Robert Skidelsky
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Articles from Prospect Magazine

Book Review: John Bull’s Small Ideas
Robert Skidelsky
Prospect | Saturday, July 01, 2006

 
Absent Minds
by Stefan Collini
Oxford University Press, £25
 
This ambitious work is about British attitudes to intellectuals. Specifically, it is about why the British have been so reluctant to admit that they have intellectuals. Collini calls it the "denial" or "absence" or "exceptionalist" thesis. The claim to immunity from intellectual influences is part of Britain's definition of itself. Today hardly anyone bothers to deny that we have intellectuals, because the species is almost extinct. Perhaps a trace of the denial survives in the anti-Europeanism of many commentators.
 
Collini has little trouble in showing that the "denial" thesis is based on an unbalanced picture of what it is to be an intellectual. It is mainly derived from

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Essay: A Chinese Homecoming
Robert Skidelsky
Prospect | Sunday, January 01, 2006

 
I had been plotting my return to China for about a year, and now an invitation from Lanxin Xiang, author of a book on the Boxer rebellion, to lecture in Shanghai in September 2005 made it possible. I say "return," because the last time I had been on the mainland was in 1948, when I was nine years old. I was born in Harbin in Manchuria in 1939, came to England when I was three, and then went back to China with my parents in 1947, living for a little over a year in Tientsin (now Tianjin). We escaped to Hong Kong just before the communists took the city.
 
Why had we gone back to China in 1947? The brief answer is that the Skidelsky family owned large properties in Harbin, and leased the largest private coalmine in Manchuria—the Mulin Mining

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Essay: The Just War Tradition
Robert Skidelsky
Prospect | Wednesday, December 01, 2004

 
In recent years there has been a revival of war as a policy of choice. Since the collapse of communism, the US and its allies have attacked Iraq (twice), Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. With "hot war" released from its cold war constraints, it is important to consider the conditions under which resort to war is justifiable, and what methods of fighting wars are right. This is the domain of "just war" theory. There is also the related issue of how just war doctrine may be fruitfully applied by the UN, the main custodian of international law.
 
The return of war as a policy of choice overturns the post-second world war assumption, enshrined in the UN charter, which allowed only wars of self-defence and proscribed intervention in the domestic

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Essay: A Patient Politician, on Gordon Brown
Robert Skidelsky
Prospect | Friday, October 01, 2004

 
What did Gordon Brown think of the Iraq war? "We stand full-square with the American government and people in fighting terrorism and will continue to do so," he declared in 2001. But his support for the prime minister's Iraq policy was scanty. According to Anthony Seldon, Brown had "serious misgivings." Had he made his disagreement public, Blair would have fallen. But Brown would not necessarily have inherited the throne, which may explain why he kept quiet.
 
Brown's stance on Iraq - both the disquiet he felt and his unwillingness to strike - is important for judging the kind of prime minister he would make. It is in foreign policy that strong modern prime ministers make their mark. After a while, they usually find world issues more

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Essay: The American Contract
Robert Skidelsky
Prospect | Tuesday, July 01, 2003

 
The system of international relations we have known since the second world war has broken down. The reasons given for the Anglo-American attack on Iraq were largely fraudulent. Iraq's weapons of mass destruction turned out to be weapons of mass distraction. It is straining at a gnat to argue that UN security council resolution 678, passed in 1990, made legal an invasion undertaken in 2003. However, it is also true that the Iraqis will be far better off without Saddam Hussein; and there is a chance that the middle east will be reshaped for the better. The main problem in international relations is to define the scope of lawful and acceptable military interventions in today's world.
 
The traditional theory of international relations, based

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