A maritime historian at U.S. Naval War College (NWC) in Newport, R.I., was awarded a Doctor of Letters (D.Litt.) degree by the University of Oxford during a ceremony held at the school’s Sheldonian Theater March 5.
John B. Hattendorf has produced scholarly work for nearly 50 years, and has served as the college’s Ernest J. King Professor of Maritime History since 1984.
Oxford awarded one of its highest degrees to Hattendorf for academic contributions over his career, after his body of work was examined by some of the top people in the field.
“It’s a rather rare degree,” said Hattendorf. “Oxford sent me statistics on it, and they only give from one to five of these each year. And only about one a year goes to a historian.
The faculty of Oxford University unanimously endorsed the academic promotion of Hattendorf from the Doctor of Philosophy degree to the higher degree of Doctor of Letters.
“In order to get it, they did a formal examination of my work and decided that it met the standard of scholarship for the degree over a career,” Hattendorf said, who also earned his Doctor of Philosophy from Oxford in 1979.
Hattendorf received his recent degree during the Encaenia, a ceremony that dates from the 13th century and is conducted in Latin.
At the beginning of the ceremony, Hattendorf wore his scarlet and black robe signifying that he held the Doctor of Philosophy. After officials conferred on him his new degree, Hattendorf exited, donned his new scarlet and gray robe, and returned.
NWC President Rear Adm. P. Gardner Howe III has been familiar with Hattendorf’s work long before he took his current post.
“My introduction to the Naval War College was through a book John co-authored,” said Howe. “The book was ‘Sailors and Scholars: The Centennial History of the U. S. Naval War College.’ It covered the first 100 years of the college’s history, so I had heard John Hattendorf’s name before I got here. When I finally got a chance to meet him, I realized immediately that he is an absolute national treasure.”
Hattendorf’s extensive academic work includes being author, editor, co-author or co-editor of more than 40 books and numerous articles in the field of maritime history, including serving as editor-in-chief of the multi-volume “Oxford Encyclopedia of Maritime History,” which was awarded the Dartmouth Medal of the American Library Association in 2008.
His most recent work is a three-volume series on “U.S. Naval Strategy: Selected Documents from the 1970s through the 1990s.”
A forthcoming book, “Strategy and the Sea: Essays in Honour of John B. Hattendorf,” was written by several authors as a tribute to Hattendorf.
Hattendorf is the second NWC faculty member to hold a Doctor of Letters degree, joining Michael Schmitt who earned his from Durham University, England. Schmitt serves as director of the NWC Stockton Center for the Study of International Law.
For more information on NWC, visit https://www.usnwc.edu/home.aspx
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