Knights and Jihad

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CATEGORY: Academics
TYPE: Articles
RELATED PROGRAMS: Political Science

Foundations of International Politics; Chinese Foreign Policy; Regional Conflict and Security; Medieval Political Thought; the Honors Colloquium—Andrew Latham teaches a wide range of classes in the Political Science Department every year. He’s a longtime favorite among Mac’s students, especially among the roughly 50 political science majors in each class. We recently asked him a few questions about his work.

Why do you choose to teach at Macalester?

The students. Mac attracts very bright, highly motivated students, and political science attracts more than its fair share of the very best.

Do you collaborate with students?

I recently worked with a student on a scholarly article about late medieval international relations and coauthored another piece called “Historicizing the ‘New Wars’: The Case of Jihad in the Early Years of Islam,” which is coming out this year. 

What do you do in your free time?

What free time I have is devoted to writing historical fiction. I’ve been working on a novel called The English Templar: Quest for the Holy Lance, which will be published in early 2015 (Knox Robinson). It deals with the Templar Knights and Richard the Lionheart during the Third Crusade, and is based on my current scholarly research and a course I teach on medieval political thought.

What is something you always have with you?

A tattered old copy of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If.”

Care to share a bit of conventional wisdom from political science?

“The strong do what they will; the weak suffer what they must.” —Thucydides, from the Melian dialogue

How did you first get interested in your academic field?

Although I’ve evolved a bit over the years, my primary field of scholarly interest is international security, with a special focus on war. As to why I am interested in this phenomenon, I can’t really say. It probably has something to do with the post-WWII “victory culture” that largely defined the England of my childhood.  That or the set of toy soldiers I got on my third birthday.

What is one of your favorite books and why?

I’ll give you two (though I could list many more): Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France because it tells you just about everything you need to know about politics and G.K. Chesterton’s Everlasting Man because it tells you everything else.

What is your favorite class to teach and why?

I love teaching all my courses (no, really), but in recent years my favorite has been Medieval Political Thought. Not only do I get to help students discover the historical (and religious) roots of putatively modern/secular concepts such as human rights, rule of law, due process, representative government, and so on, but I also get to watch a whole lot of Monty Python while doing it.

Describe the most interesting object in your office.

A replica of the medal issued by Sultan Abdülmecid I of the Ottoman Empire to my great-great grandfather for his service to the Empire during the Crimean War (1854-56).

What would people be surprised to know?

I have four passports—American, Canadian, British and Irish—and I was once a corporal in a Highland regiment of the Canadian Army.

medievalists.net/2013/12/06/medieval-geopolitics-an-interview-with-andrew-latham/

PUBLISHED: 12/02/2013