Peter Wilson reflects on the history of the Montague Burton Chair and what it means to the School and wider field.
Montague Burton was a Lithuanian Jew who fled to Britain in 1900 to escape the Russian pogroms. Educated but penniless he began a business in Chesterfield selling made-to-measure men’s suits. Burton and Burton (later Burton) became one of the most successful names on the high street. Known as the “50 shilling tailor” for its ability to knock out decent suits at a reasonable price, by the time of its listing on the other LSE in 1929 it comprised over 400 outlets, cloth mills and factories.
Montague Burton’s first excursion into educational philanthropy came with the endowment of chairs in industrial relations at Leeds, Cardiff and Cambridge in the late 1920s. He was knighted for services to industrial relations in 1931. But he was struck by the lessons successful industrial relations held for international relations, particularly the potential for applying techniques of industrial arbitration and mediation to disputes between nations. In 1930 he endowed the Montague Burton Chair in International Relations at Oxford, and in 1932 a sister chair at the University of London, to be based at LSE. The School received immediate affirmation of the wisdom of its move by being roundly condemned by Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists.
Later in the 1930s he endowed an annual Montague Burton Lecture on International Relations at Nottingham University and a Montague Burton Lectureship at Leeds University, now both long defunct. The Second World War was a huge blow to Sir Montague’s faith if not necessarily his profits. Invigorated by the creation of the United Nations his educational philanthropy and dedication to the cause of peace resumed with the endowment in 1948 of a Professorship in International Relations at the University of Edinburgh. In its 20-year existence the chair was occupied by several eminent scholars, most notably the international lawyer J L Brierly, and the historian Elisabeth Wiskemann, the first woman to hold a chair in any subject at Edinburgh.
The LSE chair was originally funded by the Sir Ernest Cassel Educational Trust and was known as the Cassel Chair. Sir Ernest Cassel was a Jewish merchant and financier who like Sir Montague arrived penniless in Britain from his native Germany in 1869. He amassed a huge fortune with titles and honours to match, his close personal friendship with Edward VII being no disadvantage.
The first occupant of the Cassel Chair at LSE from 1924-29 was the Olympic middle-distance runner, Quaker, and campaigner for disarmament Philip Noel-Baker. He was succeeded in 1930 by C A W Manning, an Oxford law don and formerly personal assistant to Sir Eric Drummond, the first secretary general of the League of Nations.
As a result of the Financial Crash and ensuing Depression the Educational Trust needed to trim its sails, and one of the first casualties was the LSE chair. For a while there was uncertainty as to whether replacement funds could be found to keep the chair going, along with the department that was slowly being built around it. The picture was clouded by the fact that Sir Charles Webster, newly appointed to the School from Harvard, believed that he already occupied it, in the form of the Stevenson Chair of International History. Webster proved to be persistently hostile to the chair, partly out of the conviction that its subject matter fell under the purview of International History, partly out of personal animus towards Manning. The latter’s meta-theoretical approach to the subject was baffling to the doyen of British diplomatic historians.
Assiduous work, however, by Arnold Toynbee (then Director of Studies at Chatham House) and Gilbert Murray (Oxford classicist and Chairman of the League of Nations Union) persuaded Montague Burton to step into the financial breech. They also persuaded an at first sceptical LSE Director, Sir William Beveridge, of the need to sufficiently mollify Webster to enable the re-endowment to go through the relevant committees. The Cassel became the Montague Burton Chair in 1932. By the age of 37, therefore, Manning enjoyed the rare distinction of having occupied two named chairs.
C A W Manning, 1932-1962
Manning was to occupy the Montague Burton Chair for the next 30 years until his retirement at the age of 65 (the compulsory retirement age in British universities until 2011). His chief contribution was to establish in the School and the wider academic UK community (he had little traction beyond it) the credentials of International Relations as a distinct academic subject, no mere branch of Political Science or History. While highly respected as a jurisprudential thinker, not least by figures as far apart intellectually as H L A Hart and E H Carr, it is sobering to learn that he was appointed to the chair with no doctorate, though he had been called to the bar, and only one publication, an article in The British Yearbook of International Law.
