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‘Hitler: A Global Biography’ Review by Arthur Herman

last modified Dec 09, 2019 08:59 PM

Click here to read Arthur Herman's book review on Professor Brendan Simm's "Hitler: A Global Biography" in the Wall Street Journal. 


DAAD Workshop on “Westphalia for the Middle East“

last modified Dec 09, 2019 08:54 PM

On Wednesday, December 4th, the Forum on Geopolitics organized a one-day workshop on its “Westphalia for the Middle East” project, made possible by the generous support of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Cambridge Research Hub with funds from the German Federal Foreign Office. The meeting was building on a previous workshop held in Cambridge in May this year. The participants consisted of experts on the history of the thirty years war and the Peace of Westphalia as well as on current Middle Eastern politics.  (Participants listed at the end).


Two themes were at the core of this event. The first session evolved around the idea of Building on existing peace frameworks. After all, several peace treaties such as the 1979 Camp David Agreements, the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty or the Iranian Nuclear talks already exist in the current Middle East, dealing with particular sub-issues of overall conflict in the region. Similarly, the Westphalian peace did not emerge out of nowhere, but rather built on previous efforts to end the Thirty Years War throughout the conflict in the Holy Roman Empire and among the European great powers. For example, the annus normalis, or normative year, regulation of the Westphalian peace originated in the 1635 Treaty of Prague. Westphalia itself to an extent represents a continuation of previous peace negotiations, concluded at Hamburg in 1641. The key question Dorothee Goetze from the Rheinische Friedrichs-Wilhelms-Universität focused on in her presentation on this phenomenon was, therefore, what the key difference between previous talks and those at Munster and Osnabruck was which enabled Westphalia to end the Thirty Years War. In her analysis, one important reason for this was the open nature of Westphalia, where a broad base of participants meant that numerous actors and issues could be addressed and bound into a final solution. Moreover, she stressed how pragmatism and innovation shaped the search for agreement, which enabled the ‘peacemaker’ in 1648 to reach solutions where their predecessors had failed. In his response, Ali Ansari (St. Andrews) picked up these points, warning that if one approaches a problem over a long period of time without success, one might have to reconsider one’s tools and pragmatically search for alternatives. The following discussion by the participants evolved around questions such as the personal networks of negotiators, the legitimacy of negotiation partners and the question of who could or indeed would have to participate if a similarly comprehensive peace conference would be envisaged for the Middle East today.


The theme of the second and final session of the workshop was Overcoming hostility toward the Other. Niels May from the German Historical Institute in Paris stressed how a key element of Westphalia was that never before so many different actors (more than 160) with such a multitude of interests had come together. This multitude was reflected in diverse negotiations styles and processes. While he warned to overestimate the idea of a common Christian culture as basis for the negotiations, he rather pointed to the ability of personal networks established through face-to-face communication which kept the process of talking going over several years and ultimately led to its culmination in success. As such, the final agreement 1648 came out of dynamics within the negotiations which were neither planned nor foreseen, and indeed at times were against the initial interests of the large powers. Picking up on Dr. May’s remarks, Nadia al-Bagdadi from CEU stressed the need to include measures of reconciliation and transitional justice in any efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East today. As example of why this is necessary, she named the 1989 Taif Agreement: while it managed to the halt the Lebanese civil war, it also enshrined confessionalism and social inequality in Lebanese politics which haunt the country’s politics up to this day, in a fashion that was analogous to Westphalia’s imprinting of the confessional divisions onto the constitution of the Holy Roman Empire, thus shifting sectarian conflict from the battlefield to the judicial-legal arena. The following discussion circled around the question of timing for reconciliation and transitional justice, the question of leadership within negotiations and cultures of memory within the conflict.


Amongst the many themes discussed in the workshop, the need to think pragmatically and creatively about solutions came out very clearly. It was also noteworthy how the historians of the period stressed that Westphalia was an open process whose outcome was anything but clear at the start. Any considerations about finding solutions for the Middle East should take those points as intellectual inspiration and background information.



  • Professor Ali Ansari
  • Dr Patrick Milton
  • Dr Thomas Peak
  • Dr Dorothee Goetze
  • Dr Alia Brahimi
  • Mr Philipp Hirsch
  • Professor Aziz Al-Azmeh
  • Professor Nadia Al-Bagdadi
  • Dr Shahira S. Fahmy
  • Dr Niels May

Mr. Flamur Krasniqi is the second recipient of a PhD bursary generously supported by the Cambridge Security Initiative

last modified Nov 26, 2019 08:23 PM

Mr. Flamur Krasniqi is the second recipient of a PhD bursary generously supported by the Cambridge Security Initiative for a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge's Department of Politics and International Studies studying European geopolitics, past or present.

