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)

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 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

  • The English School
  • International Relations theory
  • Humanitarian intervention and the Responsibility to Protect
  • Great Power diplomacy, particularly at the United Nations Security Council


I am currently a University Teacher in International Politics & Security Studies in the Department of Politics at the University of Sheffield. I teach across seven Undergraduate and Masters level modules, details of which can be found here.

Within the School of Politics & International Studies at the University of Leeds I taught and lectured on PIED1511 Introduction to International Politics, PIED2501 Theories of International Relations and PIED3502 The Responsibility to Protect and Prosecute. Prior to this I taught history as part of my Masters at Central Michigan University.

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.