Sir Harold Nicolson’s conception of international order, with its roots in ancient Greek and Roman political theory, was central to his ideas about international society. It encompassed the principal elements of foreign policy, the operation of the balance of power, and the role of international law in world affairs. More particularly, he focused on the effectiveness of collective security and the League of Nations during the inter-war period when Great Britain was moving from a period of imperium over her former colonies to one of dominion over emergent Commonwealth nation-states. He was by turns optimistic and pessimistic about the UN as an instrument for securing and maintaining international order. Nicolson’s experience as a diplomat also led him to attach great importance to national character and prestige as factors in foreign relations and diplomatic negotiation; they are rarely absent from his analyses of international affairs.
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