Professor Sir Laurence Martin (1928-2022)

Professor Sir Laurence Martin, director of Chatham House from 1991-96, has died aged 93.

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Professor Sir Laurence Martin, director of Chatham House from 1991-96

Professor Sir Laurence Martin, director of Chatham House from 1991-96.

Professor Sir Laurence Martin was one of the UK’s leading experts on international security with a particular interest in nuclear strategy.

Before joining Chatham House, he was Professor of War Studies at King’s College, London and Vice Chancellor of Newcastle University. He was also appointed Deputy Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear as well as holding several distinguished professorships.

His most well-known work was Two-Edged Sword: Armed Forces in the Modern World which was also the subject of the BBC’s Reith Lectures he gave in 1981.

Sir Laurence led Chatham House as the world was entering the post-Cold War era, a time when international relations were in a state of flux which, as he wrote in International Affairs, provided grounds for optimism that ‘the objective conditions exist to eliminate violent and mutually harmful conflict at least between the major powers’.

Professor Martin worked hard to ensure the financial sustainability of the institute following the loss of core funding from the UK government in the 1980s. By modernizing its approach to fundraising, he was able to invest in a much-needed refurbishment of the House, as well as the institute’s first foray onto the internet.

This enabled Chatham House to communicate with new audiences beyond its members, event attendees, and readers of printed reports, The World Today magazine, and International Affairs journal. He paid particular attention to the need for the institute to communicate its ideas to those making policy as well as wider audiences.

In addition to strengthening the institute’s research, he was keen to continue engaging its members in discussions to develop a well- informed understanding of international affairs.

On the 75th anniversary of Chatham House in 1995, he wrote that its role was ’providing the evidence and, above all, encouraging the habit of mind, to facilitate prudent, if possible optimistic, but never utopian judgements about world affairs’. Today’s staff would agree this role remains at the heart of delivering the institute’s mission.

Selected works