David Grealy

Email: hsdgreal@liverpool.ac.uk

Previous Education

• BA (Hons), History, University of Liverpool (2014)
• MA, Twentieth Century History, University of Liverpool (2015)

Thesis Title

Human Rights and British Diplomacy, 1977-1994: An Intellectual Biography of David Owen


Dr. Celia Donert, Dr. Michael Hopkins and Dr. Anna Bocking-Welch

Research Summary

For my PhD I will undertake an intellectual biography of Lord David Owen focusing on his diplomatic engagement with human rights – a key yet under-researched aspect of his political career. Previous historical research on Owen’s career has focused primarily on domestic politics, above all his attempts to reshape social democracy in Britain by co-founding the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

Yet it was Owen who, while serving as Labour Foreign Secretary in 1977, broached the idea of a human rights-based foreign policy in the House of Commons twenty years prior to Robin Cook’s declaration that “the Labour Government will put human rights at the heart of our foreign policy.” By focusing on this important but neglected aspect of Owen’s biography from the beginning of his tenure as Labour Foreign Secretary in 1977 until the conclusion of his engagement with the Vance-Owen Peace Plan in 1994, my PhD will investigate the genealogy of Britain’s ethical foreign policy prior to New Labour, offering a valuable insight into the significant but under-explored role of British diplomacy in shaping concepts of human rights and humanitarianism since the 1970s.

By drawing from recent debates within global intellectual historiography my PhD will not only offer a significant contribution to the dynamic and rapidly expanding field of human rights history, but will also seek to engender a unique understanding of recent British diplomatic history; breaking from traditional accounts which have tended to dismiss ideological concerns by focusing almost exclusively on Britain’s decline as a global power through its relationship to a series of power blocks and alliance systems.

Moreover, the innovate periodization of my study – which bridges the late Cold War and post-Cold War eras – will allow my research to tie-in to contemporary debates regarding the precarious position occupied by the so-called “ethical dimension” since its introduction in 1997.

Research Interests

My research interests concern the merger of intellectual and diplomatic history. Human rights, and the influence exerted by the concept in a diplomatic setting emerged as my primary focus during my Master’s degree. However, my interest in examining the role of ideas in the formulation of policy also informed my decision to re-assess the ideological foundations of President John F. Kennedy’s Latin American policy and undertake an intellectual biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt for my BA and MA dissertations respectively.

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