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History Department

HH386 Gallipoli 1915, Spring 2017

Why do politicians sometimes act contrary to the expert opinion of their professional military advisors?  How do civil-military relations work in a democracy?  This course seeks to explore these questions through an in-depth look at the infamous British attack at Gallipoli during the First World War, widely acknowledged (even before the Mel Gibson movie) as one of the greatest military disasters of the 20th century.  On three separate occasions before the war--in 1906, 1908, and 1911--the Admiralty and War Office staffs agreed that in the event of war against Turkey, attacking the Gallipoli peninsula would be unwise: an amphibious assault against beaches defended by troops with modern weapons was likely to result in failure.  And yet, in 1915, the British government decided to attack the Dardanelles.  Its reasons had little to do with operational concerns and a great deal to do with domestic politics and the global economy.  For students seeking to understand the nature of strategic decision-making in a democracy and an inter-dependent world economic system--not unlike the United States and the globalized economy of today-- the Gallipoli campaign of 1915 offers a perfect case study.
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