Over its more than 80 years in print, the Journal of the History of Ideas has accumulated a pretty large archive. Oftentimes, that archive is representative of the history of intellectual history—its trends, priorities, methods. Sometimes, it involves scholarship that, by virtue of appearing once-in-a-while, cannot quite get either the visibility or the relevant context in which to be seen. 

With the Virtual Issues initiative on the JHI Blog, we propose to recall earlier articles from the JHI that fit with a particular subject or theme, and to place them in a new and current context. We do not pretend that the JHI could ever be comprehensive on these themes, and we are well aware of the limits of the journal’s success in addressing particular subjects. But as with every archive, all sorts of surprises await. With Virtual Issues, we bring out work that has some connection to current concerns, and to recall ways in which authors engaged a particular theme, including ways that may now be out of fashion but that are suggestive of past trends. Anyone interested in curating such an issue together with us should contact the lead JHI Blog editors with a proposal and a list of relevant articles. 

      — Stefanos Geroulanos, on behalf of the Executive Editors

by Tom Furse and Andrew Gibson

This virtual issue introduced a provocation that the Journal of the History of Ideas (JHI) operated as an “anti-communist laboratory” during the mid-twentieth century. Arthur O. Lovejoy, founder of the JHI, was involved in the National Security League in the 1910s which tied him ideologically to “Americanism,” that is, the “disciplinary state” at home and “surveillance state” abroad, the First Red Scare, agitation for war against the Central Powers, and an anti-immigration policy. Tom Holland’s installment centered this argument on how a set of articles in the JHI attempted to neuter revolutionary class consciousness and promote reformist democratic socialism with a British flavor in its place. This issue examines how JHI discussed and curated International Relations with a plurality of theories and ideas in the mid-twentieth century and its relationship with democracy. This shows how the historiography of political theory and the modern discipline of International Relations are closely connected. This last issue surveys the early intellectual gyrations between early realism and liberalism to uncover how different political theories could have been and, thus, how different IR theories could be. What emerges from this collection of articles, we argue, is a contribution to the beginning of canon creation for International Relations.

What is the purpose of the canon in International Relations? This essay shows the beginning of how theories and ideas were legitimized through appeals to canonical texts (and figures) in the Western tradition. In this sense, the discipline, from its birth, had an elitist bias that venerated past thinkers and focused on Great Powers and great statesmen. Early IR theorists sought to write foundational works of their own that would serve as guides for the new discipline, and importantly, how the discipline would relate to democratic political thought. In 1946, IR had an infant academic character. The American “New Historian” Charles Beard published The Idea of the National Interest in 1934. The classical realist Arnold Wolfers published Britain and France Between Two Wars in 1940, but Hans Morgenthau had not yet published Politics Among Nations, one of IR’s first defining realist texts. It was in the second edition (1954) when the “Six Principles” of realism were included with encouragement from the publisher. E.H. Carr’s The Twenty Years’ Crisis came out in 1939 and was revised in 1946. While the germs of international relations theory began in post-World War I Europe and South Africa, it became a rarified discipline only after the Second World War. As scholars have recently argued, realism and IR was a distinctly twentieth-century European tradition as Anglo-American theorists borrowed much from continental writings on power politics, the reason of state, and the national interest.

As the two previous installments showed, the JHI editors and its publications showed a marked interest in international relations, the world order, and contemporary politics. Important figures in IR and International Political Economy, Frank Knight, Louis Hartz, Hajo Holborn, Hans Kohn, Crane Brinton (an influencer of Samuel Huntington), and Richard McKeon (UN charter) were on the Board of Editors in 1957 (see further). The modern shape of intellectual history and International Relations are largely inventions of the middle decades of the twentieth century when humans, in the throes of high modernism, believed they could dominate their natural world through technological and scientific advancement. This coincided with the rise of the United States, which owned the first nuclear weapons and an unmatched standard of living and economic size that could dominate the world order through violence and mass culture. The JHI was an anchor for these disciplines in the United States, human domination of the world, and the US-centric world order. The vast scale of American power after 1945 and the close intellectual exchange between elected politicians, the federal government, think tanks, the military, and public intellectuals make the history of International Relations at this juncture an appealing scene for the history of ideas.

Today, the war in Ukraine and growing anxieties over the “return of great power competition” mean that debates about multipolarity, power projection, and war have returned. Liberals are re-energized about the strength of the transatlantic alliance while realists—split between “primacists” and those seeking to “restrain” American power—debate the proper response to global shifts in power. Each tradition has a lineage in American history, and it is by exploring these links we may further clarify the origins of international relations.


