Imperial mission, 'scientific' method: an alternative account of the origins of IR

Vineet Thakur, Alexander Davis, Peter Vale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Web of Science)


This article offers an alternative account of the origins of academic IR to the conventional Aberystwyth-centred one. Informed by a close reading of the archive, our narrative proposes that the ideas and method of what was to become IR were first developed in South Africa. Here, we suggest how the creation of a racially-ordered state served as a template for the British Commonwealth and later the World State. We draw further on the British dominions' tour of Lionel Curtis, founder of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA), between September 1909 and March 1911, to indicate how Edwardian anxieties about the future of empire fuelled the missionary zeal of imperial enthusiasts, who placed enormous trust in the scientific method' to create a unified empire. This method and the same ideas were to become central features of the new discipline of IR. By highlighting the transnational circulation of these ideas, we also provide an alternative to the nationally-limited revisionist accounts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-23
Number of pages21
JournalMillennium: journal of international studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017
Externally publishedYes


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