Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

International Relations and Security

In this Section:

Our research aims to explain, interpret, understand and assess relations between states, focusing specifically on instances where states and non-state actors intervene in the affairs of others for the purpose of advancing political/security interests and/or humanitarian agendas. 

We aim to collect and analyse empirical data about intervention and international relations more generally and to interrogate the theoretical assumptions driving such practices. We aim to make significant contributions to academic research in this area by leading and contributing to cutting-edge research projects that address the major themes identified by research councils and wider society.

We contribute to the development of the international relations discipline by acting as peer reviewers, trustees of BISA, conveners of the BISA Working Group on Intervention and The Responsibility to Protect (R2P), editors of journals, external examiners and we are regularly attending or organising conferences.

We also aim to inform non-academic understanding of the issues by reporting to Parliamentary Committees (Ralph, Newman) and cultivating partnerships with policymakers and the wider policy community, for instance the Foreign Policy Centre and the United Nations Association.

PhD students

We support the next generation of researchers by hosting post-doctoral fellows and doctoral students, including offering research council scholarships in this area.  We also run successful Masters programmes. We fully integrate PhD, Masters and Undergraduate students into the research environment by hosting guest speakers, organising research workshops and other events, and encouraging the student-led journal Human Rights Journal. 

History of the group  

The research group has benefitted from the arrival of new staff in recent years. Strategic appointments have complemented existing strengths and focused the research and research-led teaching agenda. Professor Edward Newman was appointed in 2013 and is a world-leading academic in Security Studies, focusing specifically on human security, peacebuilding and the R2P. Also in 2013 Associate Professor Lars Berger was appointed to the group. Professor Berger’s work focuses on terrorism, the domestic determinants underpinning Western interventions, political Islam and the Middle East.

Research into International Relations and Security at the School of Politics and International Studies concentrates on security interventions, in particular the legal, normative and political aspects influencing the use of state power.

The group uses a variety of theories and methods to analyse intervention, examples including the English School and normative theory (Dyer, Gallagher and Ralph), Human Security and Peacebuilding (Newman), interdisciplinary political-legal studies (Craig).

Other examples include Time Series analyses examining the effect of the Iraq Intervention on other actors in the international system (Davies) as well as analysis informed by liberal theory of the domestic determinants underpinning Western interventions (Berger).

This focus on international intervention is informed by critical analysis of political conflicts in the Asia-Pacific (Edney, McCargo, Tyson), the Middle East (Berger, Craig, Lewis and Worrall), and Africa (Beresford), as well as British, European and US foreign policy analysis (Atkins, Berger, Davies, Honeyman, Ralph and Winn).

Specific research interests

Lars Berger

Lars Berger's research embraces qualitative and quantitative methods in the study of Islamist terrorism, US domestic, foreign and counterterrorism policies, as well as the domestic and international politics of the Arab and Muslim world. His research has taken him to the Middle East, Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Alan Craig

Alan Craig focuses his research on the dynamic relationship between Israel’s construction of international humanitarian law (IHL), the conduct of its military operations and Israel’s state legitimacy. His case studies include targeted assassinations, the Second Lebanon War, Cast Lead in Gaza and the Gaza flotillas.

Graeme Davis

Graeme Davis'research examines British public attitudes towards the use of international force. This project is funded by the ESRC. He has also published research on US coercive diplomacy, North Korean and Iranian foreign policy and the interrelationship between domestic politics and state behaviour in the international system.

Hugh Dyer

Hugh Dyer's teaching closely relates to his research. His interests lie in the history, development, and the future of international relations theory. He has worked on how environmental security challenges notions of citizenship and normative theory.

Kingsley Edney

Kingsley Edney specialises in Chinese international relations, particularly the Chinese propaganda system, soft power and ideational aspects of China’s foreign affairs. He has worked on collaborative projects examining topics such as Chinese nationalism and Chinese attitudes to the global governance of geoengineering as a response to climate change.

Adrian Gallagher

Adrian Gallagher's research interests lie broadly in International Relations Theory, Genocide and Mass Violence, the Responsibility to Protect and Research Methods. He has examined how the United Nations responds to mass violence (Libya and Syria) in order to analyse the impact that this has on the authority of morality, law, and politics at the international level.

