Refugees in International Relations

By Alexander Betts; Gil Loescher | Go to book overview

Foreword by Hedley Bull

Hedley Bull, the pre-eminent British scholar of international relations during the 1970s and early 1980s, wrote and lectured widely on international relations. His interests spanned practically the entire field of international politics at that time: nuclear strategy, development issues, ethics, justice and international affairs, the United Nations and international institutions, and world society, order, and authority.

While we were preparing the manuscript for this book, Claudena Skran, a former student of Bull’s, brought to our attention a previously unpublished paper of his entitled ‘Population and the Present World Structure’ written some time in the early 1980s. She told us that during her time at Oxford, he showed an interest in the refugee issue in international relations and encouraged students to undertake research on the topic. For example, in 1983 he prepared a list of possible topics for graduate research students at Oxford. On that list was ‘the refugee problem in world politics’. It seems he had become interested in refugees because of their connection to development topics and because of the African refugee issues at that time.

Claudena also recounted visiting Bull at his home in north Oxford in 1985 just a few weeks before he died. He was quite ill then, but was still seeing students and giving advice. Among the things he discussed with her was the conflict in Biafra. Claudena recounts that Bull told her that the Ibos had paid a very high price for order in that civil war. While she could not remember the rest of the conversation exactly, the meaning that she took away from their meeting was that refugees were connected to broader issues relating to order and justice and that forced migration was worthy of study and attention by both graduate students and advanced scholars in international relations.

Bull’s paper ‘Population and the Present World Structure’ reflects his interest in development, injustice, and the inequality between the Global North and Global South.

The paper also discusses the significance of migration and refugee issues. In particular, Bull recognized the importance of strategic, political, and economic causes underlying most population movements. He lists as the primary causes: anti-colonial struggles, conflicts in newly independent states, ethnic cleansing, internal conflicts and foreign intervention, and human rights violations. Migration also occurs because of inequalities between the Global North and Global South with regard to economic conditions and opportunities, social well-being, and access to liberty and freedoms.

-vii-

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