In 1946, F.R. Flournoy wrote “British Liberal Theories of International Relations (1848-1898)” to explore the lineages in British liberalism from Richard Cobden, J.S. Mill, Thomas Hill Green, W.E. Gladstone, and John Morley to the Manchester School, free trade and liberal imperialism, and the ideas of national liberation and self-determination. His article is a history of liberal (mostly international) political thought, demonstrating the diversity of views within the tradition and how certain ideas became more influential than others. Flournoy locates an uneven but common theme throughout each thinker: an opposition, criticism, or hypocrisy to war and the military.

John Morley and Gladstone ideologically opposed imperialism and frequently attempted to curtail military spending. Some of this, however, was at an abstract level because both used liberalism as a universalist creed to defend what they saw as the civilized world order. A similar tension is found in Gladstone and Richard Cobden, who could agree about international trade, as seen in the Cobden–Chevalier Treaty (1860). However, the two had entirely different understandings of the limits of liberalism. As Flournoy claims, Cobden “thought [military] intervention for the advancement of political freedom abroad to be useless and worse than useless” (p. 201).

Gladstone’s liberal foreign policy meant expanding freedom (and, by extension, national self-determination) to European authoritarian states. In 1879, Gladstone gave a speech in his Midlothian campaign on foreign policy in Scotland, where he claimed, “the foreign policy of England should always be inspired by a love of freedom. There should always be a sympathy with freedom, a desire to give it scope, founded not upon visionary ideas, but upon the long experience of many generations within the shores of this happy isle” (p. 199). In essence, Britain should use coercion to expand freedom to oppressed peoples. As Flournoy’s history shows, liberal theory promotes economic interdependence to power politics to advance freedom and prosperity, but state violence looms behind to change illiberal or anti-liberal regimes.

Today, this might be called liberal interventionism—and its recent successes and failures are one of the biggest debates in International Relations and US foreign policy. It is a kind of Gladstonianism on the Euphrates. To this degree, Gladstone’s writing has an almost hegemonic quality in Western policy circles. The principles in his Midlothian campaign—maintain British imperial power through “just” legislation, peace, the balance of power in Europe, avoid needless entanglements, acknowledge equal rights to all nations, and that foreign policy should be inspired by freedom—encapsulates the contradictions of practicing liberal foreign policy. How can liberal leaders adhere to peace, acknowledge the equal rights of all nations, and spread freedom simultaneously? How can they use “just” legislation while maintaining imperial powers?

Soldiers of the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment travel past one of the many burning oil wells as they take part in the invasion of Iraq, March 2003, National Army Museum, Study collection.

In Kenneth E. Miller’s 1961 article, “John Stuart Mill’s Theory of International Relations,” we find the contradictions in the development of liberal theory since the nineteenth century. For Miller, J.S. Mill believed the British state squandered too much on security, so expanding the franchise was a way to limit this waste. Democracy was a political-strategic choice to reform the British state away from its violent imperialism. However, despotism reigned in Europe, and thereby, for Mill, Britain was vulnerable if it cut too much of its military—what he settled on was the ‘offshore’ option of funding the Royal Navy but not the army. This choice is a sleight of hand because it effectively exported violence away from the democratic nation. British battleships pointed their guns outwards, so the navy could not be such an illiberal force in British politics. Mill casts the Navy as “defensive” and claims that “naval Powers, both in ancient and modern times, have ever been the cradle and the home of liberty” (p. 499). What this clearly meant, however, was that other people felt the British imperial violence. Mill draws social class with his argument that the army would consist of the “idle and irregular” parts of society who, with military training, would become a force of anti-liberalism. For Miller, at least, Mill’s interpretations of international relations brought “no striking or original ideas,” but he was more realistic about the primacy of national security than Cobden or Bentham (p. 513). Today, liberal theory gets around the problem of employing the military to expand freedom by creating a moral hierarchy between legal methods of legitimate power and brute force. The former is legitimate and necessary, while the latter is corrupt and cruel.


