Portrait of Professor Gaynor Johnson

Professor Gaynor Johnson

Professor of International History
Senior Tutor
Convenor of Making History


Professor Gaynor Johnson studied History at the University College of North Wales, now Bangor University, where she received her BA and PhD. There, she developed an interest in international history, in particular the role of ambassadors in the conduct of British foreign policy in the first half of the 20th century. 

Research interests

Gaynor's first major publications were The Berlin Embassy of Lord D'Abernon, 1920-1926, Palgrave, 2002, and on the Treaty of Locarno (Locarno Revisited: European Diplomacy 1920-1929, Routledge, 2004).

In more recent years, Gaynor's research interests led to a co-edited book on how fanaticism is understood in the contemporary world (Fanaticism and Modern Warfare, 1890-1990, Frank Cass, 2005). Her interest in diplomats and British foreign policy led to The Foreign Office and British Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century, Routledge, 2005, and to Our Man in Berlin: The Diary of Sir Eric Phipps, 1933-1937, Palgrave-Macmillan, 2008. She then went on to edit a number of books on how states interacted with each other in the years leading to the outbreak of the Second World War, what appeasement meant to the British government and on the statecraft of diplomacy. These themes are also explored in her most recent book, Lord Robert Cecil: Politician and Internationalist, Ashgate, 2013).

She is currently working on a major AHRC-funded project with Professor John Keiger, University of Cambridge, Networks and Actors in British and French Foreign Ministry Responses to the Idea of European Integration, 1919-1957. The work examines British and French foreign policy from the perspective of civil servants/permanent officials rather than through the political elite. It also analyses the effect of formative influences, such as education, social background etc on these people’s thinking about foreign policy issues.


Gaynor's teaching at Kent focuses on the international history of the 20th century; the origins and consequences of war in the modern era and the British policy of appeasement. 


Gaynor has supervised a number of PhD theses in her areas of interest and is happy to consider taking on more. 


Gaynor is a member of the executive committee of the British International History Group, is Secretary to the Transatlantic Studies Association and is the book reviews editor of the International History Review. She has also written for a number of A level history magazines and been interviewed on BBC national radio about her work.