Christine Harlen

Christine Harlen's work focuses on how industrialised countries adapt to competitive pressures. At present she is writing a book on US federal government involvement with commercial companies, particularly the politics surrounding the government's attempts to promote competitiveness since 1980.

Edward Newman

Edward Newman's research interests lie in international security studies, broadly defined. Within this field, his interests encompass a number of areas which include: theoretical security studies; intrastate armed conflict; civil war; intervention and political violence and international organisations. His current project explores the record, effectiveness, legitimacy and prospects of international peacebuilding.

Duncan McCargo

Duncan McCargo has conducted an ESRC-sponsored project on political violence in South East Asia, focusing, in particular, on South Thailand. He currently holds a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship where he is researching Judicialization and Politics in Thailand: The New Extraconstitutionalism.

Jason Ralph

Jason Ralph is currently conducting three research projects, partly funded by the ESRC entitled ‘The American Exception’. These examine how the United States and its liberal allies have reacted to a growing cosmopolitan consciousness across world society. He is also examining British Centre-Left Foreign Policies after Iraq as part of his British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship.

Adam Tyson

Adam Tyson's current research includes social compliance and censorship in Southeast Asia, formative trauma and political violence, and political Islam in the Malay world.

Neil Winn

Neil Winn's work lies at the intersection of international relations and European politics, in which he takes a particular interest in International relations. Past research has focused the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union and the international relations of Europe in general.

James Worrall

James Worrall's research relates to the fields of Security Studies and International Relations. This includes: Western relations with the Arab World, Gulf Politics and Security, Regional International Organisations, Decolonisation, Counterinsurgency Strategy and Security Sector Reform.

The International Relations and Security Group welcome research proposals on a wide range of issues associated with international society, human security and peacekeeping.

Staff research interests include international conflict, international relations of China, international political economomy and security studies.

PhD supervision areas

Please see individual profiles for supervision details.

Dr Lars Berger
Professor Duncan McCargo
Dr Alan Craig
Dr Graeme Davies
Dr Hugh Dyer
Dr Kingsley Edney
Dr Adrian Gallagher
Dr Christine Harlen
Professor Edward Newman
Professor Jason Ralph
Dr Cristina Stefan
Dr Adam Tyson
Dr Neil Winn
Dr James Worrall

Current studentships

We currently have three PhD studentships related to the White Rose DTC Network on the Responsibility to Protect and prosecute. The titles of these studentships are:

  • Moral Progress and its Political Limits: ‘Common Humanity’ as a Driver of State Behaviour.

  • Moral Progress and its Political Limits. Liberal responsibilities in an age of shifting international power balances.

  • Moral Progress and its Political Limits: Alternative Forms of Intervention.

Postgraduate taught programmes

Postgraduate taught modules

  • American Foreign Policy
  • Contemporary Politics of the Middle East
  • European Defence and Security Analysis
  • International Political Economy
  • International Relations and the Environment
  • Insurgency
  • Policing Post-Conflict Cities
  • Terrorism Counterterrorism
  • Theoretical Approaches in International Relations
  • The Politics of the Israel-Palestine Conflict

Undergraduate modules

  • Crisis Diplomacy
  • International Relations of the Asia-Pacific
  • Responsibility to Protect and Prosecute
  • Security Studies
  • Terrorism, Insurgency and Political Violence
  • The Politics of Contemporary China
  • The Politics of the Middle East
  • US Foreign Policy
  • Violence and Reconciliation in Africa

