Obituary: Geoffrey Stern ; Scholar of International Relations

By Childs, David | The Independent (London, England), October 22, 2005 | Go to article overview
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Obituary: Geoffrey Stern ; Scholar of International Relations


Childs, David, The Independent (London, England)


Geoffrey Stern spent all his working career as an international relations specialist at the London School of Economics and Political Science, but had a higher public profile as a BBC radio presenter on World Service programmes such as 24 Hours and News Hour. Less well known was his interest and involvement in classical music.

Born in Liverpool, in 1935, of an accountant father and a music- teacher mother, he was brought up in London with stays in Bournemouth and Nottingham. Two key influences were the BBC " its reporting of the Second World War, its comedians and classical music; the feeling the radio gave him of being connected to the other side of the globe " and his Jewish background: he was strongly affected by revelations about the Nazi Holocaust, by the setting up of Israel in 1948, the McCarthy witch hunt, and, in 1956, Suez and the Hungarian Revolution.

After attending St Marylebone Grammar School, he studied for a degree in International Relations at the LSE under Professor Charles Manning and his colleagues Geoffrey Goodwin and Fred Northedge, each in their own ways memorable personalities. After graduation, Stern stayed on completing a PhD and, with a little bit of help from them, started interviewing for the World Service of the BBC. He could often be seen slipping out of the LSE on Houghton Street to Bush House at the bottom of Kingsway. His contribution to broadcasting lasted for over 40 years, during which time he interviewed many world leaders.

As an academic subject international relations was in its infancy in the 1950s and it was a time when British academics were not under great pressure to publish. This was later to prove a disadvantage for Stern in climbing the ladder. Instead, he became a popular teacher of his subject and an 'old stalwart' of the Department of International Relations. He retired as a senior lecturer in 2001.

Stern did, however, produce a number of published works. His The Structure of International Society: an introduction to the study of international relations (1995) was widely used, especially in the United States. He was also responsible for several works on Communism including Fifty Years of Communism (1967), The Rise and Decline of International Communism (1990) and Communism: an illustrated history from 1848 to the present day (1991) " the last edited by Stern, who designed it as a serious work, popularly presented, persuading 10 of his colleagues to collaborate in the project.

His Leaders and Leadership (1993) was based on his many interviews with leading politicians from around the world from Helmut Schmidt to Lee Kuan Yew.

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