Professor David Stevenson

Professor David Stevenson

Stevenson Professor of International History

Department of International History

Key Expertise
Modern European International Relations, First World War

About me

Professor Stevenson's main fields of interests lie in international relations in Europe during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; origins, course, and impact of the First World War.

His publications include With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918 (Penguin/Harvard University Press, 2011); 1914-1918: the History of the First World War (Penguin Press, 2004) also published by Basic Books (New York) as Cataclysm: the First World War as Political Tragedy; and by Rizzoli (Milan) as La Grande Guerra: una Storia Globale. German edition with Patmos (Düsseldorf, 2006); Armaments and the Coming of War: Europe, 1904-1914 (Oxford University Press, 1996) Paperback edition, 1999; The First World War and International Politics (Oxford University Press, 1988) Paperback edition, 1991; French War Aims against Germany, 1914-1919 (Oxford University Press, 1982) (Edited with introduction), Vols 1-8, 17-21, and 3-35 of Europe, 1948-1914, Series F in Part I of British Documents on Foreign Affairs: Reports and Papers from the Foreign Office Confidential Print (University Publications of America: Frederick, Maryland, 1987, 1990, 1991).

Professor David Stevenson newest book 1917: War, Peace, and Revolution is an international history of the year 1917. The book was released by Oxford University Press on 12 October 2017. Itt was chosen as one of Simon Heffer’s outstanding books of the year in 2017 in The Telegraph.

He has recently co-edited and contributed to a book for Oxford University Press: Arms Races in International Politics from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-First Centuries (2016).

He is the adviser to ‘Europeana 1914-1918 Learning Website’, which so far has had over 4 million individual visits.

Finally, Professor Stevenson was a Member of the academic advisory committee for the Imperial War Museum’s new First World War Galleries, which opened on 19 July 2014.

Video: watch Professor David Stevenson talk about LSE during World War I

Expertise Details

Modern European International Relations; First World War

Teaching and supervision

Professor David Stevenson 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 the Department)

HY226: The Great War, 1914-1918 (taught jointly with other members of the Department)

At postgraduate level:

HY400: International History in the Twentieth Century (taught jointly with other members of the Department)

HY411: European Integration in the Twentieth Century (taught jointly other members of the Department)

 Watch Professor David Stevenson talk about his courses, how they are structured and how students can benefit from taking them in order to better understand the world we live in today.

He also supervises the following PhD students:

Research student  Provisional thesis title
Peter Farrell-Vinay  The Evolution of Battle Planning by the British Army on the Western Front 1914-1918
Jonathan Slater Indigestible, Disgusting, and Vile: The Development and Regulation of Ersatz Food Products in Germany during the First World War

Recent PhD graduates include:

Research student  Provisional thesis title
Ben Sayle (2023) Reappraising the "Edwardian Radical Right", 1903-1918
Michael Hemmersdorfer (2022) Competing for the Kaiser's ear. The struggle for control over Germany's England policy, 1898-1914
Alexander Mayhew (2019) Making sense of the Western Front: English infantrymen’s morale and perception of crisis during the Great War




Articles, papers, pamphlets, etc


News and media


Advice on how to be an expert

Professor Stevenson contributed to a Daily Mail article on “How to Be an Instant Expert” (21 May). Apparently, clever people can fake complex knowledge – he offered a potted guide to one of the subjects we all wish we understood better: the origins of the First World War. His advice: make sure you DON’T ask, “where did Hitler come into it?”. Read the article


Times Radio

Professor Stevenson was interviewed on 11 November by Times Radio about the anniversary of the 1918 Armistice. Catch up with his interview for the Times Radio Breakfast programme after 54m.


