Engelsberg Chair

The Engelsberg Chair in History and International Affairs is made possible by funding from the Axel and Margaret Ax:son Johnson Foundation.

The Engelsberg Chair is an annual distinguished visiting professorship for leading Swedish and global scholars who will give public lectures on topics of their choice. The annual post gives LSE IDEAS the opportunity to bring renowned academics to the School for a year of research and discussion.

Chair holders uses the year to explore an idea or theme in history and international affairs. They each give a series of four public lectures.

Here you can listen to the Engelsberg lectures given by each Chair, and read reports of their activities.

Margaret MacMillan on alliances and war - 2021/22

Margaret MacMillan is the third Engelsberg Chair at LSE IDEAS. Below, you can access recordings from her past lectures on the topic 'Alliances and War'. 

The Grand Alliance and Victory in the Second World War
Thursday 26 May 2022

The Grand Alliance between the Big Three – the British Empire, the Soviet Union and the United States – emerged through total war, and each power had its own specific aims and concerns. This final lecture examines the tensions in forging Allied strategy and the planning of the post-war world, asking whether the Grand Alliance could have survived the end of the war or whether the Cold War was indeed inevitable.

Listen to the audio recording here.

Alliances and the Outbreak of the Second World War
Monday 21 March 2022

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.

Watch the video recording here.

Victory and the Making of Peace: the Allies in the First World War
Monday 24 January 2022

This is the second Engelsberg Chair lecture of 2021/22 on alliances and war, delivered by historian Margaret MacMillan. The year 1917 marked a significant change with the revolutions in Russia and its withdrawal from the war and the entry of the United States. The lecture will look at the shifting balance of power and the changes in the alliances of the opposing sides and it will assess the part played by each in the ending of the war and the Allied victory. Finally it will examine the role of alliance relationships in the making of the peace.

There is a video recording and an audio recording of the lecture available.

Click here to download the PDF of Margaret's slides from the lecture.

Alliances and War: from the Delian League to the First World War
Monday 29 November 2021

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.

Click here to download the PDF of Margaret's slides from the lecture.

About Margaret MacMillan

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.

Arne Westad on empires past and present - 2020/21

Empires Past and Present: empires today
Tuesday 8 June 2021

For the last seventy years, the United States has been the predominant state within the international system. Does it make sense to call the United States an empire? Is its power now irrevocably waning? Are we in the midst of a transfer of global power and wealth from west to east? Will China — another international power that can be seen as an empire — be the state benefitting most from the global changes we are now seeing?

Empires Past and Present: empire around 1900
Tuesday 30 March 2021

In this lecture we discuss how empires changed from 1800-1900, their relationship to globalising capitalism and how a destabilised European world initiated the tragedies of the 20th century.

Empires Past and Present: empire around 1800
Tuesday 26 January 2021

Around 1800 the world was dominated by a number of predominant empires at different stages of development: Britain, France, Austria, Russia, the Ottomans, Spain, and the Qing. This is the second Engelsberg lecture of 2020/21. Arne Westad will discuss each of these empires, the resistance against them, and how the future looked from the perspective of each.

Empires Past & Present: the idea of empire
Wednesday 11 November 2020

Arne Westad discusses the concept of empire and resistance to empire in a long historical perspective.

About Arne Westad

Odd Arne Westad is a scholar of modern international and global history, with a specialization in the history of eastern Asia since the 18th century. He is the Elihu Professor of History at Yale University. Westad has published sixteen books, most of which deal with twentieth century Asian and global history. Today Westad is mainly interested in researching histories of empire and imperialism, first and foremost in Asia, but also world-wide. He is also trying to figure out how China’s late twentieth century economic reforms came into being and how their results changed the global economy.

Michael Burleigh on populism - 2019/20

A Journey Through History, Populism and Nationalism
Friday 3 July 2020

Many people consume bits of History as part of the entertainment industry, from costume dramas to how people lived ‘then’. Michael Burleigh explores a much wider sample of how History impacts on the present, from national stories/mythologies to inapt historical analogies. Can there be too much remembering? Would amnesia be better?

Engerland! Rossiya! Hyphenated-phantom-limb Nations on the Edges of Europe
Tuesday 21 January 2020

Michael Burleigh examines how Britain and Russia have dealt with the loss of empire and what impact that has had on self-understanding and politics.

"We, the People?" Some Thoughts from our Past on Contemporary European Populism
Tuesday 12 November 2019

What can history contribute to an understanding of contemporary European populism, which is now as much in power as insurgent?

About Michael Burleigh

The first Engelsberg Chair, appointed for 2019/20, was Professor Michael Burleigh, a leading historian who focuses primarily on Nazi Germany. He is the author of The Third Reich: A New History, which won the 2001 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction; Moral CombatBlood and Rage; and Earthly Powers. His most recent book is The Best of Times, the Worst of Times. He has also won a British Film Institute Award for Archival Achievement and a New York Film and Television Festival Award Bronze Medal.