International History with Impact

Research impact cases

Seeking justice for forgotten victims of the Spanish Civil War

Professor Paul Preston

Summary of the impact:

Professor Preston’s lifelong research into the causes, course and legacy of the Spanish Civil War has exposed atrocities and helped commemorate and compensate victims.

Impact case:

Professor Paul Preston’s research on the Spanish Civil War has been the equivalent of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in impact, it has been argued by Spanish commentators.  Over many years and through meticulous research, his work was able to lay bare for the first time, the extent of the systematic repression deployed by General Franco’s regime. The scale and brutality of the terror against opponents has now been proved beyond doubt, with Preston’s research able to debunk the years of propaganda and enforced silence  – ‘Franco’s big lie’. Alongside this, he has also exposed the complexity of the war including the diverse nature of the factions involved in the conflict.

Professor Preston’s methodological approach was path-breaking and enabled him to make these discoveries and build up a nation-wide picture. He mobilised a network of local historians who were able to collate and share information which unearthed and connected so much hitherto hidden detail. Not a fan of theory, he sees himself as a biographer, and through focusing on the human detail, he was able to show the true extent of the suffering and casualties, for example, bringing in the stories of refugees and prisoners. As a result, the narrative changed: Franco’s civil war has become the Spanish holocaust.

Originally from a working-class background in Liverpool, Professor Preston studied at Oxford University. In 2018, he was knighted for his contributions to history. Although now an Emeritus Professor, he continues to contribute to teaching and dissertation supervision on the MSc programmes.

Read the full impact case study here.
Watch a video about the case study here.

His books include:

The Last Days of the Spanish Republic (HarperCollins, 2016); The Last Stalinist. The Life of Santiago Carrillo (HarperCollins, London, 2014); and The Spanish Holocaust. Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth Century Spain (HarperCollins, London; W.W.Norton, New York, 2012).

Centenary commemorations of the First World War

Professor David Stevenson

Summary of the impact:

How one of the world’s most respected historians of the First World War, at LSE, shaped public understanding of the conflict through the Centenary commemorations,  by partnering with Britain’s preeminent and world famous war museum and archive.

Impact case:

Drawing on thirty years of internationally renowned scholarship, Professor Stevenson was at the forefront of First World War centenary commemorative events, working with libraries, museums, TV and news companies, and varied public institutions to communicate new research on World War One to non-university audiences. His multi-national perspective has produced new histories of the causes, course, and conclusion of the conflict. His stress on the interaction between military, political, and economic factors, has been distinctive and made his expertise much in demand and enabled him to shape public understanding of the 1914-1918 experience by an exceptional variety of stakeholders.  In total, he gave forty public lectures around the world, including two recorded talks at Gresham College. He curated a new LSE Library and Google Arts and Culture online exhibition about the history of the London School of Economics during the conflict, using the Library's collections to record the role played by staff and students. He spoke to schools, local history societies, and the general public, and gave radio interviews. He participated in Operation Reflect, the British Army’s commemoration of its 1914-1918 campaigns, lecturing to officer cadets on the battlefield of Cambrai.

He is the adviser to the "Europeana 1914-1918" Learning Website, which has received nearly five million visits. The website featured in The Guardian’s "Teacher Network" (21 July 2014): "How to teach…the First World War". He served on the academic advisory committee for the Imperial War Museum’s new First World War Galleries, opened in 2014. He was also historical adviser to the Boundless Productions documentary series, "Railways of the Great War with Michael Portillo", which the BBC has shown three times. He vividly remembers being interviewed by Michael Portillo on a bitterly cold afternoon in the seventeenth-century fortress in Montreuil-sur-Mer that served as the British Army’s general headquarters.

Professor Stevenson was instrumental in setting up the MSc in History of International Relations and teaches on a number of courses plus offers dissertation supervision.

Here are some of his many books:

With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918 (Penguin/Harvard University Press, 2011); 1914-1918: the History of the First World War (Penguin Press, 2004); Armaments and the Coming of War: Europe, 1904-1914 (Oxford University Press, 1996); and 1917: War, Peace, and Revolution (Oxford University Press, 2017).

In interview:

Read Professor Stevenson in conversation with Dr Artemis Photiadou, an expert on post WW2 history of torture in the department's blog. You can listen to his full interview in the department's podcast "Our Histories", episode 1.