Lessons from Versailles

Professor Stevenson participated in a panel discussion on the legacy of the First World War on 28 November with Professors Michael Cox (LSE IDEAS), Linda Yueh (LSE IDEAS), Margaret MacMillan (Oxford) and Barry Buzan (LSE International Relations). The event, "From 1919 to 2019: pivotal lessons from Versailles", is available on the LSE Player and focuses on the Versailles Peace Treaty and why the treaty has been so hotly debated ever since by critics and defenders alike. On 15 December, the panel discussion was also shown on BBC Parliament. Catch up with the briefings on the BBC iPlayer (UK only).


Interviews on the centenary of the 1918 Armistice

Professor Stevenson was featured on a variety of radio and news programs in both Britain and Asia. On 10 November, he did a live telephone interview for BBC Radio Four’s PM Programme (listen here from 20m54s) and on 11 November he gave an interview on LBC Andrew Castle’s "The Whole Show" (listen here from 17m28s). In the same week, he also gave interviews to Kyodo News (Japanese news agency) and Jiemian News (Shanghai-based newspaper group).


"LSE's War: 1914-18"

To mark the centenary of the armistice of the First World War, Professor Stevenson has curated a new LSE Library and Google Arts and Culture online exhibition about the history of the London School of Economics during the conflict. Using the Library's collections, the exhibition tells the history of the role played by those who were part of LSE during the war effort. Check out “LSE’s War: 1914 – 1918”. Watch a short teaser video about the exhibition.


Interview in student-led sixth-form magazine

A student-led publication by Bishop Stopford School, Reflections Magazine, interviewed Professor Stevenson for the October issue in a feature entitled “Philosophy and War: How could we let this happen?”. Professor Stevenson discusses important themes such as the significance of the year 1917 (drawing from his latest monograph), the greatest impact of the First World War, and how the First World War should be commemorated and taught in the future. He is also prompted about what his advice would be to aspiring historians: “Read. Find out more about it. Use as many different means as possible to access the past. The internet is the key now to get a flavour of all types of history. Get an overview and find out about as many time periods, places and topics as possible. Read as much as you can about as many different things as you can”. Reflections Magazine is supported by a dedicated number of sixth formers, each with specific curriculum subject editorial responsibilities. Read the full interview.


Centenary of the end o the Great War: Public lectures and talks

In the centenary commemoration of the ending of the First World War, Professor Stevenson spoke at a number of public events around the UK to share his vast knowledge on the subject. On 5 October 2018 he spoke at the Malvern Festival of Military History, the only literary festival dedicated solely to military history, fiction and non-fiction from Agincourt to Afghanistan. His lecture was on “How It Started, How It Ended – the Continuing Debate about the Origins and Outcome of the First World War”. On 6 October, Professor Stevenson delivered the Presidential Lecture of the Central London Branch of the Historical Association. He currently serves as the branch president and his talk was on "The Road to 1918: How the First World War Ended”.

In November, Professor Stevenson spoke at Gresham College, Museum of London (7 November), on "The Ending of World War I: The Road to 11 November". His lecture re-examined how the First World War ended. Watch a recording of the event on YouTube. On 8 November, he gave a talk about "The Road to the Eleventh of November: How the First World War Ended" at the Loughton and District Historical Society, of which he now presides. On 13 November, Professor Stevenson spoke on “The Armistice - Marking the 100 Years” in an event hosted by the Buckhurst Hill Residents' Society.


BBC Radio 4

Professor David Stevenson and Professor Anne Applebaum (LSE Institute of Global Affairs) were interviewed by Mishal Hussein at the close of Radio 4's Today programme on Saturday, 14 April, about the historical precedents for the current international crisis over Syria. Listen to their interview on the BBC Radio 4 website, starting at 1h55m.


Professor Stevenson at Sandhurt for Operation Reflect commemoration

On 22 March, Professor Stevenson gave a presentation at a conference at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, on “The Strategic Context of 1918: the British Empire”. This event formed part of Operation Reflect, the British Army’s commemoration of the final year of the First World War, and was attended by the Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Nicholas Carter.