By the age of 37, therefore, Manning enjoyed the rare distinction of having occupied two named chairs.
His first book, a relatively slim volume on The Policies of the British Dominions in the League of Nations, was published in 1932. This was followed by a series of articles in the 1930s on various aspects of League affairs culminating in an edited volume Peaceful Change: An International Problem. In the 1940s and 50s his mind turned to more theoretical concerns, particularly the concept of sovereignty, and making the case for a separate academic discipline of IR. His magnum opus, however, was not published until the year of his retirement. The Nature of International Society is an exploration of the meaning and relationship of sovereignty, the nation, law and international society. In many ways it is the ur-text of the English School. With some notoriety, more now than then, he spent much of his retirement defending the right of his native South Africa to pursue its policy of apartheid. Interestingly his views on apartheid were not known to his students or colleagues during his tenure of the chair, nor the fact that he was South African.
Geoffrey Goodwin, 1962-1978
It was widely expected that Manning would be succeeded in the Burton chair by colleague F S Northedge, then a Reader in the department and a prolific author on British foreign policy. By this time Martin Wight, first appointed to the School in 1949, had moved to the new University of Sussex to take up a Foundational Chair in European Studies. Instead, it went to Geoffrey Goodwin, a former army officer and Foreign Office mandarin, who began his academic career at LSE in the late 1940s.
Goodwin was a tall man with a clipped military moustache and a limp—caused by polio not shrapnel. He was more an administrator and committee man than a scholar, indeed in the days when research output was much less important than it is now this was one of the reasons he was appointed. That said, Goodwin’s substantial study of Britain and the United Nations did earn him a Readership in 1958. During his tenure Goodwin did much to enhance the reputation of the IR Department (IRD), forging good relations with the History, Government, and Economics departments, founding the Centre for International Studies, and appointing to junior positions a motley group of individuals some of whom went on to scale great disciplinary heights, notably Adam Roberts, James Mayall and Christopher Hill.
Goodwin was a tall man with a clipped military moustache and a limp—caused by polio not shrapnel.
Perhaps his main contribution was to lay the foundations for the sub-field of International Political Economy (IPE). Manning’s model for the BSc (Econ) International Relations was for the study of the Structure of International Society in the first year to be followed by the study of its various “aspects” in subsequent years. These included the Political Aspects, the Legal Aspects, the Psychological Aspects, the Strategic Aspects (taught initially by Philip Windsor, another Goodwin appointee, and until very recently by Christopher Coker), and the Economic Aspects. The Economic Aspects was pioneered by Goodwin, ably assisted by Mayall and Michael Donelan. This constituted the bulk of his teaching during his 30-year career at the School and was the focus of much of his scholarship. IPE as it later became known was the main subject of his New Dimensions in World Politics (edited with Andrew Linklater, then a doctoral student) and his A New International Commodity Regime (edited with James Mayall).
Susan Strange, 1978-1988
It was no surprise, therefore, that when the Montague Burton Chair next came available on Goodwin’s retirement in 1978 it was taken by someone whose name became synonymous with the study of IPE. Susan Strange was a journalist and policy analyst as well as an academic. Graduating from LSE when it was based in Cambridge during the war with a First in Economics, Strange began her academic career in 1949 when she was appointed to teach economics and international relations under the formidable international lawyer Dr Georg Schwarzenberger at UCL. By that time she had already established herself as a journalist, first with the Economist and then with the Observer as reporter and later correspondent in Washington (US), New York (UN), and London (Economics). Such was her energy and tenacity, however, that she continued to work for the Observer on top of her academic work. From the late 1950s through to the 1970s she also took on regular part-time teaching, at Goodwin’s invitation, at LSE.
It was during a ten-year stint at Chatham House, however, that Strange established her reputation as one of the foremost authorities on international economic questions. Sterling and British Policy (1971) and International Monetary Relations (1976) are major statements of the interconnectedness of politics and economics at the international level; and her International Affairs article “International Economics and International Politics: A Case of Mutual Neglect” (1970) is a pioneering statement of the foolishness of the increasing academic separation of them. On the basis of these works, and her vast journalistic and teaching experience, not least at LSE, she was appointed to the Montague Burton Chair in 1978. There then followed another hugely productive decade: as well as setting up the first master’s degree in IPE and successfully lobbying the School for more academic appointments in IR, she published the highly prescient Casino Capitalism (1986), and two major pieces in International Organization: “Cave hic Dragones!” (on regime theory); and “The Myth of Lost Hegemony” (on America’s supposed decline).
