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Centre of International Studies

The Centre of International Studies at Cambridge, which is part of the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS), brings together experts from across the University and beyond to research and debate international issues. Its contribution to public, political and scholarly debate is recognised worldwide.

We aim to maintain and develop our role as advisers to Government departments, corporations, non-governmental organisations and the media in policy areas where our expertise and the outcomes of our research can influence decision-making in the real world. Through our involvement in MPhil and PhD programmes – now run through POLIS – we are in the business of developing future leaders, whose insight and understanding of strategic issues can contribute directly to improved international relations, the resolution of long-standing conflicts, the protection of human rights, and better living conditions in all regions of the world.

The Importance of International Studies

The international environment is more complex than ever. The agenda is no longer primarily concerned with strategic confrontation and its associated problems, as during the Cold War. Globalisation has resulted in an increasingly integrated world, creating new opportunities for economic, political and military collaboration across borders and continents. Any breakdown in such relationships can have global repercussions, threatening the livelihoods and lives of millions of people across the world.

Social, cultural and religious factors are as important as political, commercial and military ones in the current world climate. Many contemporary issues revolve around ethical dilemmas. Should our company set up a plant in China? Is there a compromise to be found between Israelis and Palestinians? Should Britain contribute to a peacekeeping force in Afghanistan? What can be done to prevent the proliferation of nuclear and biological weapons? Dilemmas can only be resolved by the exercise of political judgement, but judgement needs to be based on the kind of knowledge and sustained reflection that the CIS provides.

History of International Studies at Cambridge

The Centre of International Studies was set up in the late 1970s by Professor Sir Harry Hinsley, the official historian of British Intelligence in the Second World War, and Professor Clive Parry, the editor of the most comprehensive collection of international treaties. They wanted the Centre to attract visiting fellows from all over the world, to become the focus of interest in International Relations within the University and to run an MPhil Programme in International Relations. The Centre was supported in its early days by the Ministry of Defence which funded two lectureships for ten years, posts first held by Correlli Barnett and Philip Towle. In the 1990s the Centre received a generous benefaction which made possible the appointment of the first Sir Patrick Sheehy Professor of International Relations, James Mayall, who was succeeded in 2004 by Professor Christopher Hill. In January 2009, the Centre of International Studies merged with the Department of Politics to form the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS). Brendan Simms, Professor of the History of European International Relations, has been Director of the CIS since 1 October 2009.