John Bew is Professor in History and Foreign Policy at the War Studies Department at King’s College London, where he leads the Grand Strategy Programme. The Programme’s aim is knowledge transfer: to bring more historical and strategic expertise to statecraft, diplomacy and foreign policy. He also heads Policy Exchange’s Britain in the World Project, launched by the Secretary of State for Defence in 2016, and coordinates its work on foreign policy.
In 2015, he was awarded the Philip Leverhulme Prize for Politics and International Studies, which ‘recognises the achievement of outstanding researchers whose work has already attracted international recognition and whose future career is exceptionally promising’. In 2013-14, he was the youngest ever holder of the Henry A. Kissinger Chair in Foreign Policy at the John W. Kluge Center at the US Library of Congress. In 2014-15, he held a Leverhulme Foundation Scholarship in order to complete his history of the concept of realpolitik. He was formerly co-Director of International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, having arrived at King’s in 2010. From 2007-10, John was Lecturer in Modern British History, Harris Fellow and Director of Studies at Peterhouse, Cambridge University, where he was previously a Junior Research Fellow.
In 2009, John was profiled by the Observer as one of the rising stars of the historical profession and in 2011 the Daily Telegraph named him “one of the most exciting young historians in Britain”. His book on Lord Castlereagh was launched by William Hague, the former Foreign Secretary, and praised by Jack Straw, one of Hague’s predecessors, as “excellent”. The former Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, has described him as ‘the best historian of his generation’.
John’s critically acclaimed book, Castlereagh: From Enlightenment to Tyranny, was published in by Quercus in the UK in 2011 and by Oxford University Press in the United States the following year. It was named one of the books of the year for 2011 by the Wall Street Journal, Sunday Telegraph, BBC, and Total Politics magazine, and chosen by the Fondation Napoléon as ‘book of the month’ for March 2012. The book was also recommended in the Foreign Office Christmas Reading list and featured in BBC Parliament’s Christmas edition of Booktalk. It was featured as the lead review and front page of the Times Literary Supplement where it was described by Ferdinand Mount as “unparalleled in its size and sweep … a Life so nearly complete that it need never be written again”.
Realpolitik: A History was published by Oxford University Press in January 2016, and was reviewed widely in the international media including the Financial Times, Prospect, New Statesman, National Interest and Wall Street Journal, as well as the top peer-reviewed journals in the field.
His latest book, Citizen Clem: A Biography of Attlee, has been described as “easily the best single-volume, cradle-to-grave life of Clement Attlee yet written”. Published by Riverrun (UK) and Oxford University Press (USA), it won the 2017 Orwell Prize.
John’s previous books include Talking to Terrorists: Making Peace in Northern Ireland and the Basque Country (published 2009 by Hurst in the UK and Colombia University Press in the US), which was chosen in Foreign Policy Magazine’s Global Thinkers Book Club in December 2009. His first book, The Glory of Being Britons: Civic Unionism in Nineteenth-Century Belfast, was chosen as the inaugural book in a new series initiated by the Royal Irish Academy to showcase the work of new scholars.
In addition to two monographs, two co-written and two edited books, John has also published a number of essays and articles on foreign policy, British national identity and terrorism, including a contribution to Humanitarian Intervention: A History (Cambridge University Press, 2011). He has lectured on these topics around the world at a number of prestigious institutions including the Locarno Room at the Foreign Office, the National Defense University in Washington DC and the European Parliament in Brussels.
John was born in Belfast in 1980 and completed his education at Pembroke College, Cambridge where he attained a first class BA in History, prize-winning MPhil and a PhD. In 2019, Bew joined the Number 10 Policy Unit under Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He lives in north London.