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Dr Thomas Davies Awarded Thesis Prize

Dr Thomas Davies has been awarded the British International History Group Thesis Prize of the British International Studies Association for his thesis entitled ‘Transnational Activism and its Limits: The Campaign for Disarmament between the Two World Wars’.

The thesis was written in response to the burgeoning literature on the role of transnational political activism and international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) in world politics. It seeks to test the claims made in this literature, in particular those relating to the factors that facilitate and inhibit achievement of INGO objectives, in order to discover if any generalisations about the role of transnational activism in world politics are empirically supported. The evidence of one of the largest international non-governmental campaigns ever to have been undertaken is used to carry out this test: the campaign for disarmament that took place in the period between the two World Wars. This campaign mobilised all of the main peace, labour, women’s, Christian, ex-servicemen’s and students’ INGOs of the period, which claimed to represent between 200 million and a billion people. In assessing this campaign, the thesis also fills an important gap in the historical literature on the development of interwar international relations. A comprehensive examination of the archives of INGOs, activists, politicians, the League of Nations and the governments of Great Britain, France and the USA forms the basis of the conclusions. Only one generalisation about transnational activism is found to be empirically supported: that promotion of an inconsistent programme prevents achievement of activist objectives. The interwar disarmament campaigners chose to follow rather than lead public opinion and therefore failed to secure their goals.

Dr Thomas Davies Junior Research Fellow, Project on Civil Resistance and Power Politics.