The Architects of International Relations: Building a Discipline, Designing the World, 1914-1940

Dr. Jan Stöckmann

Dissertation, University of Oxford

Prompted by the horrors of the First World War, a group of pioneering scholars, politicians, and diplomats began to establish International Relations (IR) as an academic discipline while simultaneously pursuing practical goals in global politics. Throughout the inter-war period, they advised governments, drafted treaties, and managed international organisations alongside their role as university lecturers and researchers. Among this eclectic group were figures such as German lawyer Albrecht Mendelssohn Bartholdy, American historian James T. Shotwell, and British feminist-pacifist Helena Swanwick. They collaborated across Europe, the United States, and soon the entire globe, inspired by cosmopolitan ideas, yet ready to represent their national governments. By engaging with contemporary affairs—from the creation of the League of Nations through to the crises of the 1930s in Manchuria, Abyssinia, and Czechoslovakia—they defined themselves as academic authorities as well as political advisors. By 1940, the architects of International Relations had not only established a new academic discipline, but made substantial contributions to practical politics and, ultimately, the way we think about war and peace until today.

This project uses their papers, scattered across more than two dozen archives in six countries, as a lens to examine the formation of IR scholarship. It provides the first international history of the discipline and challenges several assumptions about the origins of the field that still survive in textbooks today. Specifically, it shows that IR emerged during rather than after the First World War; it incorporates neglected actors outside the anglophone world; it recovers women and feminist political thought; and it reveals how IR scholars contributed as quasi-diplomats to a number of important treaties during the inter-war period. As a result, it argues, the traditional history of early IR scholarship—the so called ‘great debate’ between ‘idealist’ and ‘realist’ thinkers—is not only inaccurate, as recent revisions have shown. It misses the key point that the architects of IR were not usually interested in theory but considered themselves to be designers of diplomatic order in the real world.


Letzte Änderung: 24. November 2021