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Britain’s Internationalist Future: Can Historians Help Shape a New Foreign Policy?

Chatham House, London


Margaret MacMillan, Professor of International History, University of Oxford
Helen McCarthy, Reader, Modern British History, Queen Mary, University of London
Sir Christopher Meyer KCMG, Ambassador of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the United States of America (1997–2003); Author, Getting Our Way
Chair: Dr Robin Niblett CMG, Director, Chatham House


In her Lancaster House speech earlier this year, setting out the UK government's negotiating objectives for exiting the EU, Prime Minister Theresa May defined Britain’s relationships with its European neighbours and global partners in terms of its ‘profoundly internationalist’ history and culture. Is this an accurate reading of the UK’s international relations and responsibilities over the past century, and how might an internationalist Britain shape foreign policymaking post-Brexit?

At this event, panellists will examine if and how an understanding of Britain’s history can meaningfully inform future policy direction, and the role that historians can play in influencing today’s policymakers. Would foreign policy be stronger if its architects listened more attentively to historians, or are warnings from history unhelpful to the new narrative of a ‘Global Britain’?

This event is the first of a series, to be held in the run-up to the Chatham House Centenary in 2020, bringing together historians, practitioners and current policymakers to discuss contemporary problems of international relations.

This event will be followed by a reception.