Adam Joseph Cooper

Adam Joseph Cooper


I started my PhD at the University of Leeds in October 2022, having previously obtained a BA (Hons) in English Language and Literature (2020) and an MA in International Relations (2022) at the institution.

My MA dissertation examined the way a state’s historical reputation and past conduct can affect its future diplomacy, with a focus on post-war Japan. I am currently revising the thesis with the intention of publishing it in a journal.

My research is funded by the AHRC through the White Rose College of the Arts & Humanities. As such, I am especially interested in ensuring interdisciplinarity in my work.

Research interests

My PhD research concerns what role the UK should play in furthