The realism that did not speak its name: E.H. Carr's diplomatic histories of the twenty years' crisis

Keith Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Downloads (Pure)


E.H. Carr was one of Europe’s preeminent thinkers in the field of international affairs. Yet his contribution to International Relations theory is continually questioned. Realists depict Carr as a quintessential realist; revisionists draw from his wider corpus to qualify his contribution. Although not inaccurate, the revisionist literature is incomplete as it neglects a number of Carr’s diplomatic histories. Refocusing on these, especially the manner in which traces of Ranke’s the primacy of foreign affairs tradition are evident, this paper points to a more conservative and less critical Carr. Utilising an interpretivist framework, this shift in traditions of thought is explained by the dilemmas Carr faced. Although works of history rather than theory, the paper contends that Carr’s diplomatic histories remain relevant, particularly with regard to the embedded criticism of realpolitik they contain. This realisation is made evident through a reading of Carr in parallel with the concept of tragedy.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalReview of International Studies
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 22 Dec 2016


  • EH Carr
  • realism
  • appeasement
  • international affairs
  • international relations theory
  • revisionist
  • realist
  • foreign affairs

Cite this