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Forum on Geopolitics at POLIS, University of Cambridge

Applying history to the present in an evolving world: Establishing the Centre of Geopolitics and Grand Strategy at the University of Cambridge


Sir Winston Churchill, 1944

As the history of the 20th century has shown, the geopolitics of the European continent and the wider world are of the highest concern to Britain and the rest of Europe. On the one hand, existing multilateral institutions are becoming less relevant, less effective and less capable of addressing global problems, even in Europe. On the other hand, the recent vogue for 'transnational approaches' and 'interdependence' obscures the fact that the most serious challenges we face, such as the crisis of the European union and the threat of Russian expansionism, are deeply rooted in the traditional state system.

In recent years, centres for the study of geopolitics and grand strategy have sprung up across the United States, often pioneered by British scholars. However, there does not yet exist a parallel offering in Britain, or the rest of the European Union. This absence has had a detrimental impact on the policymaking process in Britain and across Europe and the world.


The University of Cambridge and the Department of Politics and International Studies are seeking to create a dedicated Centre of Geopolitics and Grand Strategy, that will put Cambridge on the map as a hub for geopolitical thought and practice. The Forum on Geopolitics represents the first step in this process.

At the heart of the proposed Centre of Geopolitics and Grand Strategy will be its focus on history as it relates to the geopolitics of the European continent and of related powers. Studying the past clearly provides us with tools to unravel the complex dynamics of how policy is made and implemented in international politics in the present, and to examine how these dynamics evolved across the modern period and into the 21st century, shaping the world in which we live today.

By taking a big-picture world view of the history and politics of the state system – drawing on the disciplines of history, politics, international relations, geography, economics, political economy, business and risk management, divinity, sociology and law – the Centre will provide a more historically informed education and training in strategic thought and statecraft than that offered by any other European institution. It will provide tangible academic outputs that facilitate a more informed public debate on crucial issues relating to geopolitics – for example, Britain’s ‘Brexit’ dilemma, the rise in racial and religiously motivated extremism, particularly anti-Semitism, and the question of the West’s relationship with Russia.

Through an innovative and diverse programme of events, teaching and research activities, the Centre will explore the most important strategic challenges facing Britain and the rest of Europe in their deepest historical contexts and in their broadest geographical frameworks.

Our sincere thanks to Mr Crispin Odey for his very kind support and encouragement of our current programme of work.


"The principal challenges facing western democracies today come from expansionist powers, for example Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the Caliphate of ISIS in the Middle East. Diagnosing and dealing with these threats requires us to break with the recent emphasis on ‘transnational’ solutions, ‘networks’ and ‘interdependence’, and return to the classic themes of geopolitics and state formation. Through an integrated programme of scholarly research and policy- oriented ‘Laboratories of World Construction’, the Cambridge Centre of Geopolitics and Grand Strategy creates a space for truly innovative and interdisciplinary collaboration, and impactful contribution to the some of the most important debates of our times."

Professor Brendan Simms, Professor of the History of European International Relations

The Centre represents an important opportunity to increase our expertise, analysis, cohort of graduates and external partnerships in the field of geopolitics. Cambridge is determined to play its part in repatriating geopolitics and grand strategy – bringing it back home to Britain and using it to inform a much wider discussion about Britain’s role in the Europe, and Europe’s role in the world – by establishing a new Centre of Geopolitics and Grand Strategy.