Currently in the second year of his PhD programme, Mr. Krasniqi is completing his research under the supervision of Professor Brendan Simms, which focuses on the evolving U.S. approach and response towards armed Albanian trans-boundary secessionism in the Balkans between 1998—2001, and how this influenced America’s emerging regional strategy based on the maintenance of recognised borders driven by a need to placate Albanian grievances in the region and a democratisation policy intended to convert Serbia into a responsible regional actor.

Rooted in Applied History, the work is also intended to look towards understanding what lessons can be drawn from these cases when approaching other current and potential future armed trans-boundary secessionist movements around the globe that challenge American security interests in and out of Europe, such as; resurgent Serbian nationalism in the Balkans; Russian armed separatists in Eastern Europe and Kurdish autonomist and independence movements in the Middle-East.

To complete his research, Mr. Krasniqi will be conducting archival work at the William J. Clinton and George W. Bush Presidential Libraries in the U.S. as well as interviews with former Clinton and W. Bush administration officials. The generous bursary donated by the Cambridge Security Initiative will support Mr. Krasniqi’s research by funding additional necessary fieldwork in Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia, attendance to academic conferences in the U.S. and EU as well as a forthcoming pre-doctoral fellowship in the United States.  

The Forum on Geopolitics is delighted to welcome Mr. Krasniqi, and we are very grateful for the generosity shown by the Cambridge Security Initiative.


Conference report – “A Westphalia for the Middle East: The case study of Jerusalem - Shared Spaces, Demarcations, Governance, Legitimacy and Guarantees in a Contested Holy City”

last modified Nov 17, 2019 05:44 PM

The Arab-Israeli conflict has been considered one of, if not the most intractable conflict over the past decades. One of the many issues that have made its solution elusive is the status of Jerusalem, which within the framework of a two-state solution both Israel and the Palestinians claim as their capital. Indeed, the topic is so contentious that in previous negotiations such as the Oslo accords Jerusalem was usually left for the end of talks, when agreement was reached on everything else.

The peace process has been halting for a while now. As part of the ‘Westphalia for the Middle East’ project, a conference held at Peterhouse, Cambridge, was dedicated to the case of Jerusalem within the Arab-Israeli conflict and what role it could play in future efforts to find a solution to the questions of Israel/Palestine. Organised by the Forum on Geopolitics in conjunction with the Harvard Negotiation Task Force on November 8th-9th, the event brought together a range of experts on the topic representing views from the various conflict partners such as Israel, Egypt or Palestine. The historical lens of the Peace of Westphalia was introduced to serve as historical backdrop and potential inspiration for how to approach the issue.

Opening the conference with a keynote, Ambassador Hossam Zaki, Assistant Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Arab League of Arab States, pointed to the potential of a Jerusalem settlement to kickstart wider negotiations for a settlement of the Israel/Palestine settlement. However, he pointed out that any such process would be difficult without a real will to compromise on all sides of the negotiating table. A panel discussion with Prof. Marc Weller from the Lauterbach Centre at Cambridge, Nomi Bar-Yacoov at Chatham House, Koby Hubermann from the Israeli Peace Initiative and Rami Dajani from the Tony Blair Foundation, moderated by Malik Dahlan from Harvard’s Negotiation Task Force, considered the different angles of such an approach focusing on prioritizing a settlement over Jerusalem. One question which came to the fore was whether and how religious representatives could and should be involved in such a process. This question was also dealt with in Dr. Lena Oetzel’s (University of Salzburg) presentation about the key components of the religious aspects of the Westphalian settlement in 1648.  Another theme which was highlighted in particular by Prof. Menachem Klein (Bir-Ilan University) and Prof. Wendy Pullan (Cambridge) was challenges of daily life in Jerusalem and the impact of administrative divisions of the city.

Of course, no two-day conference can provide an attempt to a solution for such a complex question as a Jerusalem settlement. Neither was that its purpose. Instead, the presentations and discussions helped to bring out which issues were considered central to the case of Jerusalem and how it might relate to future discussions about a ‘Westphalia for the Middle East’.


Conquering Peace? How Looking at Three Centuries of Europe’s Past Might Help to Navigate its Uncertain Future

last modified Nov 13, 2019 03:23 PM

On Thursday, the 31st of October, the Forum on Geopolitics was pleased
to host Prof. Stella Ghervas from Newcastle University for a lecture on
European order at Gonville&Caius College (Cambridge). The title of Prof.
Ghervas lecture was "Conquering Peace? How Looking at Three Centuries of
Europe’s Past Might Help to Navigate its Uncertain Future.” She
presented the key arguments of her forthcoming book of the same title.

