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29 March 2022

King's research has provided the intellectual background to shape precepts for UK foreign policy today.

Through his research on ‘realpolitik’, statecraft and Britain’s place in the world, Professor John Bew has provided intellectual background and shaping precepts for UK foreign policy today. Themes from his academic work have informed politicians across the political spectrum.

Appointed as the Prime Minister's Foreign Policy Adviser in 2019, Professor Bew’s research has fed directly into government policy on a range of areas, including via his work on the 2021 Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy. 

Professor Bew’s works on the mechanics and ideology of statecraft were written as a form of ‘applied history’, where historical knowledge is used to reflect on contemporary political challenges, questioning historical views and using these new histories to inform present-day politics. Part of this approach has been making use of historical biography as a method of producing detailed reconstructions of the issues and decisions that politicians faced in the past. 

Bew’s research has explored the ways in which policymakers in modern Britain framed foreign policy issues, focusing both on the ideas that informed these political actors, and how they responded to Britain’s changing geo-political position. 

For example, Bew's work on the 19th century British Foreign Secretary, Lord Castlereagh, had relevance to modern Anglo-Irish relations as well as European geopolitics and Congress-diplomacy in a time of war. His biography of Clement Attlee places more emphasis on the international aspects of Attlee's life than other works, including the identification of a brand of 'progressive patriotism' which has relevance to British politics today.

Meanwhile, his work on ‘realpolitik’ has led to a greater focus on balancing ideals and interests in the crafting of Britain’s foreign policy. 


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Professor in History and Foreign Policy