Professor Richard Little

Professor Richard Little

Professor Richard Little
Emeritus Professor

1.4 10 Priory Road,
10 Priory Road, Clifton, Bristol
(See a map)

Telephone Number (0117) 928 8518

School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies

Personal profile

Lecturer at Lancaster University 1969-77; Lecturer at the Open University 1977-80; Lecturer at Lancaster University 1980-84, Senior Lecturer 1984-93. Professor at Bristol from 1993. Honorary Fellow at Auckland University 1988; Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University 1988. Editor of Review of International Studies 1990-94. Vice-Chair, British International Studies Association 1999-2000; Chair, 2001-2; President 2003-. Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship 2003-06.


My main research interests over the past thirty years have revolved around international relations theory, with a particular interest in systems theory and foreign policy analysis, including psychological dimensions of decision-making. From a methodological perspective I have been very eclectic, using statistical analysis, at one extreme, to explain foreign aid allocation, and at the other extreme, relying on hermeneutics and historical archives to account for British responses to civil wars. I have also had a continuous interest in the historiography of international relations as a discipline and the divergent paradigms that have been used to examine international relations. In more recent years I have worked very closely with Professor Barry Buzan, first on a project that aimed to re-orient neo-realist theory, and then on a project that further refined our approach in order to present an account of world history in terms of the evolution of international systems. In working on this latter project it became apparent to us both that we have over the years been independently drawn to a pluralistic approach to the study of international relations that has a great deal in common with the English School?s way of thinking about the subject. In my case, the threads run all the way back to my first research project on the development of Britain?s policy on intervention in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I am currently completing a project that is reassessing the role played by the balance of power in international relations theory and I am then extending the project to examine the theory and practice of the balance of power in world history. In the longer term I am planning a project with Barry Buzan that involving rethinking the English School approach to the expansion of the international society.


My teaching interests are in the broad field of international relations with a particular focus on international relations theory and foreign policy.

I am interested in encouraging students to understand the link between theory and practice and in particular the strengths and weaknesses of the realist theory of international relations, the dominant view in comprehending the formulation of foreign policy.

My particular pedagogical concerns are to ensure that students develop a critical approach to the sources that they read and that they understand the importance of undertaking systematic research before reaching conclusions about any given topic.

I encourage students to use the library as a repository of research material rather than as the repository of texts that they have been told to read. Students are also required to identify alternative sources of information, in particular, the broadsheets and periodicals. I require students to undertake exercises that are designed to hone their research skills.

I have taught on:

  • 21211: The International System
  • 21212: Instruments of Action
  • 31363: Foreign Policy Analysis
  • 31364: Foreign Policy Practice
  • M3004: Foreign Policy Analysis

Key publications

  1. Little, R, 2008, ‘International Relations Theory in Britain: a former Great Power or just a junior partner of the prevailing hegemon?’. in: C Reut-Smit, D Snidal (eds) Oxford Handbook of International Relations. Oxford University Press, pp. 675 - 687
  2. Little, R, 2008, ‘Reply to Lord Jay’s 'Who Makes British Foreign Policy?'’. Policy and Politics, vol 36 (3)., pp. 457 - 458
  3. Wohlforth, W, Little, R & et, a, 2007, ‘Testing Balance-of-Power Theory in World History’. European Journal of International Relations, vol 13 (2)., pp. 155 - 185
  4. Little, R, 2007, ‘The Balance of Power in Politics Among Nations’. in: MC Williams (eds) The Legacy of Hans Morgenthau in International Relations. Oxford University Press, pp. 137 - 165
  5. Little, R, 2007, ‘The Balance of Power in International Relations: Metaphors, Myths and Models’. Cambridge University Press

Latest publications

  1. Little, R, 2008, ‘Methodological Pluralism and the English School’. in: C Navari (eds) Theorising International Society. Palgrave Macmillan
  2. Little, R, 2007, ‘British Neutrality versus Offshore Balancing in the American Civil War: The English School Strikes Back’. Security Studies, vol 16 (1)., pp. 68 - 95
  3. Kaufman, S, Little, R & Wohlforth, W, 2007, ‘The Balance of Power in World History’. Palgrave Macmillan
  4. Little, R, 2007, ‘Preface (Culture and Security)’. in: MC Williams (eds) Culture and Security. Routledge, pp. viii - x
  5. Little, R, 2007, ‘The Greek City States in the Fifth Century BCE: Persia and the Balance of Power’. in: SJ Kaufman, R Little, WC Wohlforth (eds) The Balance of Power in World History. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 47 - 70

Full publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

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