Latest Key Publications

  • Beresford, A. 2012. The Politics of Regenerative Nationalism in South Africa, Journal of Southern African Studies, 38 (4). pp. 863 884.
  • Berger, L. 2012. Guns, Butter, and Human Rights: The Congressional Politics of U.S. Aid to Egypt, American Politics Research 40:4, 603-635.
  • Berger, L. 2011. The Missing Link? U.S. Policy and the International Dimensions of Authoritarian Resilience in the Arab World, Political Research, 59:1,38-55.
  • Craig, A. 2013. International Legitimacy and the Politics of Security - The Strategic Deployment of Lawyers in the Israeli Military, Lexington Books.
  • Craig, A. 2009. Lebanon 2006 and the Front of Legitimacy, Israel affairs Volume 15, Issue 4, pp. 427-444.
  • Davies, G. and Johns, R. 2013. Audience Costs among the British Public: The Impact of Escalation, Crisis Type, and Prime Ministerial Rhetoric, International Studies Quarterly, International Studies Quarterly, Volume 57, Issue 4, pages 725–737.
  • Edney, K. (Forthcoming) The Globalization of Chinese Propaganda: International Power and Domestic Political Cohesion, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Edney, K. 2012. Soft Power and the Chinese Propaganda System, Journal of Contemporary China, Volume 21, No. 78, pp. 899-914.
  • Gallagher, A. (Forthcoming) Syria and the indicators of a ‘manifest failing', International Journal of Human Rights.
  • Gallagher, A. 2013. Genocide and Its Threat to Contemporary International Order,Palgrave.
  • McCargo, D. 2012. Mapping National Anxieties, Copenhagen: NIAS Press
  • McCargo, D.J. 2008. Tearing Apart the Land: Islam and Legitimacy in Southern Thailand Cornell University Press.
  • Newman, E. 2013. R2P: Implications for World Order’, Global Responsibility to Protect, Volume 5, No.3.
  • Newman, E. 2010. Critical Human Security Studies, Review of International Studies, Volume36, No.1.
  • Ralph, J. 2013 America's War on Terror. The State of the 9/11 Exception from Bush to Obama, Oxford University Press.
  • Ralph, J. 2013 The liberal state in international society. Interpreting recent British foreign policy, International Relations, Online 1 September 2013, Pre-publication version available at White Rose Research Online.
  • Worrall, J. 2012. State Building and Counter Insurgency in Oman: Political, Military and Diplomatic Relations at the End of Empire London: IB Tauris.
  • Worrall, J. 2012. Oman: The ‘Forgotten Corner’ of the Arab Spring, Middle East Policy Volume 19, No. 3.

Annual Seminar Series and Conferences

International Relations and Security group host the ESRC funded seminar series 'Responsibility to Protect and Prosecute'. This year's series is entitled 'The Political Sustainability of Liberal Norms in an Age of Shifting Power Balances' and is led by Professor Jason Ralph.

This project focuses on R2P and the International Criminal Court of what it calls the liberal trajectory of contemporary international security. This captures the sense in which the meaning of sovereignty has changed and the state’s right to govern is now contingent on it fulfilling certain responsibilities to its population.

The debate centres on the concern that states will use the humanitarian agendas associated with the RtoP and ICC as veils to disguise the pursuit of political (even neo-imperial) goals. While this argument has long been present in the academic literature and in the statements of rejectionist states, it took on additional significance during the 2011 Libyan crisis when the NATO-led coalition was accused of going beyond the politically neutral protection of civilians mandate to pursue a politically loaded policy of regime change.

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Local networks

Building Sustainable Societies (BSS) is a new, dynamic, interdisciplinary research project within Leeds Social Sciences Institute. The project aims to develop new knowledge, analysis and policy to address the major social and economic challenges facing contemporary societies across the globe. The work of the group is embedded in the Security and Justice research which forms a part of the BSS agenda.

The Leeds Thai Centre is a specialist area of study within the School of Politics and International studies. It focuses on all aspects of Thai politics from historical development to contemporary issues, both regional and national. This approach links closely with the work of the International Relations and Security group.

The White Rose on the Responsibility to Protect is a collaboration between the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York which brings together the disciplines of International Relations, International Ethics, International Law, Political Philosophy and Human Rights.

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National networks

The group is well networked with The British Interantional Studies Association (BISA). It convenes the BISA working group on Intervention and R2P. It has also collaborated with with UK think-tanks inclulding the Foreign Policy Centre and the United Nations Association.

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International Networks

The group is well networked within the International Studies Association (ISA), the European International Studies Association (EISA) and the European Consortium on Political Research (ECPR).