New Books in History Podcast

Professor David Stevenson participated in an episode of New Books in History podcast. He talked with Dr Krzysztof Odyniec about his latest book 1917: War, Peace and Revolution, released by Oxford University Press at the end of last year. In the podcast, recorded in January 2018, Professor Stevenson discusses the causes, course, and effects of the events of the year 1917, a turning point in the history of WWI and the evolution of the modern world. He shares insights about judging historical forces and human agency, evaluating counterfactuals, and drawing comparisons between 1917 and subsequent events of the last 100 years, including the Second World War, the Vietnam War, and conflicts of the twenty-first century. Listen to the podcast in the New Book's webiste.


LSE Summer School: new International History course

The LSE Summer School's first ever course offered by the Department - IR106: From Sarajevo to Baghdad: Key Decisions on War and Peace, 1914-2003 will be taught by Professor David Stevenson. The course will offer an intensive investigation of a central set of topics over the last century of international politics. It will introduce students to the international history of the two world wars and the Cold War as well as the post-Cold War period. The material should be readily accessible to students with little previous background in the field, as well as rewarding for those who already have familiarity with the content.


1917 Book of the Year

Simon Heffer picked 1917: War, Peace and Revolution as one of his “outstanding” books of the year for The Telegraph on 26 November. He said of the book: “David Stevenson's 1917: War, Peace Revolution (OUP, £30) magisterial overview of pivotal year in which the 'outpourings of money and of that three years earlier would have been unimaginable become routine'." Read Simon Heffer's full selection of books in The Telegraph (with subscription).


 In Kansas City for Symposium on WWI

Professor Stevenson will be speaking at the 2017 Symposium 1917: America Joins the Fight in Kansas City on 3-4 November. The symposium, hosted by The National WWI Museum and Memorial, is aimed at those who have a general to professional interest in the periods prior to, during and after World War I. As the title suggests, the symposium will explore the revolutionary year of 1917 with the abandonment of US’s traditional isolation and the Russian revolutions. Other guest speakers include John Calvert, Richard S. Faulkner, Jennifer Keene, Saje Matthieu, Michael Neiberg, Olga Porshneva and Erik R. Scott.


New book on 1917 released by Oxford University Press

1917: War, Peace, and Revolution is Professor Stevenson’s new book, which was released by Oxford University Press on 12 October. The book is the first international study of the calamitous events of the year 1917, a pivotal year in the development of the First World War and the evolution of the modern world. Professor Stevenson, a leading historian of WWI, examines how the war was transformed, but also what kept it going and why it continued to escalate. He also examines this crucial year in context and illuminates the century that followed. Two developments in particular — the Russian Revolution and American intervention — had long-lasting and worldwide repercussions. Blending political and military history, and moving from capital to capital and between the cabinet chamber and the battle front, Professor Stevenson's book highlights the often tumultuous debates through which leaders entered and escalated the war, and the paradox that continued fighting could be justified as the shortest road towards regaining peace. Read more about 1917 in the OUP's website. Pre-order the book on Amazon UK.


5 News interview

Professor David Stevenson was on Channel 5 News on 31 July to talk about World War I’s Battle of Passchendaele – The Third Battle of Ypres, a hundred years on. During the Battle of Passchendaele, an estimated 245,000 allied and 215,000 German casualties (dead, wounded or missing) fell after approximately 100 days of heavy fighting for a movement of the front line of only 8 kilometres. Watch a video clip of Professor Stevenson's interview.



Study Day with Professor David Stevenson at Loughton Festival

A festival favourite, Professor David Stevenson presented another of his Day Schools at the Loughton Festival on 20 May, this time about the Russian Revolution, its causes, course, and consequences. Professor Stevenson’s upcoming book, about the First World War and called War, Peace and Revolutions will be published later this year by Oxford University Press.


