2011)
  • ‘Conceptualising Discipline in the Royal Navy in the Era of the Great War’, NIDS Military History Studies Annual, vol. 14, 2011, 101-121
  •  ‘Their Lordships Regret that…’ in Mike Neigberg & Jennifer Keene, ed., Finding Common Ground: New Directions in First World War Studies (Leiden: Brill, 2010)
  • ‘Counting Unrest: Physical Manifestations of Unrest and Their Relationship to Admiralty Perception’ in Ian Beckett, ed., 1917: Beyond the Western Front (Leiden: Brill, 2009)


Research supervision

I am currently supervising PhDs on the effects of cuts on the Royal Navy in the 1920s, and on the Royal Fleet Auxiliary in the twentieth century.


I would welcome PhDs on the social and cultural history of the Royal Navy in the 19th and 20th centuries, and on areas concerned with morale, discipline and combat motivation in armed services.

Contribution to discipline

I have been brought in as a specialist expert to review grant proposals for the AHRC.


I completed my BA in Modern History (1999-2002) and MSt in Historical Studies at Worcester College, Oxford. After taking a year away from academia to learn German I moved to the Department of War Studies at King’s College, London. There I undertook a PhD thesis entitled ‘Morale and Discipline in the Royal Navy during the First World War’. Following completion of my PhD I was award the Alan Pearsall Post Doctoral Fellowship at the Institute of Historical Research in London. I was appointed as a Lecturer in Naval History at the University of Exeter in September 2009. I have been a member of the International Society for First World War Studies since 2003, and in 2009 was Chair of the organising committee of their Fifth bi-annual conference, held at the Imperial War Museum, London. I have also been a member of the Research and Programmes Committee of the Society for Nautical Research since 2011, and of the Council for the Navy Records Society since 2010