At its core is the struggle about peace in Europe. Rattled by repeated
wars, Prof. Ghervas identified five key order projects in which European
states themselves attempted to regulate their relations and thereby
ensure peaceful interactions. Starting with the ‘balance-of-power’
system after 1713 Peace of Utrecht in response to the Wars of Spanish
Succession, she pointed to the Congress System after the Napoleonic
Wars, the Versailles System with the League of Nations following WWI,
the European Communities after 1956 and the European Union after 1990 as
central incidents of such peaceful order projects. Her genealogy of
peace projects was therefore both an example of the longevity and
potential success of such efforts to achieve ‘managed peace’ in Europe,
as well as a reminder that no such project can be taken for granted.
After all, three of the five order projects ultimately broke down in
face of their inability to provide the results its founders had

Given the turbulent politics Europe is facing today, this ultimately
comes as a warning that no such order project can be taken for granted.
Indeed, this was one of the key points brought forward by Prof.
Christopher Brooke (Department for Politics and International Studies,
Cambridge), who gave a short response to Prof. Ghervas talk. Applauding
her wide-ranging theoretical construct, he pointed out that one could
not assume a teleological outcome from what on the surface might appear
to be a natural, inevitably progressing process through these five
stages of ‘managing peace in Europe’. Moreover, he gave a warning about
a too strong fixation on specific dates, as the choice of points in time
often depended on the context and topic one was looking at. Yet he, too,
left no doubt about the value of such Prof. Ghervas’ encompassing
portrayal of the challenges and the successes in the search for peace in
Europe over the past three centuries.

Professor Brendan Simms interview with Christiane Amanpour on CNN

last modified Nov 04, 2019 02:16 PM

Professor Brendan Simms discusses his new biography on Adolf Hitler with Christiane Amanpour at CNN. 

Watch the full interview here:


The Engelsberg Applied History Annual Lecture 2019 with Professor Margaret MacMillan

last modified Oct 20, 2019 02:36 PM

The Centre for Grand Strategy presents: The Engelsberg Applied History Annual Lecture 2019 with Professor Margaret MacMillan

The event will take place on 21 October at 6:30pm at Safra Lecture Theatre at King's College London. 

Registration is required. Please visit:

Event report “The Operation to kill or capture Osama bin Ladin: a case study in Presidential decision-making.”

last modified Oct 17, 2019 09:17 PM

On Friday 11 October the Forum hosted Nick Rasmussen, Acting Executive Director of the McCain Institute who talked on “The Operation to kill or capture Osama bin Ladin: a case study in Presidential decision-making.”  This talk offered a thrilling and privileged insight into processes behind the Presidential decision to authorise the raid on the compound in Abbotabad.  

Nick drew on his long experience in senior counter-terrorism posts at the White House to bring to life the policy choices from the moment the White House was informed the CIA had possibly identified bin Ladin’s location. 

He showed how the President and his advisors balanced operational risk with political risk and intelligence gaps once the US special forces had developed possible operational options. Nick also described the difficulty of taking decisions based on assessment, showing how a difference of assessment of the likelihood that the location was correct impacted on the National Security Council’s ability to decide whether and when to take action. The talk also gave a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at President Obama’s leadership style.

Conference report “Five Days in December: From Pearl Harbour to Hitler’s Declaration of War on the United States“

last modified Oct 12, 2019 07:17 PM

On Saturday, 28th of September, the Forum on Geopolitics hosted a high-level conference on the US entry into World War II at Peterhouse College, Cambridge. Its focus was a new book project by Professor Brendan Simms (Cambridge) and Charlie Ladermann (King’s College London) on the five days between the Japan’s 1941 attack of Pearl Harbour and Hitler’s declaration of war on the US. This short span of time represents a fascinating period in the study of diplomatic history as it constitutes a moment when the US found themselves in the ‘wrong war’. After all, US president Roosevelt had wanted to join World War II actively, but only in the Atlantic – against Germany. After Pearl Harbour, however, it looked like the war the US would fight was to be in the Pacific, against Japan. Only Hitler’s declaration of war on the 11th of December 1941 resolved this dilemma for the Roosevelt administration, as now Washington could legitimately join both the Atlantic and Pacific theatre of war. With a delay of five days, a European conflict had truly transformed into another World War.

What, then, were the internal deliberations of the US government in this short period of five days when Roosevelt and his key advisors tried to shape the new situation to their own requirements? And how did events unfold over these five days, culminating into all-out war between the US on the one hand and Germany and Japan on the other? To answer this question, the conference brought together researchers from three continents (America, Europe, Asia) to comprehensively cover the considerations and actions of key players such as the US, Germany and Japan.  Moreover, it addressed the role of other key actors such as Italy, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union.

At the centre of the event were keynotes by two eminent speakers, Prof. Gerhard Weinberg, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of A World at Arms : A Global History of World War II, and Prof. Evan Mawdsley, former Professor of International History at the University of Glasgow and author of December 1941: Twelve days that began a World War. Their contribution as well as that of all panellists has helped to significantly broaden our understanding of how statesmen react to outside events beyond their immediate influence, and how World War II turned from a regional into a global conflict.

