Department of History

If you wish to get in touch with our administrative staff, please see the admin staff contact page.

John Young

Professor of International History, Faculty of Arts


Expertise Summary

British foreign policy since 1945, especially on East-West relations, European integration and diplomatic practice.

Teaching Summary

My teaching reflects my research interests in international history since the late nineteenth century and the broader subject of diplomatic practice.

I convene a second year module on 'British Foreign Policy and the Origins of the World Wars, 1895-1939' which exploits the large number of works that have been published on the coming of war in 1914 and the era of appeasement.

My third year Special Subject on 'The July Crisis' focuses on the decisions made by key European governments as they committed themselves to war in 1914, making use of original materials such as those published in the series 'British Documents on the Origins of the war of 1914.'

At MA level I teach a wide-ranging module on 'The Evolution of Diplomacy', which goes as far back as Ancient Egypt and the Amarna archive to explore what we mean by diplomacy and how diplomatic practice has altered over time.

I also contribute lectures to other undergraduate modules, including Roads to Modernity (first year) and The Contemporary World (second year).

Here are some more detailed descriptions of my main modules:

V12265, Britain and the Origins of the World Wars, 1895-1939. This module provides a study of British foreign policy, from the last years of the Victorian Era to the German invasion of Poland in 1939. It focuses in particular on the policy of British governments, giving an historical analysis of the main developments in their relationship with the wider world, such as the making of the ententes, entry into the two world wars, appeasement and relations with other great powers. It also discusses the wider background factors which influenced British policy and touches on such diverse factors as Imperial defence, financial limitations and the influence of public opinion.

V13321 The July Crisis: the outbreak and origins of the Great War. This module surveys and analyses the policies of the main countries involved in the outbreak of the First World War in July-August 1914. It focuses in particular on the reasons they took the diplomatic and military decisions they did, including both specific decisions and the background factors that helped shape their thinking. The module aims to provide students with an understanding of the general course of the crisis, a knowledge of the diverse influences which affected decision makers, and an understanding of the historiographical and theoretical debates surrounding the subject.

V14425/V14505, The Evolution of Diplomacy. This module, which is linked to the research interests of the course leader, provides an advanced study of the evolution of diplomacy from ancient times to the twentieth century. It focuses in particular on such key developments as permanent embassies, foreign ministries and summit conferences. While giving an historical overview it asks questions throughout about the current relevance of such diplomatic practices as the sending of envoys, the appointment of ambassadors and the elite nature of policy-making in the diplomatic field. It also discusses the broader issues about the definition and purpose of diplomacy.

In 2011 I was awarded a one of the first Personal Tutor Oscars by the University of Nottingham Students' Union.

Please note that I will be on study leave in the academic year 2020-21, so that my Special Subject will not run that year.

Research Summary

Since about 2005 my main research interests focus on questions of diplomatic method - especially the role of ambassadors and embassies in international communication, summit meetings and multilateral… read more

Selected Publications

Current Research

International RelationsSince about 2005 my main research interests focus on questions of diplomatic method - especially the role of ambassadors and embassies in international communication, summit meetings and multilateral diplomacy, policy on diplomatic recognition, and the continuing use of 'special missions' by states.

I was chair of the British International History Group from 2002 to 2017.

In 2008, I published a monograph, 'Twentieth Century Diplomacy' (Cambridge University Press) on British diplomatic practice in the 1960s and 1970s looking at such areas as government reports on the Diplomatic Service, the value of ambassadors, the use of summits and multilateral conferences, recognition of governments and breaches in diplomatic relations. To help me write this up I received a matching-study leave award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

This was followed by co-edited collections of essays on 'The Washington Embassy' of the United Kingdom (published by Palgrave-Macmillan in 2009) and the 'The Paris Embassy' (published in 2013).

In 2014 I published a detailed study of the ambassadorship of David Bruce as Ambassador to London in the 1960s, drawing out his role in a diverse range of areas from embassy management, political reporting and intelligence work, to public diplomacy, cultural work and his role in the London diplomatic corps. I hope this can serve as a basis for comparisons to other diplomats working in different locations and time periods. Again, this work was supported by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, for which I am deeply grateful.

