Past eventMartin Wight Memorial LectureMembers

Powers of a Kind? The Anomalous Positions of Britain and France in World Politics

Chatham House, London


Professor Christopher Hill, Sir Patrick Sheehy Professor of International Relations, University of Cambridge

Chair: Sir Adam Roberts KCMG, Emeritus Professor of International Relations, University of Oxford


Since the loss of their empires, Britain and France have been seen as states in relative decline: no longer great powers but not typical of the large category of middle range powers. Despite relatively small populations and financial constraints they retain their status as permanent members of the UN Security Council and display ambitions to continue to exert significant global influence. At times, London and Paris deal with this anomaly by acting in harness but, at others, their foreign policies diverge dramatically; not least because of the very different domestic traditions from which they emerge.

This lecture assesses the capacity of these two historically important states to maintain a leading role in international politics given their own uneasy relationship, and the significant constraints which they now face, both external and internal.

About the Martin Wight Memorial Lecture

Martin Wight was a seminal figure in the development of international relations theory in Britain and an influential historian of the political civilisation of Europe. Soon after his sudden death in 1972, a number of his friends and associates decided to commemorate his name by establishing an endowment for an annual lecture, to be given in successive years at The University of Sussex, LSE and Chatham House - the three institutions with which Wight was most closely connected during the last quarter of a century of his working life. Herbert Butterfield gave the first lecture at The University of Sussex on 23 April 1975, and lectures have been given annually since then.

This event will be followed by a reception.