Applying lessons from the Aceh conflict to EU peacekeeping missions

Dr Kirsten E. Schulze

Summary of the impact:

Dr Schulze's evaluation of the EU’s Aceh Monitoring Mission contributed to better application of human security principles in other peacekeeping missions and contributed to the protection of civilians human rights post conflict

Impact case:

In 2005, Dr Kirsten E. Schulze was invited by the British Embassy in Jakarta to the history and causes of a conflict that had begun in 1976 in the Indonesian province of Aceh between the Free Aceh Movement and the Indonesian military. The conflict lasted for three decades. Both sides committed human rights abuses and 100,000 Acehnese were killed, most of them civilians. After the fall of President Suharto in 1998, Dr Schulze began researching and publishing widely on the Indonesian conflict, its resolution and the transition from conflict to negotiated settlement. She found that the fall of Suharto not only allowed the Indonesian government to explore avenues other than force to resolve the Aceh conflict, but also presented the Free Aceh Movement with the opportunity to modify its strategy and to transform itself into a genuinely popular movement.

Subsequent to the briefing, designed to prepare the ground for the European Union's Aceh Monitoring Mission (2005-2006), Dr Schulze was invited by the EU  to evaluate the Mission's work. This was part of a broader "Human Security and European Security and Defence Policy", which focused on the changing nature of security risks. It led to a set of proposals for military and civilian capabilities guided by human security principles. Schulze produced four evaluation publications. Recommendations included decommissioning of Free Aceh weapons, redeployment of Indonesian forces, reintegration of former combatants and human rights monitoring. Her research established that the support of the UK, Swedish and Finnish embassies, good leadership by the head of the Monitoring Mission, a swift amnesty for Free Aceh Movement prisoners and a commitment to the peace process by both sides were all crucial to the successful conclusion of the Mission's aims.

Dr Schulze found, however, that the primacy of human rights was more challenging to implement and required a bottom-up approach to the reintegration of former combatants as well as improvements in staff training. Therefore the EU initiated a 'human security' project. Practitioners and academics worked together to develop proposals to redesign European security capabilities, moving away from a 'traditional security' approach and towards  'human security'. In 2004, the human security project published A Human Security Doctrine for Europe.

The human security team conducted an evaluation of existing European Security and Defence Policy missions (including the Aceh Mission) and Schulze's insights into the Aceh conflict proved vital for the assessment of the root causes of conflict. Her recommendations for the future European Security and Defence Policy included the recruitment of monitors proficient in the local and the mission language; a more culturally-sensitive training programme;  a clear definition of the human rights mandate; and compulsory training on human rights.

Read the full impact case study here.

Some of her many publications include:

The Arab-Israeli Conflict (2016) [3rd edition]; International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond (2014) [co-edited, 3rd edition]; The Jews of Lebanon: Between Coexistence and Conflict (2008) [2nd edition]; "Making Jihadis, Waging Jihad: Transnational and Local Dimensions of the ISIS Phenomenon in Indonesia and Malaysia" (with Joseph Chinyong Liow) Asian Security Vol 15, No 2, 122-139 (2019); "Special Issue: Militant Islam in Southeast Asia: New Insights into Jihad in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines" (co-edited with Julie Chernov Hwang) Contemporary Southeast Asia (2019) Vol 41, No 1, 1-13  (April 2019); "Transforming the Aceh Conflict: From Military Solutions to Political Agreement" in Amy L. Freedman (ed), Threatening the State: The Internationalisation of Domestic Disputes, Routledge (2013); "The 1948 War: The Battle over History" in Joel Peters and David Newman, Israel-Palestine Handbook, Routledge (2012); "The AMM and the Transition from Conflict to Peace in Aceh, 2005-2006" in Mary Martin and Mary Kaldor (eds), The European Union and Human Security: External Interventions and Missions (2010); "Israeli Crisis Decision-making: the 1982 and 2006 Lebanon Wars", in Heidi Kurkinen (ed), Strategic Decision-making in Crisis and War, Series 2, No 42, National Defence University Finland (2010); "Point of Departure: The 1967 War and the Jews of Lebanon", Israel Affairs, Vol 15, No 4, October (2009).

Lessons learned from Britain's defensive nuclear capability in the 1960s and 1970s

Professor Matthew Jones

Summary of the impact:

Britain’s Official Historian of Nuclear Weapons, LSE’s Professor Matthew Jones, exposed the costly mistakes made in the attempts to upgrade a defensive nuclear capability in the recent past, offering today’s world leaders important lessons for the future.

Impact case:

In 2008, Professor Matthew Jones was appointed by the Prime Minister as a Cabinet Office official historian in order to write the official history of the UK nuclear deterrent programme up to the Trident programme in the early 1980s. Given access to hitherto withheld documents, a key focus of the research was the controversial "Chevaline" programme, a secret project to upgrade the UK’s Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missiles, that ran from the 1960s into the 1970s. Chevaline was notable for major project cost overruns, concerns over safety, and late arrival in service; the project also raised basic questions about the UK’s approach to maintaining an "independent" nuclear deterrent. 