The ambiguity of liberalism in Western political theory symbolizes its power. Perpetrators of liberal violence can be cast as nuanced characters to cover the trade-offs, decisions, and potentially immoral acts that the powerful do to guard the state. The contradictions in Gladstone or Mill’s view of security and freedom have continued to play out in liberal theory and in practice in the contemporary United States. To some liberal and neoconservative intellectuals, the US-led Global War on Terror was a pre-emptive defensive war that employed drones and Special Forces in the Middle East and Central Asia. The liberal superpower employed its advanced aerial power away from its territorial space as a defensive measure, similar to Mill’s argument on the Royal Navy and Gladstone’s view that ‘just’ legislation provides cover to imperial power. The export of violence protects domestic liberty.

This kind of liberalism and its contradictions were not destined to be entrenched in liberal theory in IR. To an extent, the shape of liberal political theory plays out in representative democracy. Gladstone was one of the most significant political figures in nineteenth-century Britain, whereas Cobden remained involved in advocating pacifism to increasingly smaller audiences. The Manchester Guardian, a lynchpin of British nineteenth-century liberalism, opposed Cobden’s anti-interventionist foreign policy. A fellow Manchester businessman, Friedrich Engels, said of Cobden’s free trade advocacy, for “all his cleverness as an agitator [he] was a poor business man and a shallow economist.” Indeed, Cobden has a kind of anti-state civic libertarianism that does not hold much sway in liberal international relations theory today. He had little interest in what we might call international organizations. His pacifism is not a precursor to the League of Nations or the UN. Instead, his liberalism is a civic internationalism where private citizens and civil society groups forge relationships across borders. It would be too far to call this an anti-technocratic argument, but certainly, he saw that the state and imperial administrations concentrated too much power in too few hands.

For the Journal of the History of Ideas, international organizations came from an adjoining political space: Saint-Simonianism. It published two articles on Henri de Saint-Simon and utopian politics by Elliot H. Polinger in 1943 and Walter M. Simon in 1956. Polinger draws a linear path between Saint-Simonianism and the League of Nations: “Saint-Simon dreamed of his plan as the point of departure of a league of nations, which would outlaw cataclysmic war and ensure perpetual peace” (p. 475). Walter Simon is much more critical of this utopianism because it made sweeping generalizations from a vantage point that enabled “one to take in at a single glance the whole course of civilization” (p. 312). This makes Saint-Simon sound more like a precursor to Jared Diamond or Yuval Noah Harari. When combined, Polinger and Simon’s analysis contributes to a major theme in liberal theory in IR: a desire for peace through big ideas, institutions, and international organizations.

Technocracy was woven into the history of American liberal theory. Sidney Kaplan, a historian of primarily African-American culture at the University of Massachusetts, wrote “Social Engineers as Saviors: Effects of World War I on Some American Liberals” in 1956. This piece outlined how the First World War impacted the associations between intelligence, social progress, and social engineering in the American liberal theory of Herbert Croly, John Dewey, Walter Lippmann, and (to some extent) Randolph Bourne, among others. In this form of reformist progressive liberalism, centered around The New Republic, intelligence became a key feature in creating a ‘Good society.’ They contended that the United States had become too complex for a Jeffersonian-style democracy; democratic government was now needed, according to the progressive liberals. Intelligent men and institutions would forge a better democracy. We could read this as the ‘adults in the room’ know best so the plebs can busy themselves with bread and circuses. Kaplan notes how wrong some of the guesses in progressive liberalism were, for instance, Dewey’s point that the airplane would “displace” the need for war and obliterate national borders (p. 360).

This came under fire in “The Idea of Collective Security” by Roland N. Stromberg in 1956. Here, Stromberg was entirely unconvinced about the concept of collective security to the point of scoffing at its introduction to international politics: “The idea of collective security certainly did not come from the more experienced diplomats and statesmen, who were in the main quite sceptical about it. It came from journalists, moralists, popular politicians, from” “the people”; it responded to a cry of protest against the intolerable existence of world war and a demand for reassurance that such wars be not permitted to happen again” (p. 250).

We can read Stromberg’s argument as an almost proto-version of John Mearsheimer’s critique of international institutions and collective security in one of his seminal essays, “The False Promise of International Institutions,” from 1994. The two thinkers share a polemical quality that attacks moralism and, as they see it, naive optimism in collective security, such as the League of Nations or the United Nations. While Mearsheimer argues that “institutions have minimal influence on state behavior, and thus hold little promise for promoting stability in the post-Cold War world” (p. 7), Stromberg finds the same during the Cold War, “the U.N. is not a super-state, and no responsible advocate of collective security thinks it is. It has not established a rule of law, but has assumed simply that, somehow, the peaceful majority may restrain a war-like minority” (p. 257-58). Stromberg makes this case while barely mentioning realism as a school of thought or a tradition, aside from a single footnote that included Morgenthau’s In Defense of the National Interest and E.H. Carr, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Raymond Aron. At least for the JHI in 1956, realism did not yet consciously call itself by its name.  

