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I was born in South Africa and educated at Boy's High School, Pretoria, the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and The London School of Economics.   My career includes academic posts at the University of Natal (1958-60); University College, Swansea (Wales) (1962-73); University of Leicester (Professor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor, 1973-91).   I also served as a Rockefeller Junior Research Fellow at the LSE, (1961-62).

From 1991 to 1997 I was Director of Studies at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House); Academic Adviser to The Royal College of Defence Studies where he edited the Seaford House Papers (1999-2007).

I have been a Visiting Professor at The Universities of California, Los Angeles (1965 and 1970); Zimbabwe (1978); Witwatersrand (1980 and 1985); Capetown (1982 and 1986); Natal (1985 and 1988); Pretoria (1997).

I am a past Chairman of the British International Studies Association (BISA); past President of the African Studies Association of the UK (ASAUK), 1981; a member and Chairman of the Advisory Board of the David Davies Institute, London (1990s).    Between 1991 and 2007 I was Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism at the LSE; I was also a member of the Advisory Board of the ESRC funded project on Transnational Communities. 

I was awarded an OBE in the Jubilee Honours List in 2003. I was awarded honorary fellowships by the Universities of Staffordshire, Northampton, Swansea and King's College London. I also received honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Leicester, Witwatersrand and Nottingham Trent.

In 2014 the Jack Spence BA Prize for International Relations was established. The prize is awarded to students who achieve exceptional academic work during their years as a student on the BA International Relations programme.

Research Interests

My current research interests include:

  •  Poets versus historians – competing narratives in World War I
  • The English School of International Relations
  • Blair's Foreign Policy.


I have published seven books and monographs, some sixty articles and book chapters (including an inaugural lecture 'War is too Serious ...' University of Leicester, 1975); published contributions to Strategic Studies; International Relations post Cold War and 9/11; British politics; Literature and Politics (including an article on George Orwell and the novels of V S Naipul and Nadine Gordimer; Soviet Policy in Africa; the Indian Ocean: arms control arrangements.

My most recent publications include:

  • Ending Apartheid (co-authored with David Welsh; Emeritus Professor University of Capetown, Pearson-Longman, 2010)
  • Education and Terrorism' in a British Council volume 2013; 'Reflections on the 9/11 Decade', Rusi Journal 2009;
  • 'Open secrets questionably arrived at - the impact of Wikileaks on diplomacy' with Mark Page (Kings MA student) Defence Studies, 2011
  • 'The way we live (and die now) – a discourse on change in international relations 1945-2010 Focus – Journal of the Helen Suzman Foundation, Johannesburg, 2010'; 'Peter Brown: A Personal Memoir' Focus, 2012
  • 'Just another country', Journal of Conflict, Security and Development,2012;
  •  Diplomacy and Decolonisation', Nations and Nationalism, 2013
  • 'Morality and Security: a reply to David Fisher, Survival, International Institute for Strategic Studies, Lodnon 2013
  • 'Treaties and International Relations' public lecture given during the City of London Festival at Gresham College, July 2013


I teach the following BA module:

5SSW2062 Statecraft & Diplomacy 

I teach on the following MA module (Spring term):

7SSWM136 Mind, Body and Spirit in WW1.

7SSWM1005 Diplomacy

Expertise and Public Engagement

I have given several named keynote lectures: at the 1991 BISA Conference (Plenary Session); the Ichtid David Memorial Lecture, University of Wales, Swansea, 1991; the Bradlow Memorial Lecture at the South African Institute of International Affairs, Johannesburg, 1985); Gresham College 2013; Chairman's Address, African Studies Association of the UK 1976; Obi Igwara Memorial Lecture, ASEN (LSE), 2009; a keynote address at the Britain-Zimbabwe Society annual research day, St Anthony's College, Oxford, 2009 and 2012. I have served on the editorial boards of five academic journals and as editor of International Affairs (Chatham House); foundation editor of the Journal of Southern African Studies and foundation editor of the British Journal of International Studies. I regularly broadcast on radio and TV in the UK and abroad.

I advised the Hong Kong government on Polytechnic standards 1986-91.   I also served on the Goldstone Commission on security arrangements for the South African transition 1990-94, was a member of the Council for National Academic Awards Subject Committees 1973-1981 and a witness and advisor for the House of Commons, Foreign Affairs Committee, 1987 and 1992.

I worked a a consultant to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (a member of the arms control panel working with the late Hedley Bull); the ESRC; Oxford Analytica; Joint Services Command and Staff College; US Defence Intelligence Agency; State Department; South African Foreign Affairs Department; Nigerian Staff College. I have advised various universities in the UK and abroad on senior appointments; the Netherlands government (produced a report on Mozambique's Research Institute) and have advised a number of major NGOs in Britain and abroad.

PhD Supervision

Professor Spence is currently unable to take on new PhD Students