Lake Michigan (2013)

My approach

International Society matters, which is to say that this blog is about international society, which it believes matters and so should be written about. You’ve probably heard tale of an international community or international system, but what is an international society?

“A group of states, conscious of common interests and common values, form a society in the sense that they conceive themselves to be bound by a common set of rules in their relations with one another, and share in the workings of common institutions.” Hedley Bull, “The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics” (1977: 13)

International Society as outlined by The English School of International Relations Theory takes the form of states believing they are bound by common interests and values and sharing in the working of common rules and institutions which are expressed as legitimate norms.

Liberal Vanguards and the sustainability of the solidarist international society typified by the Responsibility to Protect: The P3 states and the UNSC in Cote d’Ivoire, Libya and Syria (2010-2012)

My PhD thesis (completed 2012-2016) examined how the P3 states (France, the UK and USA) practically resolve tensions between their preferences, practices of liberal intervention, and the humanitarian solidarism of contemporary international society typified by the Responsibility to Protect (2005). I argued that where they behave as liberal vanguards, their practice threatens the sustainability of the solidarist international society typified by R2P.

Using the cases of Cote d’Ivoire, Libya and Syria over the period of 2010-2012, I demonstrated that the P3 states either discursively advocated or attempted in practice liberal intervention which sought a change of regime or brought about actual regime change, contrary to the R2P normative framework which legitimates humanitarian intervention on a case-by-case basis, subject to existing understandings of sovereignty, non-intervention, non-interference, limits on the use of force and multilateralism.

In doing so, the P3 states’ approach to international legitimacy and attitude to international consensus was such that they behaved in practice as liberal vanguards: denying the gap between their practices and international norms and therefore liberally interpreting them; being unwilling to compromise over their goals; fostering and referencing alternative constituencies of legitimation other than the UN Security Council. These practices threaten the sustainability of the form of solidarist international society typified by R2P because they: confuse and potentially erode in practice the consensus understandings of the R2P normative framework; foster international discord among the great powers and between them and international society; mean that the Great Powers claim or even confer international legitimacy for themselves rather than having it conferred by the authoritative constituency of the UNSC; suggest that these powerful states do not believe themselves bound by the consensus principles that institute and constitute the society.

The thesis’ contributions are: theoretical through the conceptualisation of sustainability, liberal vanguardism and the distinction between non-interference and non-intervention; and empirical in the form of documentary analysis of 112 UN Security Council records and the conducting of a series of semi structured elite interviews with serving diplomats in London and New York.

My thesis is currently embargoed till April 2022 but consider requests for copies through the White Rose etheses depository here.


My research was generously supported by a POLIS Stipend (2012-2015) and by a BISA Founders’ Fund Grant (2015). I also successfully applied for funding to support my Masters and post graduate researcher conference attendance.


I am an active member of the British International Studies Association having served two terms as a Co-convenor of the Postgraduate Network (2013-2015) and as the PGR representative on the Intervention & R2P Working Group (2015-2016). I am also affiliated with the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS), The European Network for R2P and a member of the International Studies Association.

Research Interests

I locate myself within the English School or international society approach to the research and teaching of international relations, with a focus at present on:

  • Applying the English School of IR Theory to assess how norms are created, interpreted, implemented, adapted, and localised in practice within internationals society
  • Examining how states make sense of the Responsibility to Protect in practice and the tension between understandings of good international citizenship, legitimate uses of force, humanitarian intervention, non-interference and impartiality in mass atrocity situations.
  • Understanding Great Power diplomacy in practice on the United Nations Security Council, particularly with regards to how liberal states behave and the consequences for the sustainability of solidarist forms of international society

Administrative roles

During 2013-2016 I worked to assist colleagues on the ESRC funded seminar series, ‘The Responsibility to Protect and Prosecute: The Political Sustainability of Liberal Norms in an Age of Shifting Power balances’. Following on from this I assisted with the organisation of the October 2016 international conference, ‘Putting the Responsibility to Protect at the centre of Europe‘, and the subsequent launch by POLIS, The Hague Institute for Global Justice and the Budapest Centre for Mass Atrocity Prevention, of the European Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. As part of my role as a University Teacher in the Dept. of Politics & IR, University of Sheffield I was Departmental Teaching Assistant Coordinator 2019-20. In this position I acted on behalf of the Head of Dept. to provide day to day support, training, monitoring and direction to our team of 17 Teaching Assistants.