Contemporary realists such as Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt, and Randall Schweller are skeptical of international institutions as a panacea for humanity. Their conceptual and theoretical apparatus is sparse and neat and focused on the great powers and the big questions of hard power in international relations. In 1956, Stromberg did not have realism and its parsimonious theoretical framework to hand. But they all, nevertheless, share an antagonistic polemical style. This unmasks an internal tension within realism: It is argumentative, often to the point of surliness against liberalism, while offering a detached analytical theorization of power in world politics.

How realism theorizes domestic politics is a cause of this misdirection. Stromberg locates a political lineage—Woodrow Wilson, Roosevelt, Henry L. Stimson, and Cordell Hull—as the political-ideological heavyweights that advocated collective security in the United States (p. 261). They are the misguided antagonists in his argument. For Stromberg, the United Nations has “followed the same disillusioning course as the League [of Nations]: alliances have reappeared, diplomacy largely ignores the United Nations, the important decisions are taken elsewhere, conflict persists, and the ‘idealists’ are in despair—or day-dreaming in the 21st century” (p. 254). Liberals who promote collective security are too busy making domestic politics, that is, democracy work for them and misunderstand that international politics is an arena for Great Powers.

Many realists have come around to this view. Its major figures, particularly those at US universities, have turned some of their recent analysis inward by condemning the failures of elites and liberal internationalism, specifically NATO expansion and America’s twenty-year military campaign in the Greater Middle East. Domestic politics is back, and it matters to the world order. Donald Trump’s open criticism of foreign interventions and global institutions, such as NATO (which many realists particularly loath), appeared as a moment where a kind of realism could rein in the excesses of liberal internationalism. Today, particularly in British and European universities, Neoclassical Realism is going through a revival in how it theorizes policy paradigms, the development of a theoretical subculture to correct mistakes, and its criticism of how neorealism has applied contingent historical behaviors to its sparse theoretical armory.

In the United States, we also see calls to return to the principles of classical realism against the preponderance of “hyper rationalist” and “structural” theories in contemporary international relations. While realism “Waltzed off” in the 1980s into theories about the balance of power in an attempt to synthesize classical realism’s lessons within the framework of liberalism, the early realist tradition emphasized persistent traits of human nature and encouraged the careful study of history. In Scientific Man Vs. Power Politics (1947), Morgenthau claimed humans had an animus dominandi, a constant lust for power in the human soul, and this led to the “moral problem of power”—the “problem of justifying and limiting the power which man has over man.” (p. 158, 145). Morgenthau did not believe this issue could be easily overcome, if ever, thus pointing to a tragic view of politics that opposed utopian projects seeking to manage man’s estate by technical means derived from laws of science. Morgenthau’s approach to international politics was born out of state theories common in German approaches to law and history that questioned the overly rational tendencies of the Enlightenment and drew readers back to the problems of historical relativism—and thus how national interests were historically embedded within the larger geopolitical environment. The recent revival of his ideas demonstrates that Morgenthau and his European context maintains its status in the IR discipline.

Friedrich Meinecke, Wikimedia Commons.

The German historian Friedrich Meinecke was a central figure in this disciplinary history, although less well known. In 1924, he published The Idea of the Reason of State in Modern History, where he attempted to recover the “reason of state” as an ideal that could guide national conduct against the “auxiliary forces” which often led states to pursue ruthless Machtpolitik (power politics). Morgenthau was captivated by Meinecke’s work—controversially translated into English as Machiavellism in 1957—and confessed to reading the book following both the First and Second World War to get an answer to the question of “how one could be a moral man and a politician at the same time.” Although both readings left Morgenthau “personally moved but intellectually dissatisfied,” the first made him give up writing a book on Machiavelli because Meinecke’s book “contained much the same thing.”

