Paul Kennedy is a British historian best known for his internationally bestselling 1987 work The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.
His newest book, Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers Who Turned the Tide in the Second World War, has been released to almost universal critical acclaim. As its title suggest, the tome details how unsung innovators and organisers drove the Allies to victory in 1945. David Edgerton, founding director of the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at Imperial College, London, wrote an in-depth review of Paul’s book for the Financial Times. You can read David’s review by clicking here. To purchase a copy, please click here.
If you’d like to book Paul for a speaking opportunity, please email Alex Hickman.
Paul Kennedy was on fine form at Wednesday’s Breakfast Club event at the RAC on Pall Mall. In conversation with the impressive Bronwen Maddox, editor of Prospect Magazine, it was a fascinating way to start the day.
Twenty five years after his best-seller, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers (Vintage Books, 1987) was first published, Paul noted that the world stage had changed noticeably, not least due to the end of the Cold War.
In the hour-long discussion with Bronwen, Paul effortlessly covered China – where he says that water supply and self-generated food production will be very real issues by 2030 – to the EU – where he thinks it was a mistake to ever suppose that countries from Germany to Greece and Portugal could share a common monetary policy without common fiscal/taxation/disciplinary policies without coming a cropper – and of course, the US.
In talking about America, Paul referred to his oft-quoted phrase, first coined in The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, of “imperial overstretch”, warning that the US is in danger of concentrating too much on its military capabilities to the detriment of its infrastructure. As someone who is based at Yale, he is well-placed to comment on the huge gap between state colleges and the “ivory towers” of the Ivy League universities, and what it says about the state of this “great power”.
Looking forward to hearing Harvard-based historian Paul Kennedy at Chartwell’s Breakfast Club next week. Paul is well known for his commentary on great power struggles, and his study of the relationship between their political and economic success. “Military and naval endeavours may not always have been the raison d’être of the new nations-states, but it certainly was their most expensive and pressing activity” he argues in his best selling book ‘The Rise and Fall of Great Powers from 1500 to 2000‘ (Random House, 1987). A nation’s relative power is the product of its ability to project effective military power, and generate the economic wealth it needs to to pay for it. Military overstretch, as we see now in the US which has been at war for over a decade, is a mark of relative decline. “The triumph of any one Great Power in this period (1500 – 2000), or the collapse of another, has usually been the consequence of lengthy fighting by its armed forces; but it has also been the consequences of the more or less efficient utilization of the state’s productive economic resources in wartime, and, further in the background, of the way in which that state’s economy had been rising or falling, relative to the other leading nations, in the decades preceding the actual conflict. For that reason, how a Great Power’s position steadily alters in peacetime is as important to this study as how it fights in wartime.“