‘Strange had six children and wrote six books’ (as Fred Halliday liked to quip).
Such work culminated in her major textbook States and Markets (1988) published in the year of her retirement from the School—though not from academia, research professorships at EUI Florence and the University of Warwick ensued, along with three more books: Rival States, Rival Firms (with John Stopford and John Henley, 1991); The Retreat of the State (1996); and Mad Money (1998). In an astonishingly productive and pleasingly symmetrical career “Strange had six children and wrote six books” (as Fred Halliday liked to quip). The driving force behind the creation of BISA in 1974, her scholarly achievement was honoured in 1995 when she was elected the first British president of ISA.
R J Vincent, 1989-1990
Attempts to fill the chair have not always been successful. Following Strange’s departure in 1988 the first attempt to fill the position did not result in an appointment. R J Vincent, a scholar from Oxford with a growing international profile in general IR theory, was not one of the original applicants. He was invited to apply, however, when the post was re-advertised and was duly appointed as the fourth occupant of the Montague Burton Chair.
John Vincent was the first occupant to hold three IR degrees. After a BA at Aberystwyth and an MA at Leicester, Vincent undertook doctoral study under Hedley Bull at ANU. Following a postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton, his revised thesis was published to wide acclaim as Nonintervention and International Order (1974). After a dozen or so years learning his craft at the University of Keele, with further periods of research leave at ANU and Princeton, he was appointed to a University Lectureship at Oxford in 1986.
By this time Vincent had published widely in journals and edited books on topics ranging from functionalism to Reagan’s foreign policy. He had also assumed the editorship of the Review of International Studies and was widely seen as a torch bearer for the English School—perhaps the leading torch bearer following the premature death of Hedley Bull in 1985. The book which cemented his scholarly reputation was indeed an attempt to reconcile growing concern for human rights with the traditional concerns of the English school, in the process responding to Bull’s “cheerful scepticism” about the subject. Human Rights and International Relations (1986) remains a major statement of the place of human rights in international society, and the seminal work of English School “solidarism”.
While he had not studied before at LSE Vincent saw his appointment in 1989 as a homecoming. This was partly due to his upbringing in the outer-London suburbs, but mainly due to the association of LSE’s IRD with the names of Manning, Wight, James, Bull and thus the English School. The homecoming was tragically cut short, however, with Vincent’s sudden death a year later. This came only a few weeks after the publication of his last book, fittingly a Festschrift he edited for his mentor entitled Order and Violence: Hedley Bull and International Relations (1990). One of the legacies of Vincent’s brief tenure is the “great books” concept for the core MSc International Politics course, IR410, which he pioneered with future holder of the Montague Burton Chair, Fred Halliday.
One of the legacies of Vincent’s brief tenure is the ‘great books’ concept for the core MSc International Politics course.
Christopher Hill, 1991-2004
Comfortably the most qualified candidate for the Montague Burton Chair in the 1960s, F S Northedge, was an authority on foreign policy. It was therefore timely that the next holder of the chair was to advance the analysis of foreign policy perhaps further than any other British scholar. Christopher Hill had served a fairly long apprenticeship at LSE as a lecturer and senior lecturer in IR since his appointment in 1974. During that time, punctuated by research fellowships at Chatham House, Hill edited one of the first detailed studies of National Foreign Policies and European Political Cooperation (1983), as well as developing foreign policy analysis (FPA) as one of the core components of both LSE’s BSc and MSc in IR.
His first major scholarly work, however, was published in the year of his appointment. Based on his Oxford doctoral research, Cabinet Decisions on Foreign Policy: The British Experience, 1938-41 is a meticulous study of the role and inner workings of the Cabinet in foreign policymaking. It was fittingly launched in the location of many of those decisions, the Cabinet War Rooms. During Hill’s 13-year tenure of the chair he published extensively, including papers in the Journal of Common Market Studies and Review of International Studies, a valuable volume on Two Worlds of International Relations: Academics, Practitioners and the Trade in Ideas (1994, edited with Pamela Beshoff), and his major study The Changing Politics of Foreign Policy (2003).
