Alliances and the Outbreak of the Second World War

Hosted by LSE IDEAS

Online and in-person public event


Professor Margaret MacMillan

Professor Margaret MacMillan


Professor Christopher Coker

Professor Christopher Coker

Join us for the third Engelsberg Chair lecture of 2021/22 on alliances and war, delivered by historian Margaret MacMillan.

The growth of the Axis and the failures of the democracies to counter it are often blamed for the outbreak of war in 1939. Is this fair? And could the Western democracies have done more to make common cause with the Soviet Union against the Axis? This lecture focusses on the two years from 1939-1941 and key turning points such as the Nazi-Soviet pact, the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact, the German invasion of the Soviet Union and the Japanese attack on the United States and other powers.

Meet our speaker and chair

Margaret MacMillan is Engelsberg Chair at LSE IDEAS for 2021/22. Margaret MacMillan is Emeritus Professor of International History at the University of Oxford and former Warden of St Antony’s College, University of Oxford. She specializes in the history of the British Empire and the international history of the 19th and 20th centuries. Her book Peacemakers: The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and Its Attempt to End War won the Samuel Johnson Prize. In 2021, Margaret won the Pritzker Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing. Her most recent book is War: How Conflict Shaped Us, looking at the ways in which war has influenced human society and how, in turn, changes in political organization, technology, or ideologies have affected how and why we fight.

Christopher Coker is Director of LSE IDEAS and former Professor of International Relations at LSE.

More about this event

This is the third Engelsberg Chair lecture of the 2021-2022 academic year. The theme of the series is Marriages of Convenience or Something More? Alliances in War.

States make alliances out of self-interest, fear or ideology and the ensuing relationships are rarely easy especially when they are put to the test of war. Alliances can make and keep the peace or lead to conflict and in so doing have helped to shape, for better or worse, the modern world. This series of lectures examines the nature, dynamics and types of alliances and suggests reasons why they succeed or fail. While alliances have been a feature of state to state relations since the ancient world, the main focus in these lectures will be on the 20th century and the great global conflicts of the First and Second World Wars.

LSE IDEAS (@lseideas) is LSE's foreign policy think tank. Through sustained engagement with policymakers and opinion-formers, IDEAS provides a forum that informs policy debate and connects academic research with the practice of diplomacy and strategy.

Twitter Hashtag for this event: #LSEEngelsberg

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