Professor Jones’s research got to the root causes of these problems by revealing some major flaws in nuclear weapon decision making including the way in which assumptions made about Soviet capabilities were highly speculative, based on a very slender intelligence picture; early decisions on Polaris improvement in the 1960s were delayed for political reasons; initial inadequate funding and length of time spent on feasibility and project definition had knock-on effects; poor decisions let to (unforeseen) safety issues related to storage of liquid propellants in a submarine environment; lack of adequate contingency in initial programme cost estimates created false assumptions about overall costs;  project coordination was hampered by lack or organisational capability up to the task; and the tendency "to plan for success" at every point in the project rather than assess the risks from complexity and novelty was a factor in its failure.

As a result of this insight into British approaches to deterrence, cost control problems in major nuclear programmes, and the various options explored when trying to overcome ballistic missile defences, Professor Jones gave a number of seminars and briefings to senior officials in the UK and USA. His work was absorbed by defence staff and senior policy advisers. They have acknowledged in the current decision making climate on nuclear weapons renewal, this research has given them a unique opportunity to understand the historical context of their current work, and to appreciate the continuity of many of the issues they must confront, particularly the range or errors made in the recent past.

Professor Jones’s books include:

The Official History of the UK Strategic Nuclear Deterrent. Volume I: From the V-Bomber Era to the Arrival of Polaris, 1945-64 and The Official History of the UK Strategic Nuclear Deterrent. Volume II: The Labour Government and the Polaris Programme, 1964-70, (Routledge, 2017); most recently with Professor Kevin Ruane, British policy and Anglo-American relations during the Indochina crisis of 1954. Anthony Eden, Anglo-American Relations and the 1954 Indochina Crisis (Bloomsbury, 2019 ); and previously Conflict and Confrontation in South East Asia, 1961-1965: Britain, the United States, Indonesia, and the Creation of Malaysia (Cambridge University Press, 2002); and After Hiroshima: The United States, Race, and Nuclear Weapons in Asia, 1945-1965, (Cambridge University Press, 2010).

Introducing new ways of teaching the history of the Cold War

Professor Odd Arne Westad
Dr Tanya Harmer
Dr Svetozar Rajak

Summary of the impact:

Professor Westad, Dr Hamer and Dr Rajak led summer schools for teachers from around the world on new ways of teaching the history of the Cold War.

Read the full impact case study here.

Understanding World War II through the eyes of German soldiers

Professor Sönke Neitzel

Summary of the impact:

Professor Neitzel used secret transcripts of German prisoners of war to create a unique portrait of the mindset of soldiers during WWII.

Read the full impact case study here.

Research videos

Over the years, LSE has produced several videos about the department's research. You can watch them below.

Temporary States

Dr Dina Gusejnova (2021)


Dr Dina Gusejnova discusses her historical research on temporary states. How did the idea of the state change over the course of the 20th century? And what did people do with these changing ideas?

Watch the video on YouTube.

LSE during World War I

Professor David Stevenson (2019)


When war broke out, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) was almost twenty years old. In this short film, Professor David Stevenson looks at the impact that WW1 had on the LSE, as well as the role that LSE played in shaping post-war society.

Watch the video on YouTube.

The history of the UK's nuclear weapons

Professor Matthew Jones (2019)


Professor Matthew Jones, author of The Official History of the UK Strategic Nuclear Deterrent (2 volumes), provides an account of the thistory of the UK’s nuclear weapons.

Watch the video on YouTube.

What going on holiday says about us?

Dr Paul Stock (2016)


Dr Paul Stock looks at how the Grand Tour of the 17th, 18th and 19th century has helped define holidaymaking today. He contends that the history of going on holiday reveals important things about us, not least the UK’s complicated relationship with Europe.

Watch the video on YouTube.

Seeking just for forgotten victims of the Spanish Civil War

Professor Paul Preston (2014)


An emotive look at how Professor Paul Preston’s lifelong research into the causes, course and legacy of the Spanish Civil War has exposed atrocities and helped commemorate and compensate victims.

Watch the video on YouTube.

REF 2014 impact case studies

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The results of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), taking into account the proportion of its eligible staff submitted for assessment, ranked LSE History (Economic History and International History) sixth out of 83 submissions to the REF History panel for the percentage of its research outputs rated 'world leading '(4*) or 'internationally excellent' (3*), and ninth for its submission as a whole. On the basis of the combination of quality of publications and number of staff submitted, a measure of research power, LSE History ranks 4th in the UK. Find more information on LSE's impressive performance on the School's 2014 REF report.