A discussion on mass atrocities and peace building with UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng

last modified Oct 07, 2019 10:43 AM

The Forum on Geopolitics is very happy to announce the visit of Mr Adama Dieng, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide to talk about Mass Atrocities and Peace Building in the Middle East: prospects for a Westphalia for the Middle East. 

Where? Pembroke Old Library, Pembroke College, Cambridge
When? 20 November 2019: 17.30-19.00


Tickets are strictly limited: To apply, please send an email to Dr Thomas Peak at, copying in Ms Karri Aston at  Please include a short bio and a few lines on why you wish to attend this discussion.


The Peterhouse History Society warmly welcomes you to Hitler: Only the World was Enough

last modified Oct 07, 2019 07:28 AM
Just in case you missed Professor Simms discussing his new biography of Hitler on the 30th September:

The Peterhouse History Society warmly invite you to a presentation by Professor Brendan Simms, Director of the Forum on Geopolitics and Professor of European International Relations. He will be discussing his new book: 

"Hitler: Only the World was Enough"

Date/Time: Thursday 10th October 2019. Talk and Questions from 5:30-6:45pm, drinks reception and opportunity to purchase the book at a discount will follow.
Place: The Peterhouse Theatre (The porters will be happy to direct you) 
Additional details: Please RSVP to Andrew Walker (the society secretary) at if you are interested in attending as soon as possible.

Adolf Hitler is one of the most studied men in history, and yet the most important things we think we know about him are wrong. His main preoccupation was not, as widely believed, the threat of Bolshevism and the Soviet Union, but that of international capitalism and
Anglo-America. These two fears drove both his anti-semitism and his determination to secure the 'living space' necessary to survive in a
world dominated by the British Empire and the United States. These concerns were aggravated by Hitler's profound 'racial' pessimism about the quality of a German people whose vitality he believed had been sapped by centuries of Jewish and foreign domination, internal division and the steady loss of its most 'vital' elements through emigration to the new world.

Basing himself in part on new sources, Brendan Simms traces the way in which Hitler's ideology emerged after 1918 in response to his traumatic encounter with Anglo-America in the First World War. The United States and the British Empire (which loomed far greater in his imagination than the Soviet Union) served as models for Germany’s own empire, equally founded in his view on appropriation of land, racism and violence.  Hitler's aim was to create a similarly global future for Germany – a country seemingly doomed otherwise not just to irrelevance, but to extinction. His principal concern during the resulting cataclysm was not just what he saw as the clash between German and Jews, or between German and Slav, but above all that between Germans and what he called 'Anglo-Saxons'. In the end only dominance of the world would have been enough to achieve Hitler's objectives, and it ultimately required a coalition of virtually the entire world to defeat him.

Brendan Simms's new book is the first to explain Hitler's beliefs fully, demonstrating how, as ever, it is ideas that are the ultimate source of the most murderous behaviour.

Re-Ordering the Balkans

last modified Oct 07, 2019 07:24 AM
Saturday 19 October: 1:00pm - 2:00pm

Faculty of Law, LG19, Sidgwick Site, 10 West Road, CB3 9DZ

The Balkans has long been Europe’s most unstable region. After a series of devastating conflicts in the 1990s, the Balkans was pacified when the US intervened militarily to impose a settlement which transformed the internal boundaries from Yugoslavia into international borders, resulting in a set of multiethnic states such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Kosovo.

However, this settlement has been consistently challenged by the peoples of the region who believe the security, rights and opportunity they desire can only be attained by establishing nation states, based on the established model in the rest of Europe.

For the last year, Serbia and Kosovo’s leaders have been openly discussing an exchange of territory along ethnic lines, with the apparent approval of the United States and the European Union. Meanwhile, Albania and Kosovo have stated their intention to unify next decade and the Serbs and Croats in Bosnia are driving the country towards disintegration.

In this presentation, PhD student Timothy Less will ask how long its current borders can hold, what the map of the region will look like in the future, and whether the region make a transition to nation statehood without another conflict, and what the response of the outside powers should be.

2019 Inaugural Annual Lecture - Hitler: Only the World was Enough

last modified Oct 01, 2019 01:37 PM

Professor Brendan Simms, Director of the Forum on Geopolitics, gave the 2019 Inaugural Lecture on his new groundbreaking biography on Hitler: Only the World was Enough

The event, held at the Lecture Theater at Peterhouse, was chaired by Peterhouse Master Bridget Kendall

Signed copies of the book were available after the event. 

Reviews of his book are available here and here


Professor Brendan Simms for the New Statesman: From backdoor to backstop: Ireland’s shifting relationship with Britain and Europe

last modified Sep 25, 2019 12:35 PM

England’s “Irish Question” first emerged in the Middle Ages and has returned to haunt the present Brexit crisis. But is the European Union making a promise to the Republic of Ireland that it will be unable to keep, asks Professor Brendan Simms, Director of the Forum on Geopolitics. 

