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January 2012

In this issue:

I.     Announcing the Inaugural Global Britain Lecture: Humboldt University Berlin, 10 May 2012
II.   Conference Accommodation Now Available
III. Conference Dinner Party at the National Gallery of Scotland
IV.  Conference Lectures Announcement
V.    Our January Op-Ed Columns
VI.  In Memory of David Atkinson MP (1940-2012)
VII. Book of the Month


 I.  Announcing the Inaugural Global Britain Lecture:  Humboldt University Berlin, 10 May 2012

Humboldt University Berlin

Professor Hew Strachan

Professor Hew Strachan will present The British Scholar Society’s inaugural Global Britain Lecture on 10 May 2012 at the Humboldt University in Berlin.  The idea behind the Global Britain Lecture is to better understand Britain’s interactions with the wider world by conducting lectures outside of the Anglophone world.  We hope to make this an annual tradition and we are pleased to announce our partnership with the Centre for British Studies at Humboldt for this exciting event.

Date:  Thursday, 10 May 2012

Time:  TBA

Title:  “Sea power vs. land power: the geopolitics of Germany’s defeat in the First World War”

Abstract:  In 1904 Halford Mackinder, in the lecture which established the study of geopolitics in the English-speaking world, divided the world into the heartland, which he also called Eurasia (the land mass which runs from the Atlantic and the Pacific), and the rimlands. He predicted that the latter would diminish in relative importance as the heartland industrialised and in particular as the railway made land mass an asset, rather than an obstacle, to communication.  Russia would be able to tap its manpower and its natural resources, and would become the dominant power of Eurasia, overshadowing the west European powers.

In the 1980s scholars like Paul Kennedy argued that Mackinder’s arguments spelled the end of sea power as a means of exercising geopolitical leverage, a historical process which contributed to the decline of Britain over the course of the 20th century.  But in 2012 the argument looks premature: the majority of the world’s goods are still carried by sea, the United States projects its global reach not least thanks to sea power, and both China and India see the acquisition of navies as vital components of their emerging economic status.

Mackinder’s lecture looks no better as a short-term prediction of his own times.  He confirmed the fears of Russia entertained by the other great powers of Europe before the First World War.  His lecture suggested that the sensible strategy for Germany was rapprochement with Russia, a policy favoured by Falkenhayn, the chief of the Prussian General Staff in 1914-16.  But Germany’s pre-war policy of Weltpolitik took it in a very different direction, recognising that maritime and overseas strength was the future for a rapidly industrialising economy, and that the greater markets lay to the west and south, rather than to the east.  Fritz Fischer was wrong: a German war aims programme built round Mitteleuropa was a second-rank option forced on Germany by the circumstances of the war’s outbreak not as the result of a long-term design.

Britain’s only effective strategy for waging continental war rested on the sea, but this did not prove to be the impediment that Mackinder suggested that it might.  Maritime power proved vital to victory, enabling Britain to be the arsenal and financier of its allies, and also enabling the United States to be a key player in the war’s outcome both before its formal entry and afterwards.

Germany’s geopolitical position was not weak because it was overshadowed by Russia but because it was blockaded by sea.  Its army’s decision to focus on the west more than the east reflected that reality, even if the decision was largely justified in operational terms.  Geopolitics were and are vital to understanding the war’s outcome, but not as Mackinder had anticipated.

About Hew Strachan

Hew Strachan was born in Edinburgh in 1949, has been Chichele Professor of the History of War and Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford since 2002.  He is also Director of the Oxford Programme on the Changing Character of War.  He was a Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge 1975-78 and 1979-92 (and is now a Life Fellow of the College); Senior Lecturer in War Studies at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst 1978-9; and Professor of Modern History at the University of Glasgow 1992-2001.  He is a member of the Chief of the Defence Staff’s Strategic Advisory Panel and of the Defence Academy Advisory Board, a Trustee of the Imperial War Museum and a Commonwealth War Graves Commissioner.  He has been joint editor of War in History since its establishment in 1994, and in 2010 was asked by the Prime Minister to chair a task force on the implementation of the military covenant.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

II.  Conference Accommodation Now Available

The British Scholar Society’s Britain and the World Conference 2012 is happy to announce that Pollock Halls will provide accommodation options during the conference.  Pollock Halls is conveniently located right next to Arthur’s Seat and is a ten minute walk to the University of Edinburgh’s School of History, Classics and Archaeology where the conference will take place.  Bus service is also available just outside of Pollock Halls and it runs regularly throughout the day.

Our room block is for Wednesday 20 June through Saturday 23 June (leaving Sunday morning, 24 June).

Rooms may be booked by visiting:  Once you are on the website you will need to put in the number of days you want to stay, click on the starting date for your stay on the calendar, and then insert the Promotion Code in the last field.  The Promotion Code is BSS12.  This will provide you with the conference rates.  If you would like to arrive earlier or stay later you will need to book that separately.  Room availability outside of our designated block is subject to availability but if done in advance there should not be any problems.

There are a few different options for rooms.  They are:

Holland House:  Single en-suite room:  £45 per night including VAT

This includes:
Full Scottish Breakfast
Guest pantry
Chargeable internet access in room
Tea and coffee-making facilities
All linen and towels provided
Bedrooms serviced daily

John Burnett House:  Twin en-suite room for single occupancy:  £63 per night including VAT

This room includes:
Full Scottish Breakfast
Guest pantry
Chargeable internet access in room
Tea and coffee-making facilities
All linen and towels provided
Bedrooms serviced daily
Televisions in room

John Burnett House:  Twin en-suite room for double occupancy:  £85 per night including VAT

*Please note that if you are planning to share a twin en-suite room with a friend to save money you must provide the names of both lodgers at the time of booking.  You will not be able to book the room and then provide the second person’s name at a later date.