  • Johnson, G. (2018). Sir Malcolm Robertson and the British trade mission to South America in 1929. Journal of Transatlantic Studies [Online] 16:20-37. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/14794012.2018.1423602.
    This article evaluates the British government’s attitude to the trade mission to Argentina led by Viscount D’Abernon in 1929 and analyses its impact on Anglo-Argentina commercial relations. It explores notions of informal empire in South America and the dynamics of Anglo-Argentine and US–Argentine relations. At the centre of the analysis is Sir Malcolm Robertson, the British ambassador to Buenos Aires, whose activities were negatively impacted by British prejudice towards the region. This is the first evaluation of the mission since the 1980s and is based on a wider reading of UK archives. It is the first analysis of Robertson’s diplomatic career.
  • Johnson, G. (2014). Sir Ronald Lindsay and Britain’s Relations with Germany, 1926-1928. Diplomacy and Statecraft [Online] 25:77-93. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09592296.2014.873611.
    Of the five diplomats who held the post of British ambassador to Berlin during the interwar period, the two-year embassy of Sir Ronald Lindsay, 1926–1928, has received least attention by historians. This article charts three main aspects of Lindsay's career in Berlin. The first of these is his relationship with the Foreign Office, which is consistently good although Treasury comments on his reports about Germany's continuing financial problems expose some of the friction within the British government about how best to deal with the German reparation problem. The second area explored by the article examines Lindsay's views on the “German question,” and suggests that the post-Locarno period did not witness a significant growth of trust between Britain, France and Germany on questions concerning international security. Finally, the article examines how Lindsay's thinking about German affairs compares to his predecessor and his successors and explores Lindsay's views about the likely trajectories of German foreign policy.
  • Johnson, G. (2011). Sir Austen Chamberlain, the Marquess of Crewe and Anglo-French Relations, 1924–1928. Contemporary British History [Online] 25:49-64. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13619462.2011.546100.
    During the mid-1920s, Britain's relationship with France was of crucial importance to understanding the entire rationale behind British policy towards European diplomacy. This article is concerned with the dynamics of the relationship between the francophile British Foreign Secretary, Sir Austen Chamberlain and Britain's ambassador to Paris, the Marquess of Crewe. Both men remained in post for sufficient time to influence the tone as well as the direction of Anglo-French relations, and yet in the case of Crewe, nothing to date has been written about his contribution to international diplomacy. This article argues that many of Chamberlain's ideas about Anglo-French relations were shaped by the ideas and influence of Crewe, especially on issues concerning French security and disarmament policy. Focus is placed on the later stages of the Ruhr crisis, the implementation of the Geneva Protocol, the Treaty of Locarno and the origins of the Kellogg–Briand Pact.
  • Johnson, G. (2006). Austen Chamberlain and British Policy towards France during the Locarno Era, 1924-1929. Diplomacy and Statecraft [Online] 17:753-769. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09592290600943304.
    Several historians have suggested that Austen Chamberlain's Francophile tendencies during his period as foreign secretary between 1924 and 1929 were the defining features of his European diplomatic strategy. By examining four key events: the rejection of the Geneva Protocol, the conclusion of the Treaty of Locarno, the Anglo–French Compromise on disarmament and the negotiation of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, this article argues that Chamberlain's relationship with the French was not entirely harmonious. After the high point of Locarno, Britain's relations with France became increasingly tense because of Chamberlain's growing disillusionment with Briand's willingness to pursue a diplomatic agenda that did not have at its heart a reinvigorated Entente Cordiale.
  • Johnson, G. (2005). Sir Eric Phipps, the British Government and the Appeasement of Germany, 1933-1937. Diplomacy and Statecraft [Online] 16:651-669. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09592290500330958.
    This article argues that Sir Eric Phipps’ reputation as an “anti-appeaser” of Germany during his Berlin embassy 1933–1937 is not accurate. While Phipps was not in favor of placating Hitler by making territorial concessions, he had much in common with those who had sought a rapprochement with Germany in the 1920s through a policy of inclusion and reconciliation. Particular importance is placed on Phipps’ attitude towards the League of Nations, with detailed consideration also being accorded to his relationship with the British Foreign Secretaries and Foreign Office officials of the period, as well as his views on the Entente Cordiale.
  • Johnson, G. (2004). Preparing for Office: Lord Curzon as Acting Foreign Secretary, January-October 1919. Contemporary British History [Online] 18:53-73. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1361946042000259305.
    Curzon succeeded Balfour as Foreign Secretary in October 1919. However, during Balfour's absence from London during the Paris Peace Conference, Curzon was responsible for a substantial amount of the decision-making on British foreign policy. Curzon's period as Acting Foreign Secretary is crucial to understanding his general approach to the job as whole, especially his relationship with the Prime Minister, Lloyd George, and with the Cabinet. It also provides a mind map of Curzon's approach to British diplomacy towards Europe and the Empire. The essay is an extension of the author's earlier work on the relationship between Curzon and Lloyd George, and suggests once again that their relationship was more harmonious than has often been portrayed in the past.
  • Johnson, G. (2004). Lord Curzon and the Appointment of Lord D’Abernon as Ambassador to Berlin, 1920. Journal of Contemporary History [Online] 39:57-70. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0022009404039884.
    This article examines British policy towards Germany in the period between the end of the first world war and the resumption of full diplomatic relations between the two countries in June 1920. In particular, it concentrates on the relationship between the Foreign Office and the War Office in determining British policy and the pressures that were brought to bear on Lloyd George to comply with a common Allied policy towards the resumption of diplomatic relations with Germany. Far from rejecting the more open methods of conducting diplomacy that were favoured after the war, Lord Curzon was prepared to embrace them on occasion to further his own ends. The article also offers an insight into Foreign Office attitudes towards Lord D’Abernon as ambassador to Berlin. His unconventional background as well as his means of conducting diplomacy resulted in a tense relationship with the Foreign Office, which had a negative as well as a positive effect on British policy towards Germany in the early 1920s.
  • Johnson, G. (2000). Curzon, Lloyd George and the Control of British Foreign Policy, 1919-1922. Diplomacy and Statecraft [Online] 11:49-71. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09592290008406169.
    This article reappraises the complex relationship between Lord Curzon and Lloyd George in the years between the former's appointment as Foreign Secretary and the latter's fall from office as Prime Minister in 1922. It argues that the widely held view that Lloyd George held Curzon in contempt and marginalized him in the conduct of foreign affairs is not accurate. Their relationship is presented as being one of mutual respect and significant levels of cooperation. The article thus questions the extent to which the Foreign Office suffered an ‘eclipse’ in this period.
  • Johnson, G. (2000). "Das Kind" Revisited - Lord D’Abernon and German Security Policy, 1922-1925. Contemporary European History 9:209-224.
    This article is a reassessment of F. G. Stambrook's well-known claim that Lord D'Abernon was the architect of German Locarno diplomacy. It suggests that Stambrook did not fully understand D'Abernon's relationship with the Luther–Stresemann government, and in particular it seeks to place German Locarno diplomacy within the wider context of German foreign policy in the period. It throws new light not only on the D'Abernon–von Schubert relationship but on the dynamic forces at work within the German Foreign Ministry. The article also contains a brief assessment of German relations with the United States.
  • Johnson, G. (2000). Lord D’Abernon, Austen Chamberlain and the Origin of the Treaty of Locarno. Electronic Journal of International History 1:1471-1443.