Read the full article in the New Statesman here

Article by Dr Albert Wolf on annexing the West Bank

last modified Sep 24, 2019 08:54 PM
Netanyahu’s election promise won’t just hurt Israel, it will create chaos for its eastern neighbor and a diplomatic backlash too, writes Dr Albert Wolf.
Dr Albert Wolf, ECWG member on the Forum's Westphalia for the Middle East initiative, makes intervention in Foreign Policy on the dangers for Jordanian stability of a potential Israeli annexation of the West Bank. Read the full article here

Irish Times Review Hitler biography by Professor Brendan Simms

last modified Sep 24, 2019 08:53 PM
Hitler: Only the World Was Enough: its originality and intelligence command attention writes the Irish Times

The Irish Times reviews Hitler: Only the World Was Enough by Forum Director Professor Brendan Simms as "a thoroughly thought-provoking and stimulating biography which all historians of the Third Reich will have to take seriously"

Read the full review here

New book by Dr Charlie Laderman "Sharing the Burden"

last modified Sep 16, 2019 09:12 PM
Charlie Laderman provides a new perspective on the United States's rise as a global power and international humanitarianism by examining British and American responses to the Armenian genocide within the context of international order during the World War I era.
Released 6 December 2019

Forum Director launches thought-provoking new book on Hitler

last modified Sep 13, 2019 05:11 PM
Forum Director launches thought-provoking new book on Hitler

Join us for the Forum on Geopolitics's inaugural annual lecture on September 30 to celebrate the launch of Professor Brendan Simms new book Hitler: Only the World was Enough

A Westphalia For the Middle East: Workshop Report

last modified Sep 13, 2019 05:12 PM
WESTPHALIA FOR THE MIDDLE EAST Workshop Report: Lessons in Diplomatic Techniques and Peacemaking Mechanisms from the Congress of Westphalia for the Middle East Pembroke College, Cambridge, 16 May 2019


Workshop Report: Lessons in Diplomatic Techniques and Peacemaking Mechanisms from the Congress of Westphalia for the Middle East

Pembroke College, Cambridge, 16 May 2019

The Forum on Geopolitics’ research project and events series ‘A Westphalia for the Middle East’ held a workshop at Pembroke College, Cambridge on 16 May 2019. The project aims to suggest lessons for today’s conflicts in the Middle East, from the way in which the arguably very similar Thirty Years War was ended at the congress of Westphalia. The workshop was funded by the DAAD-Cambridge Research Hub for German Studies. It was attended by senior practitioners and academics  think-tank directors, and Middle East analysts from Europe, the Middle East and North America, who were convened in order to discuss the possible lessons in diplomatic techniques and peacemaking mechanisms from the congress of Westphalia (1643-49) for today’s Middle East.

Full report

Forum on Geopolitics merges with the Centre for Rising Powers!

last modified Apr 10, 2019 05:52 PM
Two part event on March 11th marking the merger of Forum on Geopolitics and Centre for Rising Powers included a round table discussion on China programmes in UK academia and public lecture on Rise of China's comprehensive.
Forum on Geopolitics merges with the Centre for Rising Powers!

Profs. Shirley Lin & Harry Harding

This event marks the merger of the Forum on Geopolitics and the Centre for Rising Powers in the Department of Politics & International Studies, the University of Cambridge. The joint effort will deepen the study of geopolitics and grand strategy at the University of Cambridge, offering innovative opportunities for collaboration with practitioners and delivering impactful engagement with the wider world.

 The first part of the event was a closed Discussion “Reflections and Future Directions for China Programmes in the UK”

The second part was a Public Lecture by Prof. Harry Harding (University of Virginia) and Prof. Syaru Shirley Lin (Chinese University of Hong Kong): “The Rise of China’s Comprehensive Power”.

Technology and Democracy: A Nightmare?

last modified Mar 19, 2019 11:05 AM
The Forum on Geopolitics was pleased to host a Nightmare Lecture focusing on technology and democracy in Magdalene College with the generous support of Absolute Strategy Research.

On 22nd January the Forum on Geopolitics (POLIS) at the University of Cambridge hosted ‘A Nightmare Scenario: Technology and Democracy’, a lecture that addressed the effects technology could have on the functioning of contemporary democracy with the generous support of Absolute Strategy Research. Each of the speakers shared with the public their own nightmares – dystopian scenarios that democratic societies may face – as technologies play an ever-central role in every aspect of our lives.