This was a measure of the strength and reputation of the department within the school, which Hill did much to enhance.
During his three-year convenorship of the IRD he successfully negotiated its move from cramped quarters in the Old Building—the IRD expanded quite rapidly in the 1990s and 2000s—to superior, newly refurbished accommodation in Clement House. This was a measure of the strength and reputation of the department within the school, which Hill did much to enhance. After 30 years’ service to LSE, which included a spell as vice chairman of its Academic Board, Hill completed the IR golden triangle, taking up the Sir Patrick Sheehy Chair of IR at Cambridge. Further contributions to our understanding of modern foreign policy ensued, most notably National Interest in Question: Foreign Policy in Multicultural Societies (2013). He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA) in 2007.
Fred Halliday, 2005-2008
An attempt to promptly fill the chair after Hill’s departure failed. The vacancy attracted a strong field of internationally recognised scholars, but an appointment was not made, living costs in London being a prohibiting factor. In 2005 it was therefore decided to award the position to the IRD’s most senior professor.
Fred Halliday had joined the department in 1983, rising stratospherically to a chair in 1985. By the time he became Montague Burton Chair he was one of the best known and revered academics in the School. Halliday was an Irishman who received most of his education in England. He took a BA in PPE at Oxford in 1967, and MA in Middle Eastern Politics at SOAS in 1969. He then enrolled on a PhD at LSE though it was another 15 years before he completed it. During this time Halliday travelled, learned foreign languages (Halliday was a remarkably accomplished linguist speaking fluently Arabic, Persian, German, Russian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Catalan), and wrote about and immersed himself in radical politics. He was on the editorial board of the New Left Review 1969-83.
By the time of his LSE appointment he was already published extensively on Middle Eastern and Cold War politics, most notably Arabia without Sultans (1974), Iran: Dictatorship and Development (1978), and The Making of the Second Cold War (1983). During his LSE years Halliday became a public intellectual of considerable stature. A major profile in The Sunday Times was entitled “Fred of Arabia”. His work rate and output were legendary. As well as advancing the IRD’s offering in the International Politics of the Middle East, he pioneered with Margot Light the teaching of Gender and IR, as well as being the lead teacher for many years of IR200 and IR410.
During his LSE years Halliday became a public intellectual of considerable stature.
While he never broke through into the top US journals, disinclination being one factor, he published prolifically in books and British/European journals. Some of his most important contributions were collected in Rethinking International Relations (1994). His seminal Revolution in World Politics (1999) earned him a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship, which resulted, following a protracted period of illness, in The Middle East in International Relations (2005). Published in the year he took up the Montague Burton Chair, this work is based on more than 30 years thinking and writing on the Middle East and is widely regarded as one of the most complete and incisive general works on the subject. He was elected FBA in 2002.
Barry Buzan, 2008-2011
Halliday retired early from the School in 2008, partly due to continued poor health, partly to take up a research professorship in Barcelona, one of his favourite cities. Rather than advertise the post, the decision was taken to offer the chair to another senior LSE figure, Barry Buzan.
As with Halliday, Buzan held a PhD from LSE which he obtained in 1973. In 1971-72 he served as the second editor of Millennium: Journal of International Studies. Following LSE, he spent 20 years at Warwick University where he established his reputation as one of the foremost theorists of international security in the UK. His People, States, and Fear (1983/1991) remains one of the most important texts in the British study of international security.
He arrived at LSE in 2002 following seven years as a research professor at the University of Westminster, during which time he served as a project director at the Copenhagen Peace Research Institute (COPRI) and was elected FBA. He established with Ole Waever what became known as the Copenhagen School of securitisation studies. His Security: A New Framework for Analysis authored with Weaver and Jaap de Wilde is the major statement of securitisation theory.
