Professor Nigel Ashton

Professor Nigel Ashton


Department of International History

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Key Expertise
Anglo-American Relations, Modern Middle East

About me

Professor Ashton studied for his undergraduate degree at Christ's College, Cambridge, where he continued on to gain his PhD. On completion of his doctorate he obtained a Temporary Lectureship at Salford University, before moving on to a permanent Lectureship at the University of Liverpool. Professor Ashton moved to the LSE in 1998.

Other titles: Deputy Head of Department, Coordinator of BA/BSc Dissertations (HY300)

Expertise Details

Anglo-American Relations; Modern Middle East

Teaching & supervision

Professor Ashton usually teaches the following courses in the Department:

At undergraduate level:

HY116: International Politics since 1914: Peace and War (taught jointly with other members of staff in the Department)

HY300: Dissertation

HY327: The Anglo-American Special Relationship, 1939-1989

At masters level:

HY429: Anglo-American Relations from World War to Cold War, 1939-1991

Professor Ashton has supervised the following PhD students in the past:

 PhD graduate  Thesis title
 John Collins  Anglo-American relations and post-war international drug diplomacy: A "special relationship"?

Publications & Papers


Professor Ashton's main fields of interest are contemporary Anglo-American relations and the modern history of the Middle East. These interests came together in his first book, Eisenhower, Macmillan and the Problem of Nasser: Anglo-American Relations and Arab Nationalism, 1955-59 (Macmillan, 1996), which looked at the strategies adopted by Britain and the United States to deal with the Arab nationalist challenge during the 1950s. His second book, Kennedy, Macmillan and the Cold War: the Irony of Interdependence (Palgrave, 2002), broadened the frame of reference to look at Anglo-American relations over a whole range of international issues during the Kennedy Presidency. Kennedy, Macmillan and the Cold War was awarded the Cambridge Donner Book Prize for 2003. This prize rewards excellence in advancing scholarly understanding of transatlantic relations.

In September 2008, his book King Hussein of Jordan: A Political Life was published by Yale University Press. Based on unique and unprecedented access to the private papers of the late King this book provides a comprehensive analysis Hussein's statecraft, including his role in the Middle East peace process, the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973, the Iran-Iraq war, the Gulf crisis and the campaign to unseat Saddam Hussein in the 1990s. It also illuminates the personality of one of the most colourful and charismatic Arab leaders of the twentieth century.

Listen to Professor Ashton discussing his book on King Hussein of Jordan.

Professor Ashton has also edited: The Iran-Iraq War: New International Perspectives (Routledge, 2013) and The Cold War in the Middle East: Regional Conflict and the Superpowers, 1967-73 (Routledge, 2007).

On 3 March 2022, Professor Ashton’s book: False Prophets: British Leaders’ Fateful Fascination with the Middle East from Suez to Syria was published by Atlantic books. False Prophets shows how a combination of fear and hubris led successive British leaders into a series of fateful interventions in the Middle East from the Suez Crisis of 1956, through the Iraqi and Afghan wars of the 1990s and 2000s, to the Libyan and Syrian civil wars of the 2010s. It was selected by The New Statesman as an essential read for 2022.


In addition to these three monographs, Professor Ashton has written a number of scholarly articles, including:


Conference papers

Recent conference papers given by Professor Ashton include: 

