"Not only is [Welsh] exceptionally fluent in the debates and histories of politicial science, but she has a unique understanding of the actual workings and breaking points of the formal international order and its failings."
The Globe and Mail
The Return of History
CBC Massey Lectures
In 1989, as the Berlin Wall crumbled and the Cold War dissipated, the American political commentator Francis Fukuyama wrote a famous essay, entitled “The End of History.” Fukuyama argued that the demise of confrontation between Communism and capitalism, and the expansion of Western liberal democracy, signalled the endpoint of humanity’s sociocultural and political evolution, the waning of traditional power politics, and the path toward a more peaceful world. At the heart of his thesis was the audaciously optimistic idea of “progress” in history.
But a quarter of a century after Fukuyama’s bold prediction about transcending the struggles of the past, history has returned. The twenty-first century has not seen unfettered progress toward peace and a single form of government, but the reappearance of trends and practices many believed had been erased: arbitrary executions, attempts to annihilate ethnic and religious minorities, the starvation of besieged populations, invasion and annexation of territory, and the mass movement of refugees and displaced persons. It has also witnessed cracks and cleavages within Western liberal democracies, particularly as a result of deepening economic inequality — at levels not seen since the end of the nineteenth century.
The Return of History both illustrates and explains this return of history. But it also demonstrates how the reappearance of acts deemed “barbaric” or “medieval” has a modern twist. Above all, it argues that the return of history should encourage us all to remember that our own liberal democratic society was not inevitable and that we must all, as individual citizens, take a more active role in its preservation and growth.
Jennifer M. Welsh is Professor and Chair in International Relations at the European University Institute in Florence Italy, and a Senior Research Fellow at Somerville College, University of Oxford. She was previously a Professor in International Relations at the University of Oxford, and co-director of the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict. In 2013, she was appointed by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to serve for two years as his Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect.
This book will be accompanied by five lectures in the prestigious Massey Lectures series delivered in major Canadian cities in Fall 2016 and broadcast on radio by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.