This room includes:
Full Scottish Breakfast
Guest pantry
Chargeable internet access in room
Tea and coffee-making facilities
All linen and towels provided
Bedrooms serviced daily
Televisions in room

Masson House: Double en-suite room for double occupancy:  £89 per night including VAT

This room includes:
Full Scottish Breakfast
Television including Freeview and DVD
Guest pantry
Chargeable WiFi & wired internet access
Tea and coffee-making facilities
In-room safe
Complimentary toiletries

Once again, you may book rooms from our room block by visiting  Our room block is limited so don’t wait until the last minute to book your rooms.  Summer is busy in Edinburgh and accommodation fills up fast.

III.  Conference Dinner Party at the National Gallery of Scotland

The British Scholar Society is pleased to announce that the Dinner Party will take place at The Scottish Cafe and Restaurant, which is nestled inside the gorgeous National Gallery of Scotland, on the Mound, right in the heart of Edinburgh.  We hope that the neoclassical National Gallery, designed by the famed nineteenth-century architect William Playfair, serves to inspire our guests.  The Dinner Party will take place on Friday night, 22 June from 8 pm until 1 am.  The Dinner Party is an optional event and will cost £50 per person.  The price includes coffee, water, wine, and a three course meal.  Further details about the menu and how to reserve your space at the Dinner Party will be forthcoming in the February Newsletter.

IV.  Conference Lectures Announcement

We are putting the final touches on the Conference Programme but we wanted to provide you with some insight into the vast array of lectures on offer at Britain and the World 2012.  The Conference boasts a total of seven lectures.  The four named lectures for the Conference are:

Gale, Cengage Learning Lecture

Professor Alvin Jackson, University of Edinburgh:  “The Two Unions:  Ireland, Scotland and the Survival of the United Kingdom, 1707-2007”

Turner Memorial Lecture

Professor James Belich, University of Oxford:  “Beyond Empire: expanding the histories of expansion”

Keynote Address


Britain and the World Lecture

Professor Brian Levack, University of Texas at Austin:  “Britain’s First Global Century: England, Scotland, and Empire, 1603-1707”

After our Call for Papers went out we decided to add three additional lectures to the Programme.  These three lectures will all occur on Friday, 22 June from 2:15 to 3:45 pm and share the theme of empire, although they come at the topic from vastly different angles.  They are:

Professor Martin J. Wiener, Rice University:  “The Three Faces of English Liberalism in the Empire”

Professor Stephanie Barczewski, Clemson University:  “British Country Houses and Discourses of Empire, 1750-1850”

Professor Benjamin Grob-Fitzgibbon, University of Arkansas:  “In Search of a Postimperial History”

With so many interesting lectures to complement 48 intriguing panels we know that there will be something for everyone who attends Britain and the World 2012.  Remember to check the Conference website often ( and follow us on Twitter @britishscholar for all of the latest updates.

V.  Our January Op-Ed Columns:

Our Op-Ed Columnists debuted throughout the month of January and we are thrilled with the results.  The British Scholar Society announces the publication of each column when it appears on our Twitter feed and on our homepage at under “News from the Society”.  In case you missed any of these fascinating articles, or simply want to read them again, they are all available by clicking on the individual links below or by visiting our Op-Ed page at  There you can click on an individual columnist and their personal pages, which include the columns, will appear.

a.      Rebecka Black:  A “Pixilation” of Curatorial Tradition and the Power of Banksy

b.      Dr. Jodi Burkett:  Publications and the Historian

c.       Professor Mark Doyle:  Making the News

d.      Allegra Geller:  Women and Empire – Aphra Behn

e.       Leslie Rogne Schumacher:  Wikileaks and the Problem of Public Secrecy

f.       Michael Talbot:  The World’s Forgotten Influence on Britain?

g.      Dr. des. Helene von Bismarck:  The United Arab Emirates – A Product of British Imperialism?

VI.  In Memory of David Atkinson MP (1940-2012)

David Atkinson MP

A stalwart supporter of The British Scholar Society passed away on Sunday, 22 January 2012 after battling cancer.  David Atkinson was a former Member of Parliament for the Bournemouth East constituency between 1977 and 2005.  During his time in Parliament David served on the Council of Europe where he took an active role in promoting human rights around the world.  In an age of caustic, partisan politics, David always believed in doing what was right.  But following your conscience will not put you in power and David stayed on the backbenches his entire career.  David did, however, enjoy great success abroad as the Council of Europe’s special rapporteur for the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation.  He was also the very first British backbench MP to address the United Nations General Assembly.  At home, David’s compassion extended to all creatures with his vote to ban fox hunting and his ongoing concerns for the environment, which included securing a £4.5 million grant to help save Hengistbury Head.

At The British Scholar Society we will remember David fondly for his kindness in providing us with our very first “Witness to History” feature.  The September 2008 issue of our journal included his article entitled “UN Reform: A Regional Approach Towards World Peace”.  In this article, David argued that the United Nations could be successful at implementing world peace by emulating the work of the Council of Europe.  In the wake of his passing, the Society is making the article available to read for free on our website by clicking here.

They certainly do not make many MPs like David Atkinson.  Here’s hoping that his incorruptible spirit becomes the model for future politicians to follow.  If, or as David would say when, that happens the world will be a much better place.

Rest in peace, David.

VII.  Book of the Month – January 2012

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