Meinecke’s ideas were a potent reflection point in the JHI, with Philip J. Wolfson publishing an article on the German historian’s legacy in 1956. Hajo Holborn, longtime editor of and contributor to the Journal of the History of Ideas, was perhaps Meinecke’s closest émigré student, even naming his son after his Doktorvater. Forced to abdicate his position as the Carnegie Professor of History and International Relations at the Deutsche Hochschule für Politik in 1933 after the Nazis seized power, Holborn secured a position at Yale’s Department of History in 1934, where he remained for the rest of his career, except for serving in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS)—the precursor to the CIA—during the Second World War. When Meinecke visited the United States in 1936 to receive an award for Harvard’s tricentennial celebration, the German historian stayed with Holborn and his family in New Haven, CT. Once in the OSS following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Holborn and fellow émigré historians wrote intelligence reports on the Nazi regime, some of which were recently published by Princeton University Press and include the writings by fellow German-Jewish émigrés Felix Gilbert, Franz Neumann, and Herbert Marcuse. As contemporary scholarship has shown, these émigré figures were “present at the creation” of “security studies” and a globalized conception of American “national security.” Such scholarship has blamed them for recovering a decisionistic imagination which supposedly shields foreign policy from democratic politics, but it is strange to blame these more liberal (even revolutionary figures, in the case of Marcuse) for later Cold War developments in the national security state.

Through his public service to his adopted country and experiencing the shocks of the Weimar Republic’s collapse, Holborn’s JHI writings explored historical questions of international politics. In “Greek and Modern Conceptions of History” (1949), Holborn offered a reading of canonical historians who wrote works that were an outgrowth of their own political travails. Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War was described as a “critical study of history offer[ing] a method for extending the human understanding of the political forces and thus for enhancing the wisdom of statesman guiding the destinies of nations” (p. 5). In Machiavelli’s works, Holborn saw the “study of statecraft [as] the study of the techniques by which power could be gained and preserved” (p. 9). Yet, as modernity progressed, subsequent historical theorists bucked the trend of writing universal guides to politics in favor of more scientific approaches to the study of history. “Modern historiography,” Holborn wrote, “looked for an explication of history in terms of human motives, interests, and thoughts” (p. 10). This, in turn, allowed for the appreciation of historical individuality and a “scientific” approach to history: an attempt to determine, as Leopold von Ranke famously stated, “how it actually was” (wie es eigentlich gewesen). Against such scientific understandings, Holborn saw a need for an approach to history that could “preserve the deep motives of Western historical thought,” which inevitably meant informing political action (p. 12).

More critically, the intellectual historian Nicolas Guilhot has recently urged us to view twentieth-century realism as the revival of the “counter-Enlightenment,” which distrusts man’s rationality and thus opposed efforts to reform malignant human nature. We see this in Holborn’s JHI writings as he helped assemble the “realist tradition” of canonical works in political theory to inform the foundation of modern IR. Yet, Holborn’s writings show a more historical form of IR that largely lost out to rigorous scientific methods, which became increasingly detached from offering policy prescriptions. His work calls for political actors to have a grander historical vision when they conceive prudent political action. Upon this toll, we see calls for longer historical views to contextualize Russia’s stance towards Ukraine, especially considering NATO expansionism following the end of the Cold War. With this broader context, the roots of Russian aggression towards Ukraine do not appear to have emerged in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea and then continuing into the full-scale invasion of the country in 2022; rather, such aggression was prompted by decades of Western policy. Thus, battles over the historiography of geographical space and institutions shape how one understands the present war and when it began.


One of the characteristic traits of IR realism is its praise for political leaders who practiced the art of the possible, making Otto von Bismarck one of its frequent reference points. In “Bismarck’s Realpolitik” (1960), Holborn also reformulated the roots of Bismarck’s realism, marking the start of a trend in recent scholarship to recover the larger history of political realism by the likes of John Bew and Duncan Kelly. While Bismarck often stands as the principle figure of Realpolitik, these recent studies draw our attention back to Ludwig von Rochau, the originator of the term who was actually appealing for liberal realism following the Revolution of 1848. Holborn’s portrait of Bismark does similar work by placing the Iron Chancellor back in his historical context and the political debates of his age. In Holborn’s 1960 article, he traces Bismarck’s frustrations with rationalism and liberalism, ultimately demonstrating why he was drawn to embrace Romanticism and a personalized God, which would lead to a “clearer grasp of reality” and provide a firm orientation that allowed him to “act with determination and moral responsibility” (pp. 84-87). According to Holborn, liberalism appeared to Bismarck as the enemy of a healthy political life, attempting to replace historically developed forms of life with arbitrary political institutions. Its faith in human reason led to delusions about the nature of politics and its ability to be put under human control (p. 89, 90). This shows the “tragic” element of politics emphasized by most early realists who cautioned against programs that sought to fundamentally reform the political world and, instead, sought to explore the relation between ideas and political action.

