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Vickery, Neale James (2023) A Positive Peace: Britain and the Creation of the United Nations. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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thesis is an archival history using evidence from British wartime planning and policy pursued in the early years (1945-47) of the UN to understand elite UK policymaker expectations of the role of the UN. It challenges the understanding of British policy as an extension of traditional realpolitik and argues UK policymakers wanted a general international organisation to deliver what they termed a peace "made positively". This went beyond the suppression of violence to include improved world-wide economic conditions and social justice, both to address the causes of war and as an objective in itself, though defined to meet UK interests as they understood them. Against a background of increased cross-border interdependence, a belief in planning, and acceptance of state responsibility for the welfare of its citizens, UK policymakers wanted the UN to provide broad international governance through which to manage the international system. This required a centralised UN System, coordinated through a strong ECOSOC. This challenges the understanding that Britain favoured a loose and functional UN System. This was, though, an illiberal, not liberal, internationalism, reproducing asymmetries of power between Great and small Powers, undermining sovereign equality, and rejecting harmony of interests and laissez-faire in favour of a managed international system in which the UK played a leading role. Positive Peace did not include a commitment for the UN to address individual welfare or rights. It was state-based and intended to strengthen the ability of the state to deliver security and welfare to its own citizens. Both traditionalist realpolitik policymakers and committed internationalists agreed that a strategy of multilateral cooperation was necessary for UK interests, enabling an internationalist policy consensus to emerge. By recovering the economic and social purpose of the UN for one of its key creators this thesis enhances our understanding of British policy but also the nature of the UN as envisaged at its creation.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Daniel Plesch, Simon Rofe and Michael Charney
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 18 Jan 2023 10:57

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