Past eventPast eventMartin Wight Memorial Lecture

Diplomatic Transformations in International Anarchy

Chatham House, London


Nicholas J Wheeler, Professor, International Relations; Director, Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security, University of Birmingham
Chair: Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman, Vice-Principal, Strategy & Development, King's College London


This lecture will bring together two key approaches in the field of International Relations – the English School and security dilemma theorizing – to contribute to our understanding of how adversaries can develop cooperation under anarchy. Drawing on the current nuclear stand-off between the United States and Iran, Professor Wheeler will argue that a richer conception of diplomacy is necessary if adversaries are to begin a process leading to a transformation of their conflict. 

Key figures in the English School – crucially Martin Wight – recognized the importance of human agency and 'reciprocity and mutuality' in the success or failure of diplomacy. The lecture will open up this question by focusing on the key role that interpersonal dynamics between diplomats and leaders can play in building trust, using the case of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev and the end of the Cold War to illustrate this argument.

The event will be followed by a drinks reception.