Harpur Trust Politics Lecture, In association with the Political Studies Association

It was a pleasure to welcome Mr Ian Shields OBE to speak to an audience of 50 pupils and staff from Bedford School, Bedford Girls’ School and Bedford Modern School on Monday 28 September 2015. Mr Shields delivered a lecture entitled: ‘An Introduction to International Relations and the International Order’ and followed this with a second presentation and discussion on studying IR and applying for social sciences courses at university.

Pupils benefited from listening to an academic and strategic analyst with over thirty years’ experience of military service and leadership. Mr Shields attained the rank of Group Captain and was awarded an OBE for his role in the re-opening of Kabul International Airport; he also spent two years in command of a front line squadron and aside from Afghanistan has served all over the world, in places as far-flung as the Falkland Islands, Ethiopia and post-Communist Albania.

The lecture began with a discussion of the State as central to the international order, introducing students to the Treaty of Westphalia, the Montevideo Convention and the theories of Max Weber. The outbreak of WW1 was considered as an example of what happens when the international system breaks down and more contemporary comparisons were sought in discussion of recent events in Iraq, Syria, Russia and the Ukraine. International Organisations, shifting conceptions of international law and the problems and challenges of globalisation, social media, and the 24/7 news cycle were identified as increasingly important, horizontal elements of the international order, raising the question: When is a State not a State? Finally, mass migration into Europe and also the USA and the Andaman Sea were discussed as stark examples of what the study of IR is all about. International Relations was shown to draw on history, geography, politics, development and gender studies in helping us to understand how and why the international community works.

Mr Shields’ passion for his subject was unmistakable and many pupils took the opportunity to question him about studying IR at university; they were invited to think about the world in a new way and to begin to apply theoretical frameworks to their understanding of international affairs.

Many thanks to Mr Shields and also to the PSA for facilitating this multi-school event.


Recommended Reading

  • J. Bayliss, S. Smith & P. Owens, Sixth Edition (2013), The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations
  • C. Brown & K. Ainley, Fourth Edition (2009), Understanding International Relations
  • H. Bull, Fourth Edition (2012), The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics
  • E.H. Carr (1939), The Twenty Years’ Crisis, 1919-1939
  • T. Judt (2010), Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945
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