It was during this period that Buzan also began his quest to reconvene the English School, giving it a presence at major international conferences, framing it as a research project, and generally putting it on the world academic map. Building on substantial papers in International Organization and Review of International Studies he published From International to World Society? English School Theory and the Social Structure of Globalisation (2004), the first major statement and development of ES theory since Bull’s Anarchical Society (1977).
During his three-year occupation of the Montague Burton Chair Buzan authored or co-authored major papers on topics as varied as “A World Order without Superpowers”, US leadership, social/functional differentiation, and “benchmark IR dates”. His work on the ES/international society continued in several co-edited works. He gave the prestigious Martin Wight Memorial lecture on “Culture and International Society” (2009) and completed a highly successful spell as editor of European Journal of International Relations (2004-08).
Work in this vein continued after his retirement from the School in 2011, including his Introduction to the English School of International Relations (2014) and Global International Society (with former LSE doctoral student, Laust Schouenberg, 2018). He also reconnected with the grand historical work he had done with long-time collaborator Richard Little, notably their monumental International Systems in World History (2000). His co-authored (with LSE colleague George Lawson) The Global Transformation was published to wide acclaim in 2014 and his co-authored (with Amitav Acharya) The Making of Global International Relations appeared in 2019.
Iver B Neumann, 2012-2017
From a strong shortlist in 2012 Iver Neumann was selected to become the eighth and most recent holder of the Montague Burton Chair. Neumann was the first continental European occupant, the first post-structuralist, and the first occupant of the chair since Manning to be seen sporting a cravat. Following undergraduate studies in Russian, Social Anthropology and Political Science at the University of Oslo, Neumann took an MPhil and then PhD at Oxford (1987-92) supervised by R J Vincent. Two books based on his doctoral research followed, Russia and the Idea of Europe (1996/2017), and the more explicitly post-structural Uses of the Other: ‘The East’ in European Identity Formation (1999).
By this time Neumann was well established at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, where he worked as a researcher and research director for 25 years. During this time, interspersed with visiting fellowships in inter alia Florence, London, Vienna and Brisbane, Neumann published major papers on Russia, identity, diplomacy, and global governance in Review of International Studies, European Journal of International Relations, Security Studies, Millennium, and International Studies Quarterly. He also authored, co-authored or edited several books in Norwegian and English, including the award-winning Governing the Global Polity: Practice, Rationality, Mentality (with Ole-Jacob Sending, 2010).
During his tenure of the Montague Burton Chair, though drawing on a substantial body of prior fieldwork, he published three studies of diplomacy: At Home with the Diplomats (2012); Diplomatic Sites (2013); and Diplomacy and the Making of World Politics (edited with Ole-Jacob Sending and Vincent Pouliot, 2015). These are the first works to employ a mixture of discourse analysis and participant observation to understand the activity of diplomacy as a social practice. Neumann constructed around them a successful MSc course, reviving after a long absence the specialised teaching of diplomacy at LSE.
The first occupant of the chair since Manning to be seen sporting a cravat.
Due to family commitments Neumann was unable to move permanently to London and swingeing new tax rules on employees non-domicile in Britain made his continuation in the post untenable. He vacated the chair in 2017 to take up the directorship of the Fridtjof Nansen Institute.
Several things are striking about the history of the chair and its occupants. In this time of rising antisemitism and hostility to immigration it is sobering to think that the most prestigious position in the IRD, and one of the most prestigious chairs in IR anywhere in the world, owes its existence to the wisdom, foresight and generosity of two Jewish immigrants.
While international relations theory has been the primary specialism of most holders of the chair, expertise in this field is no sine qua non. There has been, however, a grandeur of intellectual ambition present in all Montague Burton professors. All have been innovators. All have been instrumental in the development of new theories and/or new academic sub-fields. They have all shared a concern for the international system “as a whole” whether from a political economy, foreign policy or more broadly sociological viewpoint.
There has been a grandeur of intellectual ambition present in all Montague Burton professors.
One final point: when he created the chair Sir Montague Burton was one of the most successful businessmen, and certainly retailers, in the land. As the Arcadia parent group of what remains of the Burton empire falls into administration, one cannot help but ponder the irony of the chair outliving the brand. At a modest initial outlay of £500 the chair proved a good investment.
This post was originally published in January 2021 on the LSE International Relations blog