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Paul Kennedy


"Professor Kennedy's presence at LSE will be of key importance in our ambitions to launch IDEAS as a meeting place between the study of history and present day international concerns."
Prof Arne Westad

The inaugural holder of the Philippe Roman Chair was internationally eminent historian Professor Paul Kennedy, author of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. His work on the United Nations and expertise in grand strategy reflects IDEAS’ joint interest in diplomacy and strategy.

Professor Kennedy’s lecture on Reforming the United Nations was the official launch event of IDEAS as the new organisation succeeded the Cold War Studies Centre.

His other talks explored the nature of modern American power, including how we measure it in a fractured and world and comparing it to historical imperial power.

In 2015, Professor Kennedy returned to LSE to speak on the Three Major Geopolitical Shifts that led to the rise of the West. 


Reforming the United Nations – Mission Impossible?

In the first Philippe Roman lecture, Professor Kennedy discussed the United Nations: its strengths, weaknesses and prospects for reform. 

In particular he focused on the role of the Security Council and the special privileges bestowed upon its five permanent members, discussing the complex historical reasons for their veto and the reasons why Charter amendment is probably impossible. 

Slides / Listen:

Measuring American Power in Today's Fractured World

In the official IDEAS launch event, Professor Kennedy explored relative American power.

The United States remains the world’s largest power but in an increasingly challenging and fractured world, Professor Kennedy argues its influence cannot be measured by military ‘hard power’ alone but also by examining comparative economic performance and  ‘soft power’ cultural factors. 


The Nuts and Bolts of Empire 

All great and long-lasting empires have required a sophisticated logistical system and a secure communications system to sustain themselves in a world of endless challenges. Without such ‘nuts and bolts’, imperial ambitions soon collapse.

Professor Kennedy examines the hard, infrastructural underpinnings of the Roman, Spanish and British Empires, concluding with some reflections of how today's sole superpower, the USA, compares in this regard.  


Three Major Geopolitical Shifts

In 2015, Professor Kennedy returned to LSE for a lecture entitled Three Major Geopolitical Shifts in Modern International History since 1500: Bringing Braudel into the 20th Century

This explored the Rise of the West, which Professor Kennedy argued was by no means inevitable. But a number of crucial changes, from the explosion of sea-faring in the 16th century through the spread of the steam engine to the incredible surge in American industrial productivity in the years before World War I, made it both unstoppable and irreversible.

Taken together these underlying tectonic shifts, occurring below the surface of what Fernand Braudel has termed ‘the history of events’, transformed the global system and paved the way for the creation of what was to become the modern world.

KennedyAbout Paul Kennedy

Professor Kennedy is the J Richardson Dilworth Professor of History and Director of International Secruity Studies at Yale University, where he teaches on political, economic, and strategic issues.

He is one of the most well-known international historians working in the field today, and has reached a global audience through his books The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers  (1987) and Preparing for the Twenty-First Century (1993).

Kennedy is known for his writings on global politics, the influence of economics on grand strategies, and strategic issues. He is on the editorial board of numerous journals and writes for The New York Times and The Atlantic.

Find out more on the Yale University website and in Kennedy's Guardian interview

History of IDEAS