Professor Peter Vale awarded the 2021 Francesco Guicciardini Prize for Best Book in Historical International Relations

Posted on March 12, 2021

In 2020, Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship research fellow Professor Peter Vale and his co-author from Leiden University, Professor Vineet Thakur, published South Africa, Race and the Making of International Relations. In late 2020, the book was awarded the 2021 Francesco Guicciardini Prize for Best Book in Historical International Relations.

The Francesco Guicciardini Prize is given annually and recognizes the best book copyrighted in the previous calendar year(s) on subjects related to historical International Relations. It is aimed at histories of international relations and/or the use of history to illuminate theoretical, conceptual and analytical issues in IR.

This book offers readers an alternative history of the origins of the discipline of International Relations. Conventional, western histories of the discipline point to 1919 as the year of the ‘birth of the discipline’ with two seminal initiatives – setting up of the first Chair of IR at Aberystwyth and the founding of the Institute of International Relations on the side-lines of the Paris Peace Conference. From these events, International Relations is argued to have been established as a path to create peace in the post-War era and facilitated through a scientific study of international affairs. International Relations was therefore, both a field of study and knowledge production and a plan of action.

This pathbreaking book challenges these claims by presenting an alternative narrative of International Relations. In this book, we make three interconnected arguments. First, we argue that the natal moment in the founding of IR is not World War I – as is generally believed – but the Anglo Boer War. Second, we argue that the ideas, methods and institutions that led to the making of IR were first thrashed out in South Africa – in Johannesburg, in fact. Finally, this South African genealogy of IR, we show in the book, allows us to properly investigate the emergence of academic IR at the interstices of race, Empire and science.

Professor Vale joined the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship in 2019 as a senior research fellow. Professor Vale is also the Nelson Mandela Professor of Politics Emeritus at Rhodes University, South Africa and is an Honorary Professor at the Africa Earth Observatory Network (AEON) of which he was a founding member. Previously, he was the Founding Director of the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study (JIAS) and Acting Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape, South Africa.

- Author Kirsty Nepomuceno

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