  • Johnson, G. (2013). Lord Robert Cecil: Politician and Internationalist. Surry / Burlington: Ashgate.
    Lawyer, politician, diplomat and leading architect of the League of Nations; Robert Cecil, 1st Viscount Cecil of Chelwood, was one of Britain's most significant statesmen of the twentieth century. His views on international diplomacy cover the most important aspects of British, European and American foreign policy concerns of the century, including the origins and consequences of the two world wars, the disarmament movement, the origins and early course of the Cold War and the first steps towards European integration. His experience of the First World War and the huge loss of life it entailed provoked Cecil to spend his life championing the ethos behind and work of the League of Nations: a role for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1937. Yet despite his prominence in the international peace movement, Cecil has never been the focus of an academic biography. Cecil has perhaps been judged unfairly due to his association with the League of Nations, which has since been generally regarded as a failure. However, recent academic research has highlighted the contribution of the League to the creation of many of the institutions and precepts that have, since the Second World War, become accepted parts of the international system, not least the United Nations. In particular, Cecil and his work on arms control lay the basis for understanding this new area of international activity, which would bear fruit during the Cold War and after. Through an evaluation of Cecil's political career, the book also assesses his reputation as an idealist and the extent to which he had a coherent philosophy of international relations. This book suggests that in reality Cecil was a Realpolitiker pragmatist whose attitudes evolved during two key periods: the interwar period and the Cold War. It also proposes that where a coherent philosophy was in evidence, it owed as much to the moral and political code of the Cecil family as to his own experiences in politics. Cecil's social and familial world is therefore considered alongside his more public life.
  • Johnson, G. (2011). General Affairs, 1957. Baltimore: University Publications of America.
  • General Affairs, 1956 (2010). University Publications of America.
  • Johnson, G. and Partridge, M. (2010). British Documents on Foreign Affairs : Reports and Papers from the Foreign Office Confidential Print Part. 5 From 1951 through 1956 Series: M International Organizations, Commonwealth Affairs and General, 1955 - 1956 Vol. 3 General Affairs, the United Nations Organisation, and Antarctica, 1955 - 1956. Vol. 3. Bethesda, MD: LexisNexis.
  • Preston, P., Partridge, M. and Johnson, G. (2008). British Documents on Foreign Affairs : Reports and Papers from the Foreign Office Confidential Print. Part V, From 1951 through 1956. Series M, International Organizations, Commonwealth Affairs and General, 1953-1954. Volume 2, Antartica, General Affairs and the United Nations, 1953-1954 / Monograph. Vol. 2. Bethesda, MD: LexisNexis.
  • Johnson, G. (2002). The Berlin Embassy of Lord D’Abernon, 1920-1926. [Online]. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/9780230510999.
    Lord D'Abernon was the first British ambassador to Berlin after the First World War. This study, which challenges his positive historical reputation, assesses all the key aspects of Anglo-German relations in the early 1920s. Particular attention is paid to the reparations question and to issues of international security. Other topics include D'Abernon's relationship with the principal British and German politicians of the period and his attitude towards American involvement in European diplomacy.

Book section

  • Johnson, G. (2018). Lord D’Abernon and the British Economic Delegation to the Argentine, 1929. In: Britain’s Back Yard. Britain and South America in the Twentieth Century. Ashgate.
  • Johnson, G. (2017). Sir Ronald Lindsay, the Foreign Office and the Reparation Recovery Act, 1926-1928. In: British Economic Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century. Palgrave.
  • Johnson, G. (2013). Philip Noel-Baker, the League of Nations and the Abyssinian Crisis, 1935-1936. In: Strang, G. B. ed. Collision of Empires: Italy’s Invasion of Ethiopia and Its International Impact. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, pp. 53-72.
  • Johnson, G. (2011). Diplomatic Light and Shade: Sir Eric Phipps and Anglo-French Relations 1922-1928. In: Fisher, J. and Best, A. eds. On the Fringes of Diplomacy: Influences on British Foreign Policy, 1800-1945. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, pp. 225-242.
  • Johnson, G. (2010). Lord Robert Cecil as an internationalist: a mental map. In: Johnson, G. L. ed. Peacemakers, Peacemaking and Diplomacy 1880-1939. Essays in Honour of Professor Alan Sharp. Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press, pp. 185-202.
  • Johnson, G. (2009). Lord Robert Cecil and Europe’s Fascist Dictators: Three Case Studies, 1935-1939. In: Johnson, G. L. ed. The International Context of the Spanish Civil War. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 57-74.
  • Johnson, G. (2007). The Legacy of the First World War. In: Martel, G. ed. A Companion to International History 1900-2001. Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 166-178. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/9780470690925.
    This chapter contains sections titled:
    A New Approach to Diplomacy?
    The League and Anglo-French Relations
    The German Question
    Early Challenges
  • Johnson, G. (2005). Preparing for Office: Lord Curzon as Acting Foreign Secretary, January-October 1919. In: Johnson, G. L. ed. The Foreign Office and British Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century. Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge, pp. 53-73.
  • Johnson, G. (2004). Austen Chamberlain and the Negotiation of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, 1928. In: Johnson, G. L. ed. Locarno Revisited. European Diplomacy 1920-1929. Routledge.

