The study of strategy and international affairs at the Britannia Royal Naval College, can trace its roots back to the vision of the early twentieth century naval reformer, Admiral Sir Jacky Fisher. As a part of Fisher's design for a modern officer education - the so-called Selborne Scheme - the Department of History and English was established at the new naval college in Dartmouth in 1905 to inculcate cadets with a deeper knowledge of their service as well as of those broader qualities which had produced the inspired leadership of Nelson.
A long line of prominent naval historians and other academics taught at Dartmouth, including Michael Lewis, Geoffrey Callender, Christopher Lloyd, Edward Hughes, Northcote Parkinson, Ruddick Mackay, Philip Towle, Geoffrey Till, Eric Grove, and Evan Davies. Many not only distinguished themselves as academics, but also as practitioners, notably in the fields of policy-advice, intelligence, and wartime operational analysis. In 1982, under the then Head of Department, Louis Wreford-Brown, History and English evolved into the Department of Strategic Studies and Maritime Warfare (SSMW), with its curriculum expanded to take-in contemporary strategic thought, international relations, maritime warfare and regional studies.
Today, the Department (Mark Grove, Phil Grove, Dr Fotios Moustakis, Dr Simon Murden, Dr Jane Harrold) in Dartmouth provides initial officer education for all Royal Navy and Royal Marines officers as well as courses for more experienced officers in the Royal Marines. The courses encompass the study of international history, maritime and land warfare, command and leadership, and contemporary strategic issues. The Department also represents a Ministry of Defence-wide academic resource. Members of the Department undertake policy-related and personal research projects, and disseminate findings at various levels across UK armed services, as well as to foreign military organizations and universities.
On 1 July 2008, Plymouth University was appointed as the principal provider of academic services at the Britannia Royal Naval College. The development offered a number of synergies for both institutions of which the Department is one. The SSMW is capable of offering tailored packages of education to both students at Plymouth University and members of the UK armed forces.