The Lecture was chaired by Charles Arthur, a freelance Tech Journalist and former technology editor at The Guardian. The panel’s speakers included: Silkie Carlo, Director of Big Brother Watch; John Naughton, Emeritus Professor of the Public Understanding of Technology at the Open University and Director of the Press Fellowship Programme at Wolfson College; and the technology columnist of The Observer, David Runciman, Professor of Politics at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Politics and International Studies and Dr. Nóra Ni Loideain, Director of the Information Law and Policy Centre (ILPC) at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.

As per tradition in the Forum on Geopolitics' Nightmare Series, the panelists all addressed their personal 'nightmare' scenarios regarding technology and democracy, which included a second Brexit referendum, the continued growth of data protection policies driven by a profit focused culture, and more. 

Those interested can read a summary of Dr. Nóra Ni Loideain's remarks on the ILPC website here

COGGS hosts Prof. Carlo Scognamiglio Pasini for 2019 Cook Lecture

last modified Feb 18, 2019 10:03 AM
Forum on Geopolitics was pleased to welcome Prof. Carlo Scognamiglio Pasini, Professor Emeritus in Applied Economics and former chancellor of the Luiss University of Rome, and former President of the Italian Senate and Minister of Defense to give second of its annual Cook Lecture at Corpus Christi’s McCrum Lecture Theatre.


Prof. Pasini began his lecture by drawing the audience back to John Maynard Keynes’ and the ‘Keynes’ Circus” of Richard Kahn, James Meade, Joan Robinson, Austin Robinson, and Piero Sraffa. Prof. Pasini detailed the immense contributions Keynes made to the formation of the International Liberal Order from the post-war period to the present day, highlighting in particular his role in the British delegation preparing the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, the Bretton Woods Conference, and his seminal works The Economic Consequences of the Peace and The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money.


Taking the audience up to the present day, Prof. Pasini noted the incredible impact of Keynes’ thinking on the global economic order in the century. The former President of the Italian Senate highlighted the danger posed by the separation of the U.K. and Europe through Brexit, and predicted the global economics will either move towards a duopoly between China and the U.S., or a tripolar equilibrium with China, the U.S., and a strong Europe. Prof. Pasini ended the lecture quoting Jean Monnet: “Europe will be forged in crisis, and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crisis”.


The Engelsberg Programme for Applied History, Grand Strategy and Geopolitics

last modified Feb 14, 2019 02:24 PM

We are excited to announce the Engelsberg Programme for Applied History, Grand Strategy and Geopolitics at the Forum on Geopolitics, generously supported by the Axel and Margaret Ax:son Johnson Foundation. We will soon advertise a series of events designed to explore how the lessons of history can shed light on some of today’s most perplexing problems.

COGGS hosts Audit of Geopolitical Capability Workshop

last modified Dec 13, 2018 12:17 PM

On 11th December, the Forum on Geopolitics hosted James Rogers, Director of the Global Britain Programme at the Henry Jackson Society. James outlined the framework and methodology for the Audit of Geopolitical Capability, an index of capability of twenty major powers he has developed and compiled. In particular, the workshop focused on:

  1. Improving and clarifying the indicators of geopolitical capability, particularly in relation to the military, economy and culture;
  2. Better justifying the 'weights' afforded to each indicator;
  3. Establishing limitations for the Audit, not least its utility in the event of the emergence of radically different strategic environments.

In addition, James presented the findings of the Audit of Geopolitical Capability and answered a number of methodological questions.

Celebration of the Publication of 'Towards a Westphalia with the Middle East' with Hurst Publishers

last modified Nov 07, 2018 07:05 PM
The Forum on Geopolitics was pleased to celebrate the launch of Towards a Westphalia for the Middle East by Forum Affiliates Dr. Patrick Milton, Dr. Michael Axworthy, and Forum Director Prof. Brendan Simms.

COGGS' "A Westphalia for the Middle East?" research strand has celebrated the publication of a new book based on the first phase of the project with Hurst Publishers, Towards a Westphalia for the Middle East. COGGS held events at Westminster and Peterhouse  with the authors, Dr. Patrick Milton, Dr. Michael Axworthy, and Prof. Brendan Simms, together with panelists, including Dr. Samir Al Taqi of the Orient Research Center, the Rt. Hon. Andrew Mitchell MP, Ms. Elisabeth von Hammerstein of the Körber Foundation, Mr. Ralf Beste of the German Foreign Office, and Dr. Ayse Zarakol of the Department of Politics and International Studies. COGGS is grateful for all who participated and celebrated with us. 

The Westphalia for the Middle East project asks the central question: what lessons can be learned from the way the Thirty Years War was ended in central Europe— in order to promote peace in the Middle East now? Our newest book, Towards a Westphalia for the Middle East, published by Hurst explores these questions and guides readers through moments in the foundation of the Peace of Westphalia that may be instructive for addressing some of the globe’s most intractable contemporary conflicts. 