Edited book

  • Johnson, G. (2008). Our Man in Berlin: The Diary of Sir Eric Phipps, 1933-1937. Johnson, G. L. ed. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.
    Sir Eric Phipps was British ambassador to Berlin during the crucial period between Hitler's decision to withdraw Germany from the League of Nations to his decision to become involved in the Spanish Civil War. His diary offers a unique and often witty evaluation of Hitler and other leading Nazis and their domestic and foreign policies between 1933 and 1937. Special attention is given to detailed discussions of his private meetings with Hitler. In addition, Phipps worked closely with all of the leading figures in British foreign affairs at this time, including Sir John Simon, Sir Samuel Hoare and Anthony Eden. The diary also covers important themes in 1930s international affairs, such as appeasement, rearmament and the preparation for war. The book also includes short biographies of the key figures mentioned and some suggested additional reading.
  • Johnson, G., Preston, P. and Partridge, M. (2006). British Documents on Foreign Affairs--Reports and Papers from the Foreign Office Confidential Print. Part V, From 1951 through 1956. Series M, International Organizations, Commonwealth Affairs, and General, 1951-1952. Vol. 1. Johnson, G. L., Preston, P. and Partridge, M. eds. Bethesda, MD: LexisNexis.
  • Matthew, H. and Johnson, G.L. eds. (2004). Fanaticism and Conflict in the Modern Age. Abingdon, Oxfordshire and New York, NY: Frank Cass (Taylor & Francis).
    What is fanaticism? Is the term at all useful? After all, one person's fanatic is another's freedom fighter. This new book proves these key questions of the twenty first century.

    It details how throughout history there have been fanatics eager to pursue their religious, political or personal agendas. Fanaticism has fuelled many of the conflicts of the twentieth century, in particular the theatres of combat of the Second World War. More recently, religious fanaticism has bedevilled affairs in the Middle East and elsewhere. Is fanaticism becoming more fanatical in the new millennium?

    As the events of 11 September 2001 prove, fanaticism, however it is defined, continues to dominate international affairs. The volume covers the nature and philosophy of fanaticism, the connection between political ideology and fanaticism, and the relationship between fanaticism and war in the contemporary era. To illustrate these themes, the volume presents a broad range of case studies including the Dervishes in the Sudan in the 1890s, fanaticism in the context of the Pacific war, 1937-45, the 12th SS Hitler Jugend Division in action in Normandy in 1944, the German army on the Eastern Front, and terrorism and guerrilla war after 1945.


  • Harrison, D. (2019). The Foreign Office’s View on the German Colonial Question in the Early Interwar Period, 1919-1929.
  • Mace, H. (2017). Emancipating Marianne: Gendering French Diplomacy and the Quai d’Orsay in European Context, 1944-1950.
    This study challenges the assertion that there existed few women in the Quai d'Orsay, with none in influential positions throughout the twentieth century. Unlike other European foreign ministries, French women were admitted to the diplomatic service throughout the 1920s and 1930s, and as early as 1928, were able to apply for diplomatic posts despite not gaining the vote until 1944. Albeit remaining legally subordinate to men until the Matrimonial Bill of 1965, this dissertation tells the story of the French female civil servant, who has hitherto been written out of academic writing and of popular memory on French diplomacy. Despite their slow transgression of numerous borders and overseas diplomatic ranks in the aftermath of the First World War, the Nazi occupation of France throughout the Second World War facilitated a gendered imbalance that precipitated women's demotion from previously-held positions to mere secretarial roles in Paris. An examination of the Annuaire Consulaire et Diplomatique, the official annual register of diplomatic staff, reveals that women were in fact admitted to overseas embassies and consulates on equitable terms with men until 1946. Drawing on a partial-prosopographical approach in examining French and British diplomatic archives and deposited oral history interviews, this thesis asserts that whilst Marianne, symbol of the Republic, was emancipated from the chains of wartime occupation in the late 1940s, the French female diplomat was not.
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