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Centre for Grand Strategy

In recent times, much has been written about “the return of history”, “end of dreams” and “revenge of geography” in international affairs. The aim of Grand Strategy is to secure the long-term security, peace and prosperity of a nation in the face of such uncertainties. Grand Strategy might also be called “big picture” or “long-term” thinking, but it is unique for its emphasis on the importance of bringing history into those calculations.

The Centre for Grand Strategy at King's College London seeks to bring a greater degree of historical and strategic expertise to statecraft, diplomacy and foreign policy. Through a series of research projects, external engagement activities and a number of undergraduate and executive education teaching programmes, the Centre focuses on “knowledge transfer”: bringing top-class academic expertise to bear on the policy-making process and the public debate about foreign policy.

The Centre has four core aims:

  • To create a world-class Centre of Excellence for the study and practice of Grand Strategy
  • To build a Transatlantic Research Agenda on matters relating to national security
  • To restore a greater understanding of HistoryStrategy and Statecraft in an increasingly competitive and unpredictable international environment
  • To undertake a long-term Educational Mission to better equip the next generation of leaders in the fields of security, diplomacy, and business

Listen to Prof. John Bew outline the programme for Grand Strategy at King's

What is Grand Strategy?

The core emphasis of Grand Strategy is to secure the long-term security, peace and prosperity of a nation. It is used as short-hand to denote the need for coherent thinking for long-term objectives. Increasingly, it has been used to describe multi-layered strategies at the levels of business or government, and has a broader application than simply to a nation’s foreign policy. Grand Strategy might also be called ‘big picture’ or ‘long-term’ thinking, but it is unique for its emphasis on the importance of history in informing such thinking.

According to the British military historian, Basil Liddell Hart - whose archives is housed at King's College London - ‘The role of grand strategy – higher strategy – is to co-ordinate and direct all the resources of a nation, or band of nations, towards the attainment of the political object … the goal defined by fundamental policy.’ It is no coincidence that the notion of Grand Strategy crystallised at the time of the Second World War. However, as Liddell Hart made clear at the time, its significance is much broader than that, and includes the ‘civilian’ ‘economic’ and ‘moral’ resources of the nation.

The study of Grand Strategy has undergone a resurgence in recent times. Yet the Department of War Studies at King’s has been a hub of Grand Strategic thinking for many years. The work of this Centre goes right to the heart of the original ethos of the department, and aims to bring the study of Grand Strategy back to its spiritual home.