Of course the world was a rather different place 400 years ago. But the book argues that the analytical justification of using a peace settlement from early modern Europe, as a source of inspiration for a new peace settlement in the Middle East now – is the remarkable set of parallels between the two contexts.

The analogy between the two scenarios consists of two main groups of similarities: structural parallels, and the role of religion.

The book argues that in light of these parallels it makes sense to look at how the Thirty Years War was ended in the 1640s in order to draw lessons for the Middle East.

Dr. Patrick Milton at the launch held in Peterhouse Importantly, these lessons are intended to serve as a series of inspirations for a possible new peace settlement in the Middle East; not by imposing an external Eurocentric model— but rather by trying to encourage a settlement reached by local actors themselves with the help of a set of mechanisms and techniques that proved effective in the historical experience.

There are two main types of lessons: firstly and most importantly, diplomatic techniques and peace-making mechanisms. Secondly, the treaty content itself.  

With regard to diplomatic techniques, the core lesson is the value of an all-inclusive multilateral congress: the Thirty Years war (just as the wars in the Middle East now) had been so multifaceted, and the various lines of conflict so interwoven – that the component conflicts of the wider crisis could not be solved piecemeal. Instead what was needed was an all-inclusive congress which tried to settle all interrelated sets of conflict at the same time.

Precisely because the component conflicts were so interlocked, earlier attempts to solve individual parts of them (such as a settlement only for the civil war within Germany, or only for the Catholic powers) were bound to fail. A settlement in one area would inevitably be destabilised by continuing tension or conflict in a neighbouring one. The war had already become irreversibly internationalised and all major combatants and other states involved would need to be drawn into a negotiated harmonisation of their respective interests. In the end the universal congress at Westphalia failed to achieve the universal peace for which it had been convened because one of the numerous sets of conflicts – that between France and Spain – continued for another 10 years. But the settlement was successful in ending the main conflict, and in uncoupling the central European theatre from the ongoing war in the West, while also shielding the Empire from being sucked back into that war. 

Another crucial technique which enabled the congress to reach a successful settlement was the innovative instrument of the mutual guarantee: each contracting party would mutually and reciprocally guarantee every aspect of the settlement – even those that did not affect them individually. During our workshops most participants agreed that this mechanism could usefully be transferred to the Middle Eastern context.

The guarantee creates a collective security system for the region in question whereby it is remodelled as a neutralised security zone and taken out of ongoing great-power conflict in other parts of the world. The guarantee was helpful in addressing each party’s fears of being attacked again post-war and thereby helped the treaty endure.

The Westphalia for the Middle East Seminar at Westminster with Dr. Samir al Taqi, Ms. Elizabeth von Hammerstein, the Rt. Hon. Andrew Mitchell MP, Dr. Michael Axworthy, and Dr. Patrick Milton

Other lessons that we highlight in the book include the recognition that one could start negotiating despite the absence of a ceasefire (although a truce would be desirable), and despite a state of exhaustion not necessarily having been reached by all parties.

Also: the absence of trust need not prevent negotiations from getting started—the peace process itself has to generate trust, not the other way round. Another lesson is that each negotiating party should set out its core security interests as transparently as possible, so that there can then be a more effective process of harmonising these interests – and crucially there should be a focus on power-political interests as opposed to such intractable things as settling questions of theological truth.  

In addition to these peace-making mechanisms, the treaty content itself can also be instructive, though the differences of time and space mean one must proceed with caution. But the improved power-sharing arrangements that Westphalia brought to the Empire – particularly among the three main religious groups – helped to prevent another religious war breaking out, and we believe that these can also supply some lessons for similar arrangements in Middle Eastern states.

More generally, we believe the idea which derives from Westphalia, that an overall, grand-bargain style settlement for the whole Middle East should not only regulate relations between states, but also within the states that have been racked by war and instability, provides salutary lessons.


COGGS hosts Lord Andrew Adonis

last modified Nov 06, 2018 09:29 AM
COGGS welcomed Lord Andrew Adonis for a lecture in the Old Library of Pembroke College.
COGGS hosts Lord Andrew Adonis

Lord Andrew Adonis

Lord Andrew Adonis joined the Forum on Geopolitics for a lecture titled "Can Brexit be Stopped?" Lord Adonis focused on the many challenges facing the U.K. in the ongoing Brexit negotiations, including issues relating to the Irish border and Good Friday Agreement. 

Inaugural Recipient of Cambridge Security Initiative Bursary

last modified Oct 14, 2018 06:47 PM
The Forum on Geopolitics is pleased to announce that Mr. Timothy Less is the first recipient of a PhD bursary generously supported by the Cambridge Security Initiative.

