On the 3rd November the International Relations department paid its own, very important, tribute to the work of Professor Fred Halliday, one of the great names in the department over the past thirty years. Appropriately, the event was held where Fred had performed so wonderfully well before: in the Old Theatre at the LSE, a stage he had graced on so many occasions over the years. Indeed, it was on the same stage that he gave his last lecture at the LSE; the only one that I can recall that led to a standing ovation at the end.
The 3rd November was of course a very different, altogether much sadder event, attended by hundreds of his friends, former colleagues, students, and of course his family. Chaired by Kim Hutchings, the current Head of Department, the evening was launched by Sir Howard Davies with a witty, honest and warm assessment of Fred’s terrific contribution to the School. One of his very close friends – Emeritus Professor Margot Light – followed up with some very well chosen observations about Fred’s views on the ‘superpowers’, one of which is no more. Fred, she observed, loved Russia and the Russian language – though not necessarily the USSR, about which he had few illusions.
Inevitably, no discussion about Fred would have been complete without a look at his work on the Middle East and the impact that Ireland had on his world outlook. Fawaz Gerges reminded the audience of Fred’s strong commitment to democracy and progressive politics in the Middle East; and his support at all times for the cause of open debate and pluralism. Never one to mince his words, Fred was especially vociferous against those in the West who talked of a clash of civilizations, as well as their opposite numbers in the Moslem world who ironically seemed to agree with Huntington’s controversial thesis. Mick Cox of the IR department – and an old sparring partner of Fred’s on the left – reminisced that even if the two of them had divided over the Cold War they most definitely united over Ireland; particularly in their opposition to romanticized notions of armed struggle and the dangerous myths that national liberationists often told themselves in order to justify their murderous policies, whether on the streets of Belfast or on the battlefield that became the Third World in the Cold War.
Justin Rosenberg (a former student and now at the University of Sussex) and Chris Hill (Cambridge and Fred’s predecessor as Montague Burton Professor) concluded the evening with some wonderful vignettes about Fred’s life and times in the department itself (read text here [PDF]). An inspirational teacher and an equally inspiring colleague, Justin and Chris added an especially poignant touch to what had been a memorable and deeply affectionate occasion.
Professor Michael Cox
International Relations Department