Stockholm University launches research center on the history of international relations

On May 18, the official inauguration of the Hans Blix Center for the History of International Relations took place. Although it operated largely digitally in its first two years, the Center has already established itself as a hub for research in the field.

Director Aryo Makko speaking at the inauguration of the center in May 2022. Photo: Sören Andersson

In spring 2020, the Hans Blix Center for the History of International Relations was established at Stockholm University. It had been operating for two years as a network at the university, led by researchers from the Department of Economic History and International Relations and the Department of History.

Historian Aryo Makko is one of the researchers behind the network. He is now a history teacher and director of the Hans Blix Center. During his doctorate, he felt that international relations and foreign policy perspectives were marginalized in Swedish academia. There was little research following on from earlier massive research projects on Sweden during World War II (Sverige under andra världskriget, SUAV) and the Cold War (Sverige under kalla kriget, SUKK) or taking transnational and global turns. in the field of international history. The researchers concluded to form the network with the aim of developing it into a center to create a stronger structure for this area of ​​research.

Named after senior diplomat Hans Blix

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The center is named after senior diplomat Hans Blix. Photo: Soren Andersson

The purpose of the established Center is to create a national Swedish platform for interdisciplinary research on Swedish foreign policy as well as international relations, organs and law from a historical perspective. The Center bears the name of the network’s sponsor, Hans Blix, former Swedish foreign minister and senior diplomat.

“Hans Blix was one of the best representatives of Sweden and of Swedish diplomacy at the international level. His work as head of the IAEA and weapons inspector in Iraq has gained great recognition and respect around the world,” says Aryo Makko.

“Hans Blix is ​​also an academically inclined person with whom several colleagues and I have come into contact on various occasions during the 2010s. He is extremely sharp and pleasant to deal with, so praising his work and his links with the University of Stockholm where he obtained his (second) doctorate in 1960 seemed natural.

Digital seminars during the pandemic

The pandemic halted preparations for the inauguration of the center in spring 2020. While the inauguration had to be postponed (see below), the operation of the Center has continued for two years, mainly with digital seminars. To date, the Center has organized 43 seminars with guests from twelve countries.

“We have come a long way. We have a series of seminars with a strong international character, we have launched a series of books in Swedish, organized workshops and conferences which have resulted in peer-reviewed publications and established international collaborations with universities from other Nordic countries, Europe and the United States,” says Aryo Makko and adds that the center has hosted several visiting PhD students from leading European universities such as Fribourg, LSE and Sciences Po Paris. also received funding for its first fully-funded PhD student.

Later this year, the Center will organize two workshops on the contribution of Nordic jurists to the rise and development of international law from the 1880s to the 1970s, in collaboration with the universities of Copenhagen and Oslo.

What are your plans to further develop the Centre’s activities?
“More of everything: more research applications for larger projects, more doctoral students, new international exchanges and collaborations, more lasting institutional cooperation with other public authorities such as the National Archives. One of my personal ambitions is to attract a larger donation from a funder with a particular interest in our area of ​​research to strengthen the Hans Blix Center as a research environment,” says Aryo Makko.

Inauguration of the Center

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Jan Eliasson, former foreign minister and UN deputy secretary-general, was one of the speakers at the inauguration. Photo: Soren Andersson

On May 18, 2022, it was finally time for the postponed inauguration at Schefflerska palatset, Stockholm University’s mansion for academic celebrations, under the auspices of President Astrid Söderbergh Widding and other university officials. Hans Blix himself was present, along with other distinguished guests, including former Foreign Minister and UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson and former Secretaries of State Annika Söder and Pierre Schori.

Read Hans Blix’s interview: A veteran diplomat returns to academia.

Center Facts

The Hans Blix Center for the History of International Relations at Stockholm University was established on March 1, 2020. Its activities began in autumn 2018 as a network which was a collaboration between the Department of economic history and international relations and the Department of History. The aim of the center is to establish a national platform for historical research on power relations in the international system with a focus on state and non-state actors as well as international law and organizations. Learn more about the center.