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Consultancy Work

The United Nations Association-UK

Professor Jason Ralph's 10,000 word report, 'Mainstreaming R2P? The UK and the Prevention of Mass Atrocities' examines how the UK government prepares for and responds to the threat of mass atrocities in locales, countries and regions at risk.

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Media Work

Our team regularly appear on radio and television and several have written commentaries for major newspapers and websites including: Comment is Free; The Daily Telegraph; The Economist; The Guardian; The Independent and The Yorkshire Post. Their work has also been citied in international outlets such as the New York Times and USA Today.

Dr Adrian Gallagher has blogged for e-International Relations in which he discusses the scale of war crimes in Iraq and the international community’s responsibility to protect. He has co-authored a post in response to an article calling for an effective but legal respond to the crisis in Syria- 'Syria: Can legitimacy for intervention be found in a Uniting for Peace Resolution?'.

Professor Duncan McCargo has commented about political tensions in Thailand on Channel 4 News and has discussed the military coup in Thailand on BBC Radio 4’s The World’s Tonight, BBC World Service News hour and BBC Radio West Midlands. He has also been quoted in a Channel 4 article discussing the rise of ‘selfies’ in Bangkok and whether this can provide an insight into the political tensions in Thailand. Professor McCargo has written articles for The Guardian; Foreign Affairs; The Thai Malaise and Time all centred on political unrest in Thailand.

Professor Jason Ralph has written for The Conversation, The Guardian and The Yorkshire Post as well as being featured on the BBC. He has discussed the disclosure of talks between Blair and Bush on Iraq entitled 'If we don't see Blair exchanges with Bush, we'll never know the truth about Iraq'.

Dr Adam Tyson has taken part in a Google hangout discussion featured on the BBC website, discussing the third Indonesian presidential election. He has written an article for The Conversation in response to the tragedy of Malaysian airlines flight MH370-'Flight MH370 confirmed lost: experts respond'. This article has been deemed the most successful of all contributions made from the University, based on the number of Tweets, Facebook posts and comments.

The International Relations and Security group currently convene four externally funded research projects and two ongoing PhD projects.

Research Projects

Moral progress and political limits. Liberal responsibilities in an age of shifting international power balances.

Fellow: Professor Jason Ralph

Project synopsis: The project will provide a better understanding of how the international responsibilities of the liberal state are constructed in an age of shifting power balances. It is an interdisciplinary study of the ethical reasoning of Australia, the UK and the US as it relates to the Respsonsibility to Protect (R2P) and the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Dates: October 2014- September 2015

The Responsibility to Protect and Humanity: A Study on the Idea of Human Interconnectedness

Principal Investigator: Dr Adrian Gallagher

Project synopsis: The project has been set up with three aims in mind: to establish interdisciplinary research concerning the concept of humanity and the idea of human interconnectedness; to submit two large strategic grants to the ESRC; and to establish a European Centre for the Responsiblity to Protect by 2017.

Dates: December 2013 (ongoing)

The Responsibility to Protect and Prosecute: The Political Sustainability of Liberal Norms in an Age of Shifting Power Balances

Principal Investigator: Professor Jason Ralph

Project synopsis: This project focuses on R2P and the International Criminal Court as examples of what it calls the liberal trajectory of contemporary international society. This captures the sense in which the meaning of sovereignty has changed and the state’s right to govern is now contingent on it fulfilling certain responsibilities to its population.

Dates: November 2013-October 2016

Responsibilty to Protect and Prosecute. It's Problems and Alternatives (PhD Studentships)

Principal Investigator: Professor Jason Ralph

Project synopsis: At the World Summit in 2005 over 150 states endorsed the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). This insists that states have primary responsibility to protect populations from atrocity crimes. If states ‘manifestly fail’ to do this then the international community, through the United Nations, has a responsibility to intervene.

Dates: September 2014-August 2017

PhD Projects

The Sustainability of International Society 2003-2013: Normative Contestation and the threat posed by Liberal Vanguardism

Principal Investigator: Benedict Docherty

Dates: 2013-2016

The question of international intervention in US-Russian relations from 2009-2014

Principal Investigator: Kalina Zhekova

Dates: 2014-2017

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