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Dr John Bew

Reader in History and Foreign Policy


King's College London
London WC2R 2LS
Tel: +44 (020 7848 2098
Fax: +44 (0)20 7848 2748

Office hours: Wed 16.30-18.00.



I am  Reader in History and Foreign Policy at the War Studies Department at King’s College London and Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence. At King’s I convene the Foreign Policy Research Group and run a series of seminars at the Foreign Office on ‘Interpreting Diplomatic Excellence’.

I am a contributing writer at the New Statesman and a regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement, American Interest, National Interest, New Republic and Irish Times

From 2007-10, I was Lecturer in Modern British History, Harris Fellow and Director of Studies at Peterhouse, Cambridge University, where I was previously a Junior Research Fellow. At Cambridge I taught British and Irish history since 1789 and the history of political thought. I completed my education at Pembroke College, Cambridge where I was a Foundation Scholar and a Thornton Scholar and attained a first class BA in History, prize-winning MPhil and PhD.

Research Interests

My research interests cover:

  • British foreign policy since 1789
  • National Identity, State Formation and Political Thought in the British Isles
  • State approaches to terrorism and political violence

My most recent book, Castlereagh: Enlightenment, War and Tyranny, was published in October 2011 by Quercus in London and by Oxford University Press in the United States in September 2012. It was named one of the books of the year by the Wall Street Journal, Sunday Telegraph, BBC, and Total Politics magazine, named by Jonathan Sumption QC in the Spectator books of the year and chosen by the Fondation Napoléon as ‘book of the month’ for March 2012. It was also recommended in the Foreign Office Christmas Reading list, featured on BBC Parliament’s Booktalk and as the lead review in the Times Literary Supplement where it was described as ‘unparalleled in its size and sweep ... a Life so nearly complete that it need never be written again’.

My previous books include Talking to Terrorists: Making Peace in Northern Ireland and the Basque Country (Hurst and Co., London, and Colombia University Press, New York, 2009), which was named by Dr. David Kilcullen in Foreign Policy’s Global Thinkers Book Club. It was recently named as the best book in its category by the journal Perspectives in Terrorism.

My first book, The Glory of Being Britons: Civic Unionism in Nineteenth-Century Belfast (Irish Academic Press, 2009), was chosen as the inaugural book in a new series initiated by the Royal Irish Academy and recently reviewed alongside Castlereagh in the London Review of Books. Other previous publications include an updated edition of Belfast Politics: Thoughts on the British Constitution (University College Dublin Press, 2005) and an introduction to a new edition of D.W. Miller's Queen's Rebels: Ulster Loyalism in Historical Perspective (University College Dublin Press, 2007). (University College Dublin Press, 2007). (University College Dublin Press, 2007).

In addition to two single-authored books, two co-edited and two co-authored books, I have also published essays and articles on a range of historical and contemporary topics, with a particular focus on foreign policy. These include recent contributions to Humanitarian Intervention: A History (Cambridge University Press, 2011) and The Primacy of Foreign Policy: How Strategic Concerns Shaped Modern Britain (Palgrave, 2011). Shorter articles and reviews have appeared in The Spectator, Political Quarterly, Journal of Liberal History, Parliamentary Brief, History Today, Standpoint, and Times Higher Education Supplement. Every December I covers the release of British State Papers for the Irish Times


I run two MA modules:

  • The Foundations of British Foreign Policy
  • The War on Terror: Anglo-American Foreign and Security Policy Since 9/11

I also teach on modules relating to Intelligence, Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism  and run a series of seminars at the Foreign Office on ‘Interpreting Diplomatic Excellence’

PhD Supervision

I currently have six PhD students under my supervision and will consider further submissions under the broad areas of:

  • British foreign policy since 1789
  • National Identity, civic culture and violence in British and Irish history
  • Terrorism and Political Violence.
  • The Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’ and the peace process
Expertise and Public Engagement

I am currently working on two major research projects. The first is a biography of Clement Attlee, for Quercus, focusing on British foreign and security policy. The second is a co-written research project offering a contemporary history of the War on Terror, with a particular emphasis on pre-existing Anglo-American foreign policy traditions. I am also writing chapters for the Princeton Guide to Irish History and an edited Columbia University Press volume on Terrorism and Cinema. I have recently signed a contract with Oxford Univeristy Press to write Realpolitik: A Short History.

I have lectured on historical and contemporary political issues at a range of prestigious international institutions including the Locarno Room at the Foreign Office, the National Defense University in Washington DC and the European Parliament in Brussels. I am also a regular commentator for radio and television for outlets such as CNN, BBC News, Sky News, Reuters, Monocle, Voice of America, and France 24. I presented a BBC Radio 4 Analysis programme on the teaching of British history in schools and its impact on social cohesion and has made a number of appearances on BBC 2’s The Review Show. I am currently filming a BBC documentary on Lord Castlereagh, the subject of my last book.

In 2009, I was profiled by The Observer as one of the rising stars of the historical profession and in 2011 the Sunday Telegraph named me ‘one of the most exciting young historians in Britain’. My most recent book was launched by William Hague, the current Foreign Secretary, and praised by Jack Straw, one of Hague’s predecessors, as ‘excellent’. The current Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has described me as ‘the best historian of his generation’

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