SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Thakur, Vineet, Davis, Alexander E. and Vale, Peter (2017) 'Imperial Mission, ‘Scientific’ Method: an Alternative Account of the Origins of IR.' Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 46 (1). pp. 3-23.

Text - Accepted Version
Download (282kB) | Preview


This article offers an alternative account of the origins of academic IR to the conventional Aberystwyth-centered one. Informed by a close reading of the archive, our narrative proposes that the ideas and method of what was to become IR were first developed in South Africa. Here, we suggest how the creation of a racially-ordered state served as a template for the British Commonwealth and later the World State. We draw further on the British dominions’ tour of Lionel Curtis, founder of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA), between September 1909 and March 1911, to indicate how Edwardian anxieties about the future of empire fuelled the missionary zeal of imperial enthusiasts, who placed enormous trust in the ‘scientific method’ to create a unified empire. This method and the same ideas were to become central features of the new discipline of IR. By highlighting the transnational circulation of these ideas, we also provide an alternative to the nationally-limited revisionist accounts.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: disciplinary history, empire, Lionel Curtis, South Africa, race, The Round Table
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Politics & International Studies
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Law and Social Sciences > Department of Politics and International Studies
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations
ISSN: 03058298
Copyright Statement: © The Author(s) 2017. This is the accepted manuscript of an article published by SAGE in Millennium: Journal of International Studies, available online:
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 09 Jun 2017 08:50

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item