Skip navigation

The Inaugural Meeting of the Ax:son Johnson Institute for Statecraft and Diplomacy

In December 2022, Kissinger Center faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and PhD students traveled to Engelsberg Ironworks in Sweden to participate in the Inaugural Meeting of the Ax:son Johnson Institute for Statecraft and Diplomacy (AJI). The meeting brought together scholars from AJI's partner institutions, which include the Kissinger Center, the Centre for Geopolitics at the University of Cambridge, the Centre for Grand Strategy at King's College London, the Center for Statecraft and Strategic Communication at the Stockholm School of Economics, and the Axel and Margaret Ax:son Johnson Foundation for Public Benefit. In the conversations that followed, senior scholars, post-doctoral fellows, and first-year graduate students engaged in intensive dialogue about the appropriate ways of using history to inform policy, workshops on research in progress and professional development, and opportunities for scholars to better engage and educate the public.


The meeting began with a lecture by and conversation with Professor Francis J. Gavin, the Giovanni Agnelli Distinguished Professor and the inaugural director of the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs at Johns Hopkins SAIS that drew on chapters from his forthcoming book, Thinking Historically: A Guide to Statecraft and Strategy. The meeting then proceeded to breakout sessions focused on AJI post-doctoral fellows' research which covered a diverse array of subjects such as British grand strategy in the era of American hegemony, different approaches to translating Thucydides, diplomacy in the Persianate world, clandestine diplomacy during the Second World War, and the influence of U.S.-Russian relations on American statecraft, as well as mentorship sessions with doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows on their career goals.


Subsequent sessions included a conversation moderated by Kissinger Center Pre-Doctoral Fellow Will Quinn between Professor Gavin and Professor Brendan Simms of the University of Cambridge on the study and teaching of crises, a panel discussion led by Dr. Maeve Ryan of King's College London on academic support to policymakers in government, a dialogue between AJI Director Mattias Hessérus and Engelsberg Ideas editor Iain Martin on publishing, and a screening of Sergei Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky (1938) and discussion of propaganda and political narratives led by Dr. Rikard Westerberg and Dr. Carl Ritter of the Stockholm School of Economics.


Throughout the meeting, AJI affiliates forged connections across institutions, disciplines, and diverse research interests, all with the aim of building an intellectual community dedicated to the study and use of history to inform statecraft and diplomacy. They plan to build upon their intellectual community in the spring via the AJI Digital Seminar Series and a second meeting at Engelsberg in June 2023. AJI is a collaborative project between its partner institutions and is generously supported by the Axel and Margaret Ax:son Johnson Foundation for Public Benefit.