Q&A: David McCourt

The historian of UK foreign policy discusses how the role of residual great power is being repackaged as Global Britain

The World Today
3 minute READ

David McCourt

Associate Professor, University of California-Davis

Why has a great power orientation persisted in UK foreign policy despite half a century of relative decline? 

Asking why can make it seem as though there is an ultimate reason to explain an inevitable outcome. The question I address in my book, Britain and World Power since 1945, is how and I try to show that there have been other options for how the UK can manage its decline and take on other roles in international politics. However, those alternatives are, for political and identity-based reasons, unpalatable to the British foreign policy elite, who do not eagerly embrace the idea of Britain defining itself as a new Belgium in world politics. Instead, residual great power has been a more coherent role for Britain to play. 

How important was it to think in terms of a role for Britain rather than identity?

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