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This is condensed general advice that I give to my MA students that I am writing out here for reference purposes. If you are reading this and are one of my students: You are an adult and therefore free to disregard all of this if you choose. The chances are that if you are studying for an MA degree then passing that degree will be your number one priority for the next year.

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This is intended for my students as a reference point for, and deeper explanation of, advice that I usually give in class. This isn’t an explanation of the King’s College London marking system, but gives my perspective on what an essay is, what makes for a good essay, and why academics like myself use them as a form of assessment. The essence of a good essay is that it answers the bloody question.

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B.A. Friedman’s On Tactics: A Theory of Victory in Battle is an excellent book on the tactical level of war, written for a professional (military) and general audience, and provides pretty much a one-stop primer on combat and battle for undergraduate or graduate students in security studies or strategic studies. Reading it as an academic, it’s clear that the book’s focus is pulled in two directions. On one hand, Friedman seeks to define a general theory of tactics (and the relationship between tactics and strategy), on the other, the functional role of the book is explained in the subtitle, A Theory of Victory in Battle.

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The New York Times has given Erik Prince, of Blackwater fame/infamy, the OpEd space to make a case for privatising America’s war in Afghanistan. Prince’s idea, presented as a third option between leaving and staying in Afghanistan long term, is to effectively privatise the war in Afghanistan: Leave 2000 US special ops and support personnel in country, and back that up with 6000 contractors, working alongside Afghan security forces at the sharp end.

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Lethal autonomous weapon systems are back in the news because a lot of tech company founders have penned a letter calling upon states to “find a way to protect us all from these dangers” of lethal autonomous weapons systems. I find it amusing that this letter is signed by Elon Musk and SpaceX, since that company is now integrating military satellite deployment into its business model. That aside, the letter also contains this chunk of text:

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A short post, to highlight a very interesting and thoughtful critique by Aoife O’Donoghue and Henry Jones of a lead article in the Journal of the History of International Law on the Jamestown massacre. To cut a long story short (which Aoife and Henry do a good job of explaining), this is an article that seeks to demonstrate that the Jamestown massacre (of 1622) fulfils the criteria of genocide under the UN Genocide Convention (1948) framework.

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If you count state censorship as an attack upon academic freedom, then large academic publishers are a single point of failure for academic freedom. The current row regarding Cambridge University Press’ decision to allow the wholesale censorship of the leading academic journal on Chinese affairs, The China Quarterly is a feature, not a bug, of the current system of publishing academic research. Academics decry this censorship for good reason: James Millward calls it “ a craven, shameful and destructive concession to the PRC’s growing censorship regime.

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If you are a student of mine and I have directed you here, this is an explanation of why the grammatical construction known as the passive voice is a bad thing to use in academic work and policy analysis. That is not to say that the passive voice is wrong in all places, but on the whole it is best to avoid it, or at least be very aware when you are using it in your work.

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Mirrored from Medium.com TED talks are a bit like Marmite. To some, the idea of being able to hold an audience of millions for 18 minutes is a worthy career goal. After all, what’s the point of all that thinking and hard work if it doesn’t reach anyone? To others, TED talks are to be avoided. Not because audiences don’t matter, mind, but because the very idea of one-big-idea-that-will-change-the-world is a warning sign on par with “Danger of Death” notices dotted around power plants.

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There are many rules, both written and unwritten, to modern academic work. Perhaps the best (if depressing) recent explanation of unwritten rules is Daniel Nexon’s blunt warning about the necessity of self-promotion for academic work. Everyone is pretty much caught in the REF/accessibility trap (to wit: “Publish in a format the general public can’t afford, or perish”). As an early career researcher, not paying attention to these structural issues is career suicide.

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