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Dr Maeve  Ryan

Dr Maeve Ryan

  • Academics
  • Supervisors

Senior Lecturer in History and Grand Strategy

Research subject areas

  • History
  • Politics
  • Conflict
  • Security
  • Strategy

Contact details


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 £1.05m Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship Programme, ‘Interrogating Visions of a Post-Western World'; the Maymester Sumer School, and the Philip Leverhulme Prize-funded project on the origins and future of the idea of ‘world order’. Along with Prof. Alessio Patalano, she also co-directs the centre’s new Indo-Pacific Programme.

A former Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Maeve’s research focuses on modern global history, the history of slavery, emancipation, human rights, and humanitarian governance, British foreign policy and diplomatic history, and on interdisciplinary approaches to the study of world order in the 21st century.

Maeve leads a number of high-impact policy engagement projects, including an ESRC Impact Acceleration-funded project in collaboration with the Cabinet Office National Security Secretariat. Maeve has also acted as a Co-PI on the King’s Together-funded project “Advancing the enforcement of anti-slavery legislation in Mauritania: lessons learned from other African countries”.

Maeve is the Impact Lead for the School of Security Studies and the convenor of the annual Strategy Masterclass series. She is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA).

Before joining King’s in 2016, Maeve was a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of History at the University of Leicester. She also helped to found the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Geopolitics. She holds an MPhil in International Relations from the University of Cambridge and a PhD in History from Trinity College Dublin.


Research Interests

  • History of empire
  • British foreign policy since 1789
  • World Order
  • Grand Strategy
  • Slavery, emancipation and abolition
  • War and Slavery
  • Humanitarianism and human rights
  • Climate Change and international order
  • Diplomacy
  • Modern Slavery


PhD supervision

Maeve is currently accepting new PhD students in the above areas. Please note that proposals should be primarily historical in approach and methodology.


Select Publications

  • Humanitarian Governance and the British Anti-Slavery World System (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2022).
  • 'Britain, the Great Powers and the Congress of Vienna (1814–1815): Employing Diplomacy and Grand Strategic Visions to Reshape the European Order’, RAND Strategic Advantage in a Competitive Age, James Black, Diana Descalu, Megan Hughes and Ben Wilkinson ed., 2023.
  • 'Britain and The Great Exhibition of 1851: Building the Foundations of Future Strategic Advantage in Science & Technology’, RAND Strategic Advantage in a Competitive Age, James Black, Diana Descalu, Megan Hughes and Ben Wilkinson eds., 2023. 
  • ‘Grand Strategic Thinking in History’, in Thierry Balzacq and Ronald Krebs (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Grand Strategy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021) [with John Bew and Andrew Ehrhardt].
  • ‘“It Was Necessary to Do Something With Those Women”: Colonial Governance and the ‘Disposal’ of Women and Girls in Early Nineteenth-Century Sierra Leone’, Gender & History (November 2021).
  • Andrew Ehrhardt and Maeve Ryan, ‘Grand Strategy Is No Silver Bullet, But It Is Indispensable’, War on the Rocks May 2020.
  • ‘“I Demand Justice. I Hold Them All Responsible”: Advancing the Enforcement of Antislavery Legislation in Mauritania’, Journal of Modern Slavery, 2020 [with Rosana Garciandia and Philippa Webb].
  • ‘British Antislavery Diplomacy and Liberated African Rights as an International Issue’ in Richard Anderson and Henry Lovejoy (eds.), Liberated Africans and the Abolition of the Slave Trade (University of Rochester Press, 2020).
  • ‘“A Moral Millstone”: British Humanitarianism and The Policy Of Liberated African Apprenticeship, 1808- 1848’, Slavery & Abolition, 2016. 

  • ‘A “Very Extensive System of Peculation And Jobbing”: The Liberated African Department and The Fraud Inquiry Of 1848’, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, 2016.
  • ‘“A Most Promising Field for Future Usefulness”: The Church Missionary Society and the Liberated Africans of Sierra Leone’, in William Mulligan and Maurice Bric (eds.), A Global History of Anti-Slavery Politics in the Nineteenth Century (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).
  • “The Price of Legitimacy In Humanitarian Intervention: Britain, The European Powers And The Abolition Of The West African Slave Trade, 1807-1867", in D. Trim and B. Simms (eds.), Humanitarian Intervention: A History (Cambridge University Press, 2011).
  • Series contributor, Royal Irish Academy, Dictionary of Irish Biography (Cambridge University Press and the Royal Irish Academy, 2009).
  • “The Reptile That Had Stung Me”: William Plunket and the Trial Of Robert Emmet’, A. Dolan, P. Geoghegan and D. Jones (eds.), Reinterpreting Emmet: Essays on the Life and Legacy of Robert Emmet (University College Dublin Press, 2007).


Current projects

  • The Subtle Consul?: Informal Empire and the Making of Modern Diplomacy (in preparation).