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History & International Relations: Swansea University Research Excellence Scholarships: Interwar Internationalisms: The League of Nations and Wales, 1920-1946

Start date: 1 October 2018

Swansea University is proud to offer 15 fully-funded PhD scholarships for students commencing study in October 2018 or January 2019.

The scholarships will be awarded on the basis of student excellence across a portfolio of 34 potential projects.

Project details:

This project will interrogate regional understandings of internationalism by analysing the influence of the League of Nations in Wales, c1920-1946, a hitherto neglected subject of research. Internationalism is the belief in the virtues of international exchange and connectedness and this project is both timely and relevant as internationalism currently finds itself assailed in public discourse in the wake of the Brexit vote, a decision that 52 percent of Welsh voters backed.  In her speech to the Conservative Party conference in 2016, Theresa May claimed that ‘if you are a citizen of the world you are a citizen of nowhere’. The League of Nations placed a great emphasis on the formation of global citizens, and this was especially pronounced in the actions of supporters of the League of Nations in Wales.

Attention usually focuses on the Welsh support for socialist internationalism - especially Wales’s contribution to the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War - yet Wales has a remarkable history of support for liberal internationalism and had much influence on the development of international relations in the 1920s and 1930s. Much of the distinct Welsh support for the League is due to the work of a network of affluent Welsh supporters (like the politician and philanthropist David Davies) who funded the movement, both due to their belief in the League and in their desire to further the Welsh national cause. Consequently, as a region, Wales had a much higher proportion of membership in the League of Nations Union advocacy group than elsewhere in Britain and enthusiastically took up the cause of peace in the inter-war years through activities in schools, universities, and local communities. Furthermore, the first chair of International Politics was founded at Aberystwyth University in 1919 and attracted a series of very influential post-holders in the 1920s and 1930s, such as Alfred Zimmern, E.H. Carr, and C.K. Webster,  who in turn shaped thinking about international relations.  Moreover, the first woman to represent Britain at the League’s Assembly in Geneva was Winifred Coombe Tennant, a resident of Neath whose papers are held in the West Glamorgan Archives in Swansea. All of these development linked intellectuals, students, children, and ordinary people in Wales to the wider world.

This history is neglected in broader histories of the League of Nations and Great Britain’s involvement with the international body.  The League has been the focus of much new research over the past decade, with scholars such as Mark Mazower, Susan Pedersen, Patricia Clavin and others focusing on its achievements in areas such as public health, humanitarianism, and human rights, and is now a vibrant and innovative field of research.  It is now the time to examine regional variations in support for the League.  This project will be at the cutting-edge of research into the history of interwar internationalism and Wales’s engagement with the world.

This project is in keeping with the wider strategic objectives of the university (to produce ‘global graduates’) and provides a historical antecedent to the work of the Wales Observatory on Human Rights of Children and Young People, as well as the university’s commitment to human rights and children’s rights, as recently articulated in the honorary doctorate awarded to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Key research questions will include:

-          What explains Wales’s distinctly regional approach to the League of Nations? Can similar examples be found elsewhere in Europe?

-          Who were key figures behind the League of Nations movement in Wales and why did they support it?

-          How did the League’s support for self-determination interact with Welsh nationalism?

-          How did the League of Nations view Wales?

-          Why has the history of liberal internationalism been forgotten in Wales (when compared to socialist internationalism)?

-          How were youth groups involved in the League of Nations movement in Wales? What significant cultural exchanges took place and how did these further entangle Wales with countries beyond the borders of Great Britain?

Swansea University is the ideal location for the undertaking and successful completion of this project.  Dr Tomás Irish is an expert in the history of the League of Nations and internationalism in the 1920s and 1930s. He currently supervises two PhD students who work on topics related to the history of education and has a third beginning in 2018. Dr. Chris Millington is the director of the Conflict, Reconstruction and Memory (CRAM) research centre and is an expert in inter-war violence in Europe. CRAM is home to a network of senior scholars, early career researchers, and doctoral students, all of whom are actively researching issues relating to war, violence, and its aftermath. This makes it a perfect home for the prospective student. The supervisory team will be completed by Prof. Louise Miskell as the Director of Studies. Prof. Miskell is an expert in 19th and 20th century Welsh and British history. She currently supervises seven research students and has already supervised five PhDs to completion.  She has externally examined three PhDs in the last five years. The Wales Observatory on Human Rights of Children and Young People will be another source of guidance and collaboration.

This project will draw on sources housed locally, nationally, and internationally for the first time. It is an innovative project which will adopt transnational approaches to understanding the dynamics of Welsh involvement in the League of Nations and will require knowledge of French and English. The main sources are located in the following repositories:  the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth; the London School of Economics, London; West Glamorgan Archives, Swansea; the British Library, London; the National Archives, London; the UNESCO Archives, Paris; the League of Nations Archives, Geneva. These will be used to explore a hitherto unexplored topic, that of regional internationalism.

The successful applicant will have access to our Postgraduate Research Student Training programmes.

Eligibility

Candidates should have (or expect to obtain) a first class honours degree (or equivalent) and/or a master’s degree with distinction in a relevant subject area (history, international relations).

Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is available to UK/EU students only.

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Benefits

The scholarship covers the full cost of UK/EU tuition fees, plus an annual stipend of £14,553 (in line with the RCUK stipend amount) for 3 years. 

There will also be £1,000 per annum available for research expenses such as travel, accommodation, field trips and conference attendance.

Application

Please visit our website for more information.

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