Alliances and War: from the Delian League to the First World War

This is the first Engelsberg Chair lecture of 2021/22 on alliances and war, delivered by historian Margaret MacMillan.

Do alliances prevent war or lead to it? Can alliances outlast a war or are they doomed to break apart? Such questions are as old as recorded history and continue to engage international historians and political scientists.

This lecture will examine the types and fates of alliances using examples from the past with particular attention to the alliance ‘system’ before 1914 and its part in the outbreak of the First World War. It will then look at the strategies, war aims, and tensions among the Allies and the Central Powers up to the crucial year of 1917.


Alliances and War


Alliances and War

This webinar was held on Monday 29 November 2021.

Meet the speaker

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.

Meet the chair

Christopher Coker is Director of LSE IDEAS and former Professor of International Relations at LSE. He is a former twice serving member of the Council of the Royal United Services Institute, a former NATO Fellow and a regular lecturer at Defence Colleges in the UK, US, Rome, Singapore, and Tokyo. He has been a Visiting Fellow at the National Institute for Defence Studies in Tokyo, the Rajaratnam School for International Studies Singapore, the Political Science Department in Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok and the Norwegian and Swedish Defence Colleges. He has published many books, including Rebooting ClausewitzMen at War; and The Improbable War: China, the United States, and the Logic of Great Power Conflict, and his latest, Why War?

Event hashtag: #LSEEngelsberg

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.