In his work on the origins of the First World War the British historian, James Joll, spoke of the need to understand the ‘unspoken assumptions’ of decision-makers – namely those things which affect a person’s thinking but which are not usually overtly expressed. It includes things like the education a person receives, their social status and cultural background. In effect, it is all those nuances which go into making up a person and which ultimately influence the way they view the world – and hence the decisions they make. Joll believed that only by trying to discover these unspoken assumptions would it be possibly to better understand why important figures involved in events like the First World War did what they did.
This idea – that the key to better understanding the reason certain decisions have been made in the past is in understanding the nature of the individual – is something I find intriguing. I think it can explain a lot, not only about our past but also about current affairs, especially in regards to foreign policy. I don’t think it’s an easy task, trying to get into somebody else’s mind, but I do think it’s worth trying. At some point I will be writing more on this whole concept.
For now I’ll just say that the title also seemed particularly apt given that I’m starting this blog during the centenary of the First World War. I’ll be writing about anything really that I find interesting, but loosely based around my interests of history and foreign policy (with maybe the occasional post on more personal matters). But I hope that no matter where my thoughts and my writing take me, that I will always try to somehow centre them on this idea of the ‘unspoken assumptions’.
So I’ve recently finished my PhD in history entitled ‘Bolshevism, Islamism and Nationalism: Britain’s Problems in South Asia, 1918-1921’. In my thesis I focus on how British foreign policy towards Iran, Afghanistan and Russia was formulated in the years after the First World War, when so much of the world was in flux. I look at some of the debates that were taking place within the British government, and try to unpack the ‘unspoken assumptions’ to explain why British officials were making the decisions they were.
As you might have guessed, I have a keen interest in British history and foreign policy, particularly towards Russia, Asia and the Middle East. I also have an inexplicable need to write. So I hope that you enjoy what I post here. Please feel free to leave any comments. You can also follow me on twitter @unspokenassump or @campbell_ha , and facebook (campbellha or unspokenassumptions). And if you’d like to know more about the things I’ve done, check out my LinkedIn profile. I’m always keen to hear about writing opportunities and interesting projects.