skip to content

Centre for Geopolitics

Providing historically-grounded approaches to enduring geopolitical problems.

The Engelsberg Programme for Applied History was launched in October 2018. It represents a unique partnership between the Centre for Grand Strategy at the War Studies Department at King’s College London and the Centre for Geopolitics at Cambridge University. The programme is funded by the Axel and Margaret Ax:son Johnson Foundation for Public Benefit. Professor John Bew, Professor Brendan Simms and Dr Mattias Hessérus sit on the board of the programme.

Please click here to find out more on the programme's website. 

Recent events include:
POSTPONED - 24 June: Roundtable on the Baltic States 1939-1940POSTPONED - 6 May: Conference on the geopolitics and modern history of the Caribbean

POSTPONED - 28 April: Talk by Alexander Downer, former Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs

28-29 February: Two-day event to commemorate the life and work of Michael Axworthy
Lecture by Jack Straw: Understanding Iran and Why It Distrusts Britain

As part of the Forum on Geopolitics' memorial events in honour of the late Dr Michael Axworthy -- the founding director of the Westphalia for the Middle East project -- we cordially invite you to a lecture by the Rt Hon Jack Straw, who became British Foreign Secretary very soon after Dr Axworthy's tenure as head of the Iran section at the FCO. Mr. Straw will be introducing the themes and arguments presented in his new book The English Job: Understanding Iran and Why It Distrusts Britain, while also addressing the topics that interested Dr Axworthy both as a diplomat and as an academic.

22 January: Joint Forum on Geopolitics & King's college London event: Applying insights from the UK-Ireland split to Post-Brexit UK-EU relations

What lessons might the 1921 separation of the UK and the Irish Free State (later Republic) hold for the UK and EU during and after Brexit?  Breaking up is so hard to do, but it has been done before. From 1921, the United Kingdom and the Irish Free State (later Republic) increasingly went their own ways. Despite this, the two polities have over time been able to reconnect in a ways that have resulted over time in a kind of shared citizenship, which was not at first completely reciprocal. This involves a Common Travel Area and mutual voting rights.

21 January: Hubertus Jahn: Understanding cultural, behavioural and historical factors shaping contemporary Russian politics

The Kremlin has been promoting the idea of Russian exceptionalism since 2012 (since Putin was elected for a third term in office). This idea is not new and can be traced back to the 16th century Filofei of Pskov where Muscovy was portrayed as a ‘third Rome’. Yet, the most frequent invocations of Putin have been of Tsar Nikolai I when ‘Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality’ allegedly became a core part of Russia’s distinctive identity. This talk will consider the historical, cultural and religious imagery underpinning Putin’s view of Russia’s global role and will ask to what extent it represents a selective reading of history and the extent to which historical and cultural references really have resonance with Russians today.


A Central European Grand Strategy?
19 June 2019

Former United States Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Wess Mitchell spoke about his work on The Grand Strategy of the Habsburg Empire. 


Destined for War
17 June 2019

Graham Allison, Director of the Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University spoke on his important recent work Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides' Trap? 


Applied History: Possibilities and Pitfalls 
7 June 2019

The panel discussed whether applied history, analysing today's geopolitical challenges through the prism of humanity's cumulative store of experience, can offer a wider perspective and a more imaginative strategic vision. 

Click here to find out more. 


Lessons Past: How Have Strategists Learned from History?
9 May 2019

The purpose of the event was to explore to what extent past strategists, including those of the recent past, have sought guidance from history. When they have done so, how have they sought to distil useful lessons and reconcile them with contemporary influences? 



Saving Strangers: Rescuing Humanitarian Intervention from Liberal Hegemony
24 April 2019

The speaker presented an exhaustive definition of, and ideal-type programme for, a distinctly ‘humanitarian’ intervention. By showing humanitarian intervention to effectively be politically agnostic, and alleviating it of the burden of ‘nation building’, the pool of potential interveners is broadened exponentially and opposition to interventions will be lessened.

Click here to find out more. 



Turkey, Britain and Europe in Global Turmoil: Historical Representations and   Contemporary Repercussions 
5 April 2019

This event focused on the mutual historical representations of Britain and Turkey in the late Ottoman and the early Republican era, with a specific focus on the ways in which the concept of Europe has been articulated by both sides in the given period, with reflections on the contemporary Turkey-Europe and Britain-Europe relationship. 

Click here to find out more.