  • ‘Britain, the United States and the Arab-Israeli Peace Process after the Six-Day War’, University of Leiden, The Netherlands, 26 March 2018.
  • 'Searching for a Just and Lasting Peace? Anglo-American Relations and the Road to United Nations Security Council Resolution 242', at the British International History Group Conference, LSE, 4-6 September 2014.
  • 'The End of the "Golden Decade" and the Impact of the Oil Crisis', at 'Consigning the 1970s to History' conference, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands, 13 May 2014
  • ‘Missed Opportunities for Peace: The United States, Jordan and the 1967 Arab-Israeli War’, Washington History Seminar, Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington DC, October 2011
  • ‘The Two Husseins: Jordanian-Iraqi relations during the Iran-Iraq War’, Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington DC, conference on ‘The Iran-Iraq War: the View from Baghdad’, October 2011
  • ‘King Hussein of Jordan and the Liberation of Iraq, 1958-99’, Centre of International Studies, University of Cambridge, 14 February 2008, also delivered at the Institute of Historical Research, International History seminar, London, 13 May 2008
  • 'The Suez Crisis and British withdrawal from Jordan' at the Munk Centre, University of Toronto, September 2006
  • 'A difference over means or ends?  Anglo-American relations and the Suez Crisis' at Suez Crisis Conference, QMW, University of London, June 2006
  • 'Anglo-American Revival and Empire during the Macmillan Years, 1957-63', Wiles Trust Colloquium, Queen's University, Belfast, September 2003
  • 'The Anglo-American Role in the September 1970 Crisis in Jordan', at the British International Studies Association Conference, University of Birmingham, December 2003
  • 'Annihilation without Representation? Anglo-American Relations and the Cuban Missile Crisis', at the British International History Group Conference, University of Dundee, September 2002


News & media


New Co-Authored Article and Special Issue in Diplomacy and Statecraft

Alongside Richard Aldous, Professor Ashton has co-edited a special issue in the journal Diplomacy and Statecraft, including the opening article of the same name. They explore David Reynolds’s concept of ‘competitive cooperation’, advanced in his book The Creation of the Anglo-American Alliance: A Study in Competitive Cooperation, 1937–1941, which has been highly influential in the historiography of contemporary international history. 


Contribution to the LSE British Politics and Policy Blog

In the LSE British Politics and Policy Blog, Professor Ashton discusses Margaret Thatcher’s handling of the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and draws lessons for future prime ministers. Read the piece.


Professor Ashton's New Book 'False Prophets' Released on 3 March 2022

In his new book 'False Prophets', Professor Ashton explores the reasons why British leaders have been unable to resist returning to the mire of the Middle East, while highlighting the misconceptions about the region that have helped shape their interventions, and the legacy of history that has fuelled their pride and arrogance. Ultimately, he shows how their fears and insecurities made them into false prophets who conjured existential threats out of the sands of the Middle East.

Watch a recording of the Departmental Book Launch


Professor Nigel Ashton on his Freedom of Information case again the Cabinet Office

Professor Ashton wrote a piece for the LSE British Politics and Policy Blog (13 September) detailing his Freedom of Information case against the Cabinet Office over the release of files relating to UK policymaking and the Qaddafi regime between 1988 and 2011. The blog post follows the final, written confirmation from the Cabinet Office in early September that they will not be appealing any further. The case started when Professor Ashton submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request in 2014 for the Qaddafi-UK files. Although the request was for history not journalistic purposes, Professor Ashton’s request was rejected by the Cabinet Office on the grounds of section 14 of the FOI act concerning ‘“vexatious” requests. Professor Ashton fought the rejection (and eventual appeal) in the courts. In early September, the Cabinet Office was finally forced to concede defeat as a result of a ruling issued by the Upper Tribunal in favour of Professor Ashton.


Upper Tribunal dismisses Cabinet Office appeal in favour of Professor Ashton

An appeal by Cabinet Office lawyers to deny release of copies of Downing Street files to Professor Nigel Ashton has been rejected by the Upper Tribunal. Professor Ashton has been in a long-running Freedom of Information battle with the Cabinet Office, as reported below. The judge at the Upper Tribunal rejected the Cabinet Office’s appeal and upheld the decision of the First Tier Tribunal in Professor Ashton’s favour. Read the full decision of the Upper Tribunal: Cabinet Office v Information Commissioner and Ashton. “There is a vital public interest in understanding the course of Britain’s policy towards Libya during the Qaddafi regime”, Professor Ashton told us. “From the Lockerbie bombing to Blair’s rapprochement with Qaddafi to Cameron’s role in toppling Qaddafi’s regime, Britain was at the heart of events in Libya. I am glad that the Upper Tribunal has upheld the ruling of the First Tier Tribunal that my request for the opening of Prime Minister’s Office files which chart these vital decisions was a perfectly reasonable use of the Freedom of Information Act .”