Increasingly, I am also interested in British policy during the July Crisis of 1914 and, in 2014, published an article in the journal 'Diplomacy and Statecraft' on the role of the opposition Conservatives in the crisis. I am currently working on the roles of both Winston Churchill and Sir George Buchanan (Britain's ambassador to Russia) during the July Crisis.

SupervisionTwentieth-Century Diplomacy

British foreign policy since 1945, the Cold War and diplomatic practice.

PhD students who I have recently supervised to completion are as follows:

Andrew Holt - Britain's international policy during the Douglas-Home administration of 1963-64

Luman Ali - Britain and the Iranian Revolution

Roberto Fornasier - Italian-US Relations, 1969-74

Jazliza Jamaluddin - Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings and the Rhodesia problem in 1966-80

Egemen Bezci - Turkish intelligence co-operation with the US and UK 1945-60 (jointly supervisied with Rory Cormac of Politics and International Relations)

Ksenia Weselowska - Henry Kissinger's Mediation in the Arab-Israeli dispute, 1973-76

I currently supervise PhDs on British propaganda in the Far East 1948-54 and (jointly with Claire Taylor) Medieval English diplomacy

The Washington Embassy

Past Research

Until 2000 I focused my research on the early years of the Cold War and European integration, with works based on archival research in Britain, France and the US. Alongside other European international historians I tried to demonstrate the importance of British and French policy decisions to the outbreak of the Cold War. In looking at the Cold War in 1945-55, I was interested in illuminating France's decision to side with the Western powers in NATO (in France, the Cold War and the Western Alliance, 1945-49 of 1990) and in showing how Churchill's advocacy of détente in the 1950s was consistent with his earlier urging of resistance to Stalin's expansionism (in Winston Churchill's Last campaign: Britain and the Cold War, 1951-55 of 1996)). In looking at European integration I have argued that the traditional view, that Britain 'missed the bus' on European unity in the early post-war years, is simplistic. Britain had an active and considered policy towards Western Europe in this period, and one that had positive aspects; historians need to explain why this policy did not lead the country towards a more active role in supranational bodies. See Britain, France and the Unity of Europe, 1945-51 (1984) and Britain and European Unity, 1945-99 (second edition, 2000).

