Dr Rachel E. Utley

Dr Rachel E. Utley

Associate Professor in International History

+44 (0)113 34 33609

Summary: UK foreign policy under Margaret Thatcher; French and European security and defence policies; French external relations and military interventions during the Fifth Republic; Peace operations



I first came to the University of Leeds as an Undergraduate studying International History and Politics, and it's wonderful to be involved in the degree programme from which I graduated! After my BA (Hons.), First Class, in International History and Politics, I remained at Leeds studying for an MA in Modern International Studies, and subsequently for my PhD on French defence and security policies in the contemporary era - the title was The French Defence Debate: Consensus and Continuity in the Mitterrand Era (the thesis was later published under the same title).

I began my career with a Special Research Fellowship funded by the Leverhulme Trust, which I held first in the School of History at the University of Leeds, and then in the Department of Politics at the University of York. After the research fellowship I became a Lecturer in Politics at York. I returned to the School of History at the University of Leeds in 2005.

The thing I love about my research area is that as well as opening a whole range of knowledge on French defence and security considerations in the second half of the twentieth century, it also connects very strongly with issues relating to Cold War international history, with the emergence of European security and defence initiatives, before and since the end of the Cold War, and with questions of the international security responsibilities (very broadly defined) of international organisations such as the UN. Moreover, my original focus on French defence and security considerations has increasingly connected with developments in British foreign policy, particularly since the 1970s and coming right up to the present.

Research interests

My research interests cover the later twentieth century and into the twenty-first, coming to the present day. I research extensively in the time period of the French Fifth Republic (since 1958), with a particular focus on French defence and security policies in these years. While I find all French Presidents of this time period fascinating, I have particular research interests relating to Charles de Gaulle, François Mitterrand and Nicolas Sarkozy.

A second area of research interest concerns UK foreign policy under Margaret Thatcher, with particular reference to relations with France under Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and François Mitterrand. This leads to additional interests in UK-French defence and security cooperation in subsequent time periods, from the St Malo agreement of 1998 through to the Lancaster House accords of 2010. This in turn highlights challenges and implications of cooperation between the two states, not least in terms of military intervention, in bilateral and multilateral frameworks, to address a wide range of questions in contemporary international affairs. 

Teaching Areas

International History in the twentieth century (particularly post-1945); French foreign policy post-1945; France in the twentieth century; European cooperation post-1945 (with particular reference to military security, 1945-present); UK foreign policy under Margaret Thatcher.



(author) The French Defence Debate: Consensus and Continuity in the Mitterrand Era (Palgrave Macmillan, 2000).

(author) ‘The Case for Coalition: Motivation and Prospects. French Military Intervention in the 1990s,’ Occasional Paper no. 41 (Strategic and Combat Studies Institute, 2001).

(editor) Major Powers and Peacekeeping: Perspectives, Priorities and the Challenges of Military Intervention (Ashgate, 2006)

(editor) 9/11 Ten Years After: Perspectives and Problems (Ashgate, 2012).

Articles and Chapters

'France and the Arab Upheavals: Beyond Sarkozy,' RUSI Journal, vol. 158, no. 2 (April 2013), pp. 68-79.

‘At War with Al Qaeda: France and International Terrorism, 2001-2011,’ in 9/11 Ten Years After: Perspectives and Problems (Ashgate, 2012), pp. 45-64.

‘A Means to Wider Ends? France, Germany and Peacekeeping,’ in R. E. Utley, ed., Major Powers and Peacekeeping: Perspectives, Priorities and the Challenges of Military Intervention (Ashgate, 2006), pp. 63-80.

‘Franco-African Military Relations: Meeting the Challenge of Globalisation?' Modern and Contemporary France, vol. 13, no. 1 (2005), pp. 25-40.

'‘Not to do less but to do better…’: French Military Policy in Africa,’ International Affairs, vol. 78, no. 1 (2002) pp. 129-46.

‘France: Willing the Means to the End?’ in M. A. Smith and G. Timmins, Uncertain Europe: Building a New European Security Order? (London: Routledge, 2001) pp. 136-52.

‘The ‘Sacred Union’? French Intervention in Lebanon and Chad under François Mitterrand,’ Small Wars and Insurgencies, vol. 10, no. 3 (1999) pp. 1-23.

'The New French Interventionism,’ Civil Wars, vol. 1, no. 2 (1998) 83-103.

Media Contributions

'France Terror Attacks were an Assault on a Divided Society,' Yorkshire Post, 8 January 2015 at http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/debate/columnists/rachel-utley-france-terror-attacks-were-an-assault-on-a-divided-society-1-7040097

'Hollande is Facing a Difficult Balancing Act over French Policy on Military Action Against IS,' LSE Europp, 16 October 2014 at http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/category/authors/rachel-utley/

'Hollande Under Fire on Home Front in Battle over Syria,' Yorkshire Post, 12 September 2013 at http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/debate/columnists/rachel-utley-hollande-under-fire-on-home-front-in-battle-over-syria-1-6039693

'France's New Defense White Paper Projects a Pared-Down Force,' World Politics Review, 9 May 2013 at http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/trend-lines/12938/global-insider-france-s-new-defense-white-paper-projects-a-pared-down-force 

'Despite Early Successes, France's Mali Challenge is Long-Term,' World Politics Review, 25 January 2013, at http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/trend-lines/12667/global-insider-despite-early-successes-france-s-mali-challenge-is-long-term