Caiban Butcher

Research Topic:

Darwinism in Global International Thought, c.1859-1914
International Relations Network
Balliol College
DPhil International Relations

I am a DPhil student in International Relations, and my main interests are in the history of international thought and historical international order, both particularly in the long nineteenth century. My current research focusses on Darwinism as a distinctive historical idiom of international theory.

More specifically, my DPhil expands upon my MPhil thesis—which examined how Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection transformed ideas of war, ‘savagery’, and empire in late Victorian Britain—into a global intellectual history of Darwinian internationalism in the late nineteenth century. Accordingly, I excavate the spread and influence of the Darwinian idiom in the core, semi-periphery, and periphery (with a focus on Britain, Japan, and South Africa respectively) in order to explore how the reception of Darwinism mapped onto these states’ anxieties of position. I argue that placing Darwin(ism) back into the history of late nineteenth-century international thought disrupts many of our key assumptions about the period. In its broadest implications, my research also incises upon salient contemporary issues in IR, in particular concerning the use of the category of ‘science’ as a criterion of theoretical rigour in the social sciences.

Prior to my studies at Oxford, I graduated from the University of Cambridge with a BA (Hons) in Human, Social, and Political Sciences.


I teach undergraduates in the following IR papers:

  • International Relations (214)

  • International Relations in the Era of the Cold War (213)

  • International Relations in the Era of Two World Wars (212)

Caiban Butcher