Guardian article: battle with Cabinet Office continues in new tribunal hearing

Professor Ashton was mentioned in an article in the Guardian on 15 May, reporting on a long-running Freedom of Information battle he has been fighting with the Cabinet Office. In 2014, Professor Ashton requested for copies of Downing Street files that covered the period from the Lockerbie bombing of December 1988 to the revolution of 2011 that resulted in Gaddafi being deposed and murdered. He subsequently narrowed his request to files from the years 1990 to 2002, but has said he may request more. At a hearing last year, the tribunal ruled that the documents should be handed to Professor Ashton. However, government lawyers are appealing against the ruling on the basis of being “vexatious” in a new hearing that took place on 16 May in London. Professor Ashton hopes ultimately to achieve a greater understanding of the role the British government played in creating Libya as it is today. “The public interest in understanding Britain’s policy towards Libya is overwhelming,” Professor Ashton told the Guardian. “It seems extraordinary that the Cabinet Office has resisted my freedom of information request at every turn.” Read the full article.


Professor Ashton tops three most popular LSE authors in The Conversation during October

Professor Nigel Ashton topped the list of most read LSE authors in The Conversation during the month of October. His article, released on 28 October, was the third most read article of that month with 3,107 reads. He wrote about “60 Years after Suez: A tale of Two Prime Ministers”, which compares Anthony Eden’s handling of the 1956 Suez Crisis and Tony Blair’s role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The Conversation is an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public.

Parallels between Anthony Eden and Tony Blair in The Conversation

Professor Nigel Ashton contributed a piece to The Conversation, titled “60 years after Suez: a tale of two prime ministers” (28 October 2016). In his post, Professor Ashton draws parallels between Anthony Eden’s handling of the 1956 Suez Crisis and Tony Blair’s role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, from framing their struggles in existential terms to resorting to the United Nations to prepare the ground for war. Professor Ashton also pinpoints the discrepancies between both historical events, such as America’s intervention in the region and political consequences for both prime ministers. Read the full piece. The Conversation is an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public. The Conversation was launched in Australia in March 2011 and in the UK in May 2013.

Interview with LSE Research Highlights

Professor Nigel Ashton did an interview with Peter Carrol for the LSE Research Highlights (3 August) about his new article, "Taking friends for granted: the Carter Administration, Jordan and the Camp David Accords, 1977-80", to be published by Diplomatic History. In his article, Professor Ashton argues that the exclusion of Jordan from the Camp David negotiations meant a comprehensive peace settlement in the Middle East has proved elusive. Read the full interview.


New publication

Professor Nigel J. Ashton has published a new article in The International History Review (2015), called "Searching for a Just and Lasting Peace? Anglo-American Relations and the Road to United Nations Security Council Resolution 242". His article analyses the Anglo-American diplomacy at the United Nations which led to the passing of the Security Council Resolution 242. It argues that the policy-making of the Johnson administration was rendered incoherent by internal rivalries and disorganisation. US Ambassador to the UN, Arthur Goldberg, was perceived as excessively sympathetic to Israel by the Arab delegations. The British approach, by contrast, was perceived by all parties as more even-handed. The clear position adopted by Foreign Secretary George Brown on Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories, together with the skilful diplomacy of the Ambassador to the UN, Lord Caradon, explains the British success in sponsoring Resolution 242. The episode holds broader lessons for the conduct of Anglo-American relations showing that Britain was better placed to achieve diplomatic success when it retained its freedom of manoeuvre in relations with the United States. If you have an LSE account, you can read the article for free.


Posthumous publication of Gonzalez Book edited by Professor Nigel Ashton

The department is pleased to announce the posthumous publication of Martín Abel González's book, The Genesis of the Falklands (Malvinas) Conflict: Argentina, Britain and the Failed Negotiations of the 1960s (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). Martín was a former International History PhD student who taught for many years in the Department. He tragically passed away in an accident in 2011. Professor Nigel Ashton, who has edited the book for publication, said 'I am delighted to see Martín’s work published so that other scholars can now benefit from his insight into the genesis of the Falklands/Malvinas conflict in the 1960s. This book serves as a fitting tribute to Martín’s outstanding scholarship'.