The Forum on Geopolitics is pleased to announce that Mr. Timothy Less is the first recipient of a PhD bursary generously supported by the Cambridge Security Initiative for a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge's Department of Politics and International Studies studying European geopolitics, past or present. Mr. Less' doctoral work focuses on Bosnia and Herzegovina, and how the West's diminished presence in the region has allowed for the Croats and the Serbs to reassert their 1990s goals and divide up the country. 

Forum Celebrates Publication of New Book: Towards a Westphalia for the Middle East

last modified Oct 14, 2018 06:38 PM
The Forum on Geopolitics is pleased to present two events to mark the publication of Towards a Westphalia for the Middle East, co-authored by Dr. Patrick Milton, Dr. Michael Axworthy, and Prof. Brendan Simms.

The ‘Westphalia for the Middle East’ is a collaborative project initiated by the Forum on Geopolitics at the University of Cambridge, which has gathered politicians and senior administration members from the Middle East, Europe, and the US, as well as historians of early modern Europe, in order to discuss previously unexamined avenues towards peace. The project seeks to provide much-needed new perspectives and to thereby open innovative, creative approaches for resolving conflict in the Middle East by looking at solutions that worked at the Peace of Westphalia. It takes the remarkable parallels that exist between conflict constellations in the Middle East now and the Thirty Wars then as its analytical starting point, in order to consider which diplomatic techniques, principles and mechanisms inherent in the 1648 settlement might serve as an inspiration for a new region-wide holistic settlement.     

On the occasion of the publication of a new book on the results of the project to date, Towards a Westphalia for the Middle East (London: Hurst Publishers, 2018), co-authored by Patrick Milton, Michael Axworthy, and Brendan Simms, the Forum is pleased to present two events, one in London on October 30 and one in Cambridge on October 31, to mark the occasion. We encourage you to register using the details on the events' pages. 

The role of France in producing and guaranteeing a new Middle Eastern settlement

last modified Oct 11, 2018 09:46 AM
We are pleased to present a summary of Ambassador Michel Duclos’ lecture at the University of Cambridge in the Peterhouse Theatre on the 9th of October

In France, there is a double tendency either to glorify what we used to call the "Arab policy", perceived as a grandiose plan deeply rooted in De Gaulle’s foreign policy, either to consider that France has no influence anymore in the region because of the Arab springs. My stance would be to say that it was never that grandiose, nor it is that bad today.

This "Arab policy", funded by President De Gaulle and later followed by his successors, was based on three elements. First, this policy was to promote a balanced position on the Israelo-Palestinian conflict starting with the famous press conference by De Gaulle in November 1967. Second, it was based on good relationships with all the dictators due to our belief that "enlightened despots" could modernise their countries. Finally, France extended her reach from her traditional backyards (Maghreb and Levantine) to the Gulf, exploiting skilfully opportunities and circumstances.

The Arab springs have profoundly undermined the traditional pillars of France’s Arab policy. The Palestine cause is not as central as it used to be, Islamism is on the rise, authoritarianism is challenged everywhere in the region. In spite of these setbacks, France is still regarded in the Middle East as an important player by all regional actors,  though her position is more fragile today because of the deep fractures of the region.

A lesson to be drawn from the Westphalia peace process is that there is a need to promote innovative formats today. This is especially true in a context where the US are retreating from the region, Russia has come back in the Middle East through Syria and tensions are escalating between Saudi Arabia and Iran. France is too big to be a mediator not taking sides, and not big enough to be a broker imposing a solution. But she could be a pathfinder in this context, acting as an intermediary promoting dialogues including China and India on a macroscale, as well a civil society actors on a microscale.

In a contemporary context, external guaranties cannot be exclusively military. There is a need for « civil guaranties »  and nation-building in any peace settlement, and the EU is ideally positioned to play that role. France can be part of a military guaranty alongside the US and other allies, and part of the civil guaranty through the EU. She should play an active role thanks to her permanent seat at the Security Council to make sure that there is good articulation between these two dimensions. This would allow us to make sure that civil and military guarantors would work hand in hand in the Middle East.

There are four sets of situations, involving two countries in each case, where such ideas could be applied. Tunisia and Libya call for our immediate attention and require a huge effort. They are indeed essential countries for the security of our homeland, and we have to show that contrary to the Russian narrative, a successful democratic transition is possible in Tunis and Tripoli. The rivalry between Tehran and Ryad may well last for decades, and France will have to be part of an effort to ensure that Iran does not take reckless positions in the current situation or that Saudi Arabia will not get into the way when Tehran and Washington will start to talk again to each other. A third couple is Iraq and Syria. There, the EU could fully unfold its potential as a civil guarantor helping reconstruction, in the short-term in the case of Iraq and only when conditions will be met in the case of Syria. Finally, Egypt and Turkey are key countries for the security of the region. France and her allies should not let Turkey look eastward when we have so many interests in common. An equally big risk would be an implosion of Egypt; no effort should be spared to prevent further deteriorations of the current state of this country."