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The Centre for Grand Strategy invites you to the launch of Humanitarian Governance and the British Antislavery World System, our co-director Dr Maeve Ryan’s recently published book. This work is an important new contribution to the fields of imperial history, the history of the Atlantic world and of the origins of modern humanitarian governance.

About the book: Between 1808 and 1867, the British navy’s Atlantic squadrons seized nearly two thousand slave ships, “re‑capturing” almost two hundred thousand enslaved people and resettling them as liberated Africans across sites from Sierra Leone and Cape Colony to the West Indies, Brazil, Cuba, and beyond. In this wide-ranging study, Dr Ryan explores the set of imperial experiments that took shape as British authorities sought to order and instrumentalise the liberated Africans, and examines the dual discourses of compassion and control that evolved around a people expected to repay the debt of their salvation. Dr Ryan traces the ideas that shaped “disposal” policies towards liberated Africans, and the forms of resistance and accommodation that characterised their responses. This book demonstrates the impact of interventionist experiments on the lives of the liberated people, on the evolution of a British antislavery “world system,” and on the emergence of modern understandings of refuge, asylum, and humanitarian governance.


We will hear from the author, Dr Maeve Ryan, with some remarks from Professor John Bew. A drinks reception will follow.


You can sign up for the event here.



About the speakers

Dr Maeve Ryan is a Senior Lecturer in History and Grand Strategy at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London, where she co-directs the Centre for Grand Strategy. At the heart of this centre is an ‘applied history’ approach, which aims to bring more historical and strategic expertise to statecraft, diplomacy and foreign policy. Maeve directs the centre’s major research projects and impact activities, including the Ax:son Johnson Institute for Statecraft and Diplomacy, the Forum on Future British Strategy, the World Order Study Group, The Engelsberg Programme for Applied History, Grand Strategy and Geopolitics (in partnership with the University of Cambridge; supported by the Ax:son Johnson Foundation); the Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship Programme, ‘Interrogating Visions of a Post-Western World'; the Maymester Summer School, and the Philip Leverhulme Prize-funded project on the origins and future of the idea of ‘world order’. Along with Professor Alessio Patalano, she also co-directs the centre’s new Indo-Pacific Programme.


Professor John Bew is a Professor of History and Foreign Policy in the War Studies department at King’s College London. Since 2019, Professor Bew has served as Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister, where he led the No. 10 Taskforce on the 2020 Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, and played a crucial role in securing both the Withdrawal Agreement in 2019 and the restoration of the devolved assembly in Northern Ireland in 2020. He has also served as a specialist advisor to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee. Professor Bew was appointed by the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg as UK Representative to the independent advisory group undertaking a forward-looking assessment of ways to strengthen the political dimension of the NATO Alliance. Professor Bew was the youngest ever holder of the Henry A. Kissinger Chair in Foreign Policy at the John W. Kluge Center at the US Library of Congress. He is the co-Director for the Centre for Grand Strategy at King’s College London and was formerly co-Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence. He is the author of five books, including Realpolitik: A History and the Orwell Prize-winning Citizen Clem: A Life of Atlee (2016). He has been a contributing writer at the New Statesman, and has written regularly for many other publications in the UK and United States.


At this event

Maeve  Ryan

Reader in History and Foreign Policy

John  Bew

Professor in History and Foreign Policy