Paul Kennedy

Paul Kennedy is Dilworth Professor of History at Yale. His most recent book is Strategy and Diplomacy: 1870-1945.

Fear of Flying

Paul Kennedy, 21 November 1985

In the two decades before 1914 Englishmen probably worried more about the future and safety of their country and empire than they had done since Napoleon’s time. The cosy assumptions about British world supremacy which permeated the likes of Palmerston and Macaulay no longer seemed valid in a period of great international change. At sea, the supremacy of the Royal Navy was ever harder to maintain now that three, four, six foreign powers were building new battle fleets. The virtual monopoly of formal and informal rule which Britain had enjoyed in the overseas world since 1805 had been rudely destroyed during the recent ‘Scramble for Africa’, the expansion of Russia through Central Asia, and the rise of Japan and the USA in the Far East and Western Hemisphere respectively. The British Army, which had never been a large force, was now totally eclipsed in size by the mass-conscription, short-service armies of the post-1870 era. Economically, the ‘workshop of the world’ was also encountering problems, with British products being increasingly excluded by ever-higher foreign tariffs, whilst its own domestic and imperial markets were being penetrated by superior German and American wares. In such circumstances, an atmosphere of angst was easy to detect, particularly in Imperial circles, whose leading writers wondered how these external dangers would interact with the rising internal challenges posed by an extended franchise and an organised Labour movement.

Prizefighters: the UN

Mark Mazower, 22 March 2007

As you speed down the freeway from JFK towards the Manhattan skyline, it is easy to overlook a long, low, neoclassical building that stands by the lake in Flushing Meadow. Built for the 1939...

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False Alarm

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 13 May 1993

In The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, which touched the anxieties of conservatives as well as liberals at the end of Reagan’s expensive two terms in the White House, Paul Kennedy suggested...

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Last Days of the American Empire

Philip Towle, 19 May 1988

The American novelist living in Europe and the British historian living in America are in broad agreement. According to Gore Vidal, the American Empire died in September 1985 when the country...

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