The growth of the British Empire was largely due to military success on land and sea. On continental Europe hundreds of years of war also forged its city states, nations and empires. Naturally, this was celebrated by artists, who were commissioned for patriotic purpose and inspired by acts of heroism or, more rarely, by the horrors of war. Many artists specialised in battle scenes, either maritime or on land.

As well as records of battles, sometimes based on witness accounts and research, sometimes imagined, the personnel of the three armed services have been preserved in portraits, usually with a wealth of detail of uniforms, decorations and hand weapons. In Britain twentieth-century wars have been officially recorded under the War Artists Schemes, both active service and the home front.

There are well over 100 UK museums dedicated to the history of individual regiments, as well as national museums preserving the hardware of the three services and, devoted to the history of twentieth-century conflicts, the Imperial War Museums.