  • YOUNG, JW, 2014. David Bruce and diplomatic practice: an American ambassador in London, 1961-9 New York ; Bloomsbury Academic.
  • 2014. Conservative Leaders, Coalition and Britain's Decision for war, 1914 Diplomacy and Statecraft. 25(2), 214-39
  • 2014. The United Kingdom and the 1969 New York Convention on Special Missions International History Review. 36(1), 171-88
  • ROGELIA PASTOR-CASTRO and JOHN W. YOUNG, eds., 2013. The Paris Embassy: British ambassadors and Anglo-French relations, 1944-79 First. Palgrave-Macmillan.
  • JOHN W. YOUNG, EFFIE PEDALIU and MICHAEL KANDIAH, eds., 2013. Britain in Global Politics: Essays in memory of Saki Dockrill – Volume 2, From Churchill to Blair First. Palgrave-Macmillan.
  • JOHN KENT and JOHN W. YOUNG, 2013. International Relations since 1945.: A global history, second edition. Second. Oxford University Press.
  • JOHN W. YOUNG, 2011. Ambassador David Bruce and LBJ's War: Vietnam viewed from London Diplomacy and Statecraft. 22(1), 81-100
  • JONES, M. and YOUNG, J.W., 2010. Polaris, east of Suez: British plans for a nuclear force in the Indo-Pacific, 1964-68 Journal of Strategic Studies. 33(6), 847-870
  • and JOHN W. YOUNG, 2010. Western Europe and the end of the Cold War, 1979-89. In: MELVYN LEFFLER and ARNE WESTAD, eds., The Cambridge History of the Cold War: Volume III: Endings Cambridge University Press. 289-310
  • HOPKINS, M.F., KELLY, S. and YOUNG, J.W., eds., 2009. The Washington Embassy: British ambassadors to the United States, 1939-77 Palgrave Macmillan.
  • ROY, R. and YOUNG, J.W., eds., 2009. Ambassador to sixties London: the diaries of David Bruce, 1961-69 Republic of Letters.
  • JOHN W. YOUNG, 2009. 'The Summit is Dead. Long live the European Council.': Britain and the question of regular leaders' meetings in the European Community, 1973-75 The Hague Journal of Diplomacy. 44(3), 219-38
  • YOUNG, JW, 2008. Twentieth-century diplomacy: a case study of British practice, 1963-1976 Cambridge University Press.
  • YOUNG, J.W., 2007. International factors and the 1964 election Contemporary British History. 21(3), 351-371
  • YOUNG, J.W., 2006. A case study in summitry: the experience of Britain's Edward Heath, 1970-74 Hague Journal of Diplomacy. 1(3), 261-293
  • YOUNG, J.W., 2006. In: CAPET, A., ed., Britain, France and the Entente Cordiale since 1904 Palgrave. 162-83
  • YOUNG, J.W., 2005. The Diary of Michael Stewart as British Foreign Secretary, April-May 1968 Contemporary British History. VOL 19(NUMB 4), 481-510
  • YOUNG, J.W., 2005. The Anglo-American Special Relationship. In: ADDISON, P. and JONES, H., eds., A Companion to Contemporary Britain, 1939-2000 Oxford : Blackwell. 499-516
  • YOUNG, J.W. and KENT, J., 2004. International relations since 1945: a global history Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • YOUNG, J.W., 2004. Churchill and East-West Detente. In: CANNADINE, D. and QUINAULT, R., eds., Winston Churchill in the Twenty-First Century Cambridge : Cambridge University Press. 187-206
  • YOUNG, J.W., 2003. Labour governments 1964-70. Vol. 2, International policy Manchester : Manchester University Press.
  • YOUNG, J.W., 2003. Killing the MLF?: the Wilson government and nuclear sharing in Europe, 1964-66 Diplomacy & Statecraft. 14(2), 295-324
  • YOUNG, J.W., 2003. Technological co-operation in Wilson's strategy for EEC entry. In: DADDOW, O.J., ed., Harold Wilson and European integration: Britain's second application to join the EEC London: Cass. 95-114
  • YOUNG, J.W., 2003. British Governments and the Vietnam war. In: GOSCHA, C.E. and VAïSSE, M., eds., La Guerre du Vietnam et l'Europe, 1963-73 Brussels : Bruylant. 117-30
  • YOUNG, J.W., 2002. Britain and LBJ's War, 1964-8 Cold War History. 2(3), 63-92
  • YOUNG, J.W., 2002. He Evropi tou Psychou Polemou 1945-91: Politiki Historia Athens : Patakh.
  • YOUNG, J.W., 2001. Churchill and the East-West Detente Transactions of the Royal Historical Society. SERS 6(VOL 11), 373-392
  • YOUNG, J.W., 2001. The Origins of NATO [in Greek translation as 'He Demiourgia tou NATO'] Istorika. 107, 45-49
  • YOUNG, J.W., 2001. The Wilson Government's Reform of Intelligence Coordination, 1967-68 Intelligence and National Security. VOL 16(PART 2), 133-151
  • YOUNG, J.W., 2000. Britain and European unity, 1945-1999 Basingstoke : Macmillan.
  • YOUNG, J.W., 1999. The Longman companion to America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1941-1998 London : Longman.
  • YOUNG, J.W., 1998. The Wilson government and the Davies peace mission to North Vietnam, July 1965 Review of International Studies. VOL 24(NUMBER 4), 545-562
  • YOUNG, J.W., 1997. Britain and the world in the twentieth century London : Arnold.
  • YOUNG, J.W., 1996. Cold War Europe, 1945 - 1991 : a political history London : Arnold.
  • YOUNG, J.W., 1996. Winston's Churchill's last campaign : Britain and the Cold War 1951-5 Oxford : Clarendon Press.
  • YOUNG, J.W., 1993. The Longman companion to cold war and detente, 1945-91 / John W. Young London : Longman, 1993.
  • YOUNG, J.W., 1993. Britain and European unity, 1945-1992 / John W. Young Basingstoke : Macmillan, 1993.
  • YOUNG, J.W., 1991. Cold War Europe, 1945-89 : a political history / John W. Young London : Edward Arnold, 1991.
  • YOUNG, J.W., 1990. France, the Cold War, and the Western alliance, 1944-49 : French foreign policy and post-war Europe / John W. Young Leicester : Leicester University Press, 1990.
  • YOUNG, J.W., 1984. Britain, France and the unity of Europe 1945-1951 Leicester : Leicester University Press, 1984.

Department of History

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

Contact details