My research analyses different conceptions and projects of global governance, the various meanings of ‘internationalism’ throughout history, and the role of international organisations in shaping world order. I focus especially on the interwar period, examining how different internationalist practices and movements co-existed and struggled, drawing lessons about how alternative internationalisms can - and do - shape the international system today. More broadly, I study the history of internationalism, international law, and diplomatic practice as constitutive elements of the international system.
My supervisor at Oxford is Professor Edward Keene.
These are my main three main research areas:
The League of Nations secretariat between internationalisms
My main research project, which is the focus of my doctoral thesis, explores the practice of the League of Nations secretariat as an independent actor in international relations. Drawing on archival research in sites worldwide, I analyse the political, diplomatic, and legal precedents instituted by the secretariat, and interpret the different meanings of 'internationalism' in its institutional practice, especially in the 1930s as it was caught between a declining liberal order and rising fascist challengers. Liberal and fascist internationalisms offered different answers to the problems (real or imagined) of globalisation. How organisations and policy-makers adopted elements of one or the other of these internationalisms helps us appreciate the fragility of the international infrastructure and the key strategic and mechanical decisions that have built it.
Here is an article that summarises this part of my project.
Internationalism - then and today
Internationalism is often thought of as a single ideology: one based cooperation, legalism, free trade, and peaceful dispute resolution - basically, the opposite of nationalism. But this liberal-democratic internationalism only one variant from many possible internationalist movements and processes, some much closer to nationalist politics. Applying this insight to international organisations, I analyse how alternative visions of international organisation play out within political institutions and legal structures. In the interwar period, a shift was occurring between visions of world order, where for a moment much of the international infrastructure was up for grabs. Analysing different models for international organisation gives us insight into why certain elements of the liberal international order are more fragile and others more durable.
Among that plurality of internationalisms, one variety which has been traditionally ignored is fascist internationalism. Far from being a purely domestic movement, fascism in the 1930s and 1940s was a significant internationalist movement. It presented a serious challenge to liberal internationalism, and how (traditionally liberal) international organisations responded to this challenge is the subject of my research. Alongside the historical insight, this offers correctives to analyses of the current international system, which I argue should not be seen as being torn between internationalism and nationalism, but rather between different internationalisms. This process of contestation is not dissimilar from what happened in the 1930s, and we must examine alternative plans for international organisation then - to better understand not only that period but also our own.