Essays

Rewiring the world

Throughout history, technological change has operated within established geopolitical patterns. Today’s tech revolution is tipped to transcend those boundaries and transform international relations – but the reality may turn out to be more nuanced.

Why do democracies decay?

Is decay inevitable? Is democracy too unstable? The example of Ancient Athens shows us how delicate democratic institutions are.

The morality of espionage

What distinguishes spying in the service of a democracy from spying for a dictatorship? The rule of law and accountable institutions provide our security services with the critical ‘licence to operate’.

Robert Adam and building beautiful

The elegance of Georgian architecture, best exemplified in Bath and Edinburgh, can inspire a modern Renaissance in British housing design.

The return of great power diplomacy

One of the original conceptions of the United Nations Organization, and the 1925 Locarno Pact, show how leading states might think about diplomacy in the new age of great power competition.

America – nation of myth-makers

Enduring debates about rights, freedom and individualism take us back to rival interpretations of what went on in the 1770s and 1780s.

The Empire strikes back

The 19th century culminated in an extraordinary period of national jingoism as film, the popular press and photography inspired European nations to jockey for imperial dominance.

On dandyism

Whenever societies sink into decadence and decline, the ever fascinating figure of the dandy is swift to emerge.

Inside the disinformation forever war

Russian ‘active measures’, including election meddling, disinformation and influence operations, were as common throughout the Cold War as they are today.

The Spy and the State

The technological sophistication of the modern state is no substitute for human intelligence gathering.

On betrayal

Espionage feeds off betrayal. And yet we find it difficult to love those who betray their country even in a just cause.

Challenging the ‘Great Reset’ theory of pandemics

Thucydides saw plague as a disease of the ‘body politic’ – and an opportunity to improve the health of society. History shows that pandemics have a way of disrupting our assumptions about medical and social progress.

In search of Lebensraum

Hitler’s conviction that a new Eurasian order should be constructed with Germany at its zenith had its ideological roots in the early science of geopolitics.

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