DPIR alumnus Dr William James releases new book on key historic British national security decisions

DPIR alumnus Dr William James (DPhil International Relations, 2015) has written a new book on how second-tier powers make grand strategic decisions while under the security umbrella of a superpower ally.

Published by Oxford University Press (OUP) and building on Dr James’s doctoral thesis, British Grand Strategy in the Age of American Hegemony focuses on three British grand strategic decisions, namely:

  • delaying the ‘Second Front’ during the Second World War;
  • withdrawing from the large military bases ‘East of Suez’ (principally Aden & Singapore) during the Cold War; and
  • committing heavily to the US-led war in Iraq in 2003.

Through these cases, the book illustrates the value of deep, historical research on specific grand strategic decisions, breaking with the prescriptive trend in the grand strategy literature. Moreover, it is one of the first in-depth studies to incorporate primary evidence from the Chilcot Inquiry into the UK’s role in the Iraq War. Written for practitioners as well as scholars, the book concludes with several policy recommendations at this turning point in British history.

Dr James joined King’s College London’s Centre for Grand Strategy as an Ax:son Johnson Research Fellow in August 2022. He is also a Senior Associate of the Oxford Changing Character of War Centre.

His work has featured in publications such as the European Journal of International Security and International Politics, as well as outlets such as War on the Rocks and Engelsberg Ideas.

The book challenges the belief that the British are not in the business of grand strategy. The more interesting question is whether they do it well. 

The book contributes to ideas and debates on grand strategy by offering a clear definition and a framework for measuring its quality, thereby opening up new avenues for research on a wider range of cases. 

The book also makes an empirical contribution in tackling some of the myths surrounding these pivotal moments in British history.” 

Dr William James