Again, history proved to be a more productive guide. In 1950, Holborn published “Wilhelm Dilthey and the Critique of Historical Reason”—a piece reconstructing traditional German historiographical debates that critiqued “scientific history.” Others continued this trend in the JHI, like Richard Glover, whose  War and Civilian Historians (1957) further lamented scientific trends in historical scholarship—especially as they pertained to the study of war, which was “normally treated as an irrelevance in the training of the historian.” Glover reminded readers that historians needed to appreciate “tactical doctrine” as “the basis of a command” in military affairs and complained about how contemporary historical education left students “ignorant of the structure and fabric of war.” (pp. 84-85, 100). Glover’s caution is often repeated in strategic studies where emphasis is placed on military tactics and the matching of “means” and “ends” which the Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz declared was the essence of strategy. Critical examinations of the Ukraine War pick up on these tactical analyses and revise the assumptions that predicted a speedy victory for Russian forces. Adopting a Clausewitzian analysis would have restrained some of these overestimations of Russia’s military strategy by focusing on the defensive position’s superiority.

Surely, IR realism emerged as a tradition through its encounters with Nazism, fascism, and Soviet Communism. In contrast to liberal internationalism, with its faith in the progressive character of democracy and the military, realist politics distrusts democratic developments as a form of irrationalism and favors forms of constitutional dictatorship, especially during times of emergency. Such institutions would maintain space for democratic accountability and respond to the centralizing powers of modern, authoritarian dictatorships. In the pages of the JHI, the origins of German National Socialism and Soviet Communism were debated because of their relevance to these questions and the need to delineate the roots of legitimate democratic authority in contrast to its modern perversions. One early issue included an article on “The Bohemian Background of National Socialism” (1948), which argued National Socialism was “ideologically the full heir and probably the most complete synthesis of the ideas springing directly from the French Revolution” (p. 342). Rather than being a “relapse into the Dark Ages,” Nazism was the “fulfillment” of the trends that began in 1792. The National-Socialists thus proved not only “supreme immoralists” but “resolutely ‘democratic’” on account of their “populistic tendencies” (pp. 362-3). Although not “democratic” in the sense of American liberal-democratic ideals, this continental version of democracy carried a darker history.

An animating question remained: how much democracy was good for modern states and inspired skepticism of popular control of political states? This apprehensiveness towards democracy became ingrained and refined through the articulation of Cold War liberalism, which limited the vistas of the liberal imagination against its early perfectionist callings to adopting a cynical, Austinian worldview. Historian Samuel Moyn argues that these traditions remain with us today in “neoliberalism” and “neoconservatism” but demand revising. Others, however, still note the importance of cultivating a liberal “ethos” in the past and as well as our own age when liberal democracy faces grave threats.

As we finish this essay, Russians and Ukrainians fight in increasingly cold weather for small parcels of territory; American warplanes and drones fly in the skies bombing and monitoring the world; the People’s Liberation Army build islands to assert China’s prowess; Europeans scramble to manage the fallout from a list of natural disasters and wars in its near-abroad; and India weaves a foreign policy to match its ambitions of Great Power status in a busy neighborhood. Great powers matter in realism and liberalism, and so the discipline has an inherent bias to great powers who often operate their foreign policies without much democratic oversight. As current scholars return to foundational works of the “liberal” and “realist” schools of thought, we see historiographical writing itself as a form of early IR theory. As this article demonstrates, historiographical debates over key figures, concepts, and categories in international relations were debated, reformulated, and redeveloped in the pages of the JHI. IR could have taken different paths, perhaps those taken by scholars during the simultaneous “international turn” in intellectual history and the “historical turn” in international relations.

Thomas Furse is a primary editor at the JHI Blog and a PhD student at City, the University of London. He researches the connections between strategic thought, the social sciences, management theory and political economy in the United States.

Andrew Gibson is a PhD candidate in Government at Georgetown University, where he studies political theory and international relations. He is currently writing his dissertation on mid-twentieth-century readings of Machiavelli and transatlantic debates over the Florentine secretary’s political-historical legacy.

Featured image: His Accuracy Depends on Ours!, National Archives at College Park, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.