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Welcome to the University of Oxford's oldest and most illustrious forum for scholarship in international history, grand strategy and foreign affairs.

"a proving ground for future leaders and the founders of new fields of enquiry"

Our Patron

Sir Richard Shirreff was born in Kenya in 1955 where he spent his early years. Educated in England, he graduated from Exeter College, Oxford (Modern History) before being commissioned into the British Army from Sandhurst.

 

In his 37-year career, he commanded soldiers on operations at every level from platoon to division. This has included combat in the Gulf War of 1991 as a tank squadron leader and again in Iraq as a divisional commander, together with other operations in Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Bosnia. In addition, he had extensive staff experience at brigade, Army HQ and in the Ministry of Defence. He commanded NATO’s Allied Rapid Reaction Corps and his final post before withdrawing from the Army was NATO’s 4 Star Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (DSACEUR).

 

In February 2016 he co-founded Strategia Worldwide Ltd, a consultancy which helps clients protect the value of their investment by understanding and managing risk comprehensively. In 2016 his novel ‘2017: War with Russia’ was published in the UK and USA. It became a best seller and has been translated into eight languages. He is an honorary fellow of Exeter College, Oxford.

General (Retired) Sir Richard Shirreff KCB CBE MA (Oxon.)
NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (2011-2014)

"Dr Stubbs and his adherents of the historical society" 

In the picture are at least four future members of parliament, an Archbishop of Canterbury and some of the greatest scholars of the historical profession.

Alum of the Month

Our Alum of the Month is Catherine Hughes CMG (O.S. 1955).

Born Catherine Pestell in 1933, Hughes studied history at St Hilda's College later becoming President of the Stubbs Society. Upon passing the Civil Service exams with flying colours, she joined the Foreign Office in 1955 - then a highly male-dominated environment. She was appointed Third Secretary in The Hague during the first year of the European Communities before her promotion to Bangkok as Second Secretary. Here, she had a ringside seat on the accelerating war in Indo-China.

 

She returned to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office as First Secretary and principal desk officer for Vietnam. In this role, Hughes strongly opposed British involvement in America’s escalating war. Her toughest assignment came when she was asked in 1975 to take the tough role of negotiator in East Berlin missions during the Cold War détente. In 1978 she was promoted to Political Counsellor having earned recognition as a leading expert on the Four Power Status of this divided city.

 

In that strange world where hardship sat alongside political paranoia she remained "cantankerous". And she had a slightly subversive attitude to authority, once saying “I like that tiny seed of cantankerousness which doesn’t lie down and accept things.”

 

She retired in 1989 from her final Ambassadorial-level job - as assistant Under-Secretary for the Public Departments - on her appointment as Principal of Somerville College, Oxford. She married her neuropathologist husband Dr Trevor Hughes in 1991, then the acting Warden of Green College, Oxford. Indeed, as the statutes of the College did not permit the Principal to marry, Miss Pestell resigned, married and was re-elected as Principal; however there was a two-week period when the College had no head. 

Somerville's Governing Body, during her time at the College, decided to admit men as Fellows and students. The decision was very vigorously opposed yet as Principal, she oversaw the admission of the first male Fellows and students in 1993-4.

With the same characteristic resilience, for many years she faced the onset of cancer, enjoying global cruises when she was well enough to travel. She described as ‘liberating excellence’ the purpose of her very generous gifts to support Somervillians in History, English and Modern Languages.

The Society is proud to have been associated with such a distinguished individual.

Extracts from civilservant.org.uk and the obituary by St Hilda's.

Above: Catherine Hughes CMG, diplomat and former Principal of Somerville College, Oxford.

As seen in

 

Video credits: Oxford University Aerial Drone Filming (Skyvantage Elevated Cinematography); Full Donald Trump - Theresa May Press Conference (Global News); 4K Video of US Fighter Jets in Action F-15, F-16 F-22 F-35 4K Footage (WarLeaks - Military Archive); What's the World Economic Outlook or the Year Ahead (World Economic Forum); Aerial Tour of Washington DC (All Things Aero); Europa Building (Samyn and Partners Architects and Engineers); Chinese Military Parade (Andy Cruise); Behind the Scenes of the UN General Assembly (United Nations)

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