Great Centenary Lecture and future book publication

On 21 March 2017, Professor Stevenson was a guest speaker at the University of Birmingham Great War Centenary Lectures, where he gave a talk on “1917 Revisited”. In its fourth series, the lectures aim to commemorate the anniversary of the First World War. They are organised by the Centre for War Studies, Department of History, University of Birmingham. Professor Stevenson’s focus on 1917 is not incidental. He is currently working on 1917: War, Peace, and Revolution, an international history of the year 1917, under preparation for Oxford University Press. The book is due for release in October 2017. It is the first international study of the events of the year 1917, a turning point in the history of the First World War and the evolution of the modern world. The book marks the centenaries of key events, including the Russian Revolutions, American entry into WWI, and the Montagu Declaration. It examines how the war was transformed, but also what kept it going and why it continued to escalate. It blends political and military history, moving from capital to capital, and from the cabinet chamber to the battle front. Read more about Professor Stevenson’s upcoming book in the publisher’s website (OUP).


Events aimed at school students

Professor Stevenson, a specialist in the First World War, participated in the The Great War Debate, which took place on 7 March 2017 in Birmingham and covered the topic “Peace Settlements: Did the Western Allies Win the War but Lose the Peace?”. The Great War Debate is a series of interactive panel discussions, sponsored by the Department of Education, featuring leading historians and academics aimed at helping to improve students’ knowledge of the causes and consequences of the First World War. The purpose is to get young people to think and talk about the events of a hundred years ago. Panels have run approximately monthly since June 2016 and will carry on into 2018. For more information visit The History Press. Professor Stevenson was also lead judge for the national final of the Historical Association (HA) school public-speaking competition, Great Debate. The final was held in the Imperial War Museum on 11 March 2017. Students addressed the question "How did the First World War affect me and my community?”. After twenty five-minute talks and much deliberation from the judges, Professor Stevenson announced that Hannah Boyle from Benton Park School in Leeds was this year’s winner of the Great Debate. Historian and HA Fellow Paula Kitching claims in the HA’s website that "Hannah spoke eloquently about medical developments from the Thomas Splint to CBT with a well-researched and thoughtful argument.” Read about the event in the Historical Association website.


BBC Future

Professor David Stevenson contributed to an article on why Britain introduced daylight time saving a hundred years ago for BBC Future on 11 March 2016. Love it or hate it, there’s a stubborn British campaigner one can thank. The article focuses on the builder who changed how the world keeps time. Read it here.


New publication

Professor David Stevenson’s newest book was published by Oxford University Press in January 2016. The book, edited with Thomas Mahnken and Joseph Maiolo, is called Arms Races in International Politics: from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-First Century. Professor Stevenson has contributed a section introduction, a chapter, and a conclusion to the book. The volume provides the first comprehensive history of the arms racing phenomenon in modern international politics, drawing both on theoretical approaches and on the latest historical research. It is divided into four sections: before 1914; the inter-war years; the Cold War; and extra-European and post-Cold War arms races. Arms Races in International Politics addresses two key questions: what causes arms races and what is the connection between arms races and the outbreak of wars. Read Chapter 1.


Speaking commitments

Throughout 2014, Professor David Stevenson spoke, among other places, in the Edinburgh International Festival (August), the Japanese National Institute for Defense Studies (September), and the Toronto International Festival of Authors (November).


Articles on World War One

On 1 August 2014, Professor David Stevenson contributed a short post on "LSE and the First World War", followed by another article on 4 August 2014 for Sky News, "World War One And The 'Short-War Illusion'".


BBC: The Railway War, 1914-1918

In August 2014, BBC2 showed a five-part documentary series on Railways of the Great War, a series of five programmes produced by Boundless Productions and presented by Michael Portillo. Professor David Stevenson was the historical consultant for the series and he was interviewed by Michael Portillo in episode 4, On Track to Victory.


BBC One: The Big Questions

On 18 May 2014, Professor David Stevenson appeared on a special edition of The Big Questions, BBC One, on whether the First World War changed Britain for the better.


BBC Two: 'The Pity of War'

On 28 February 2014, Professor Stevenson appeared on a BBC Two debate ‘The Pity of War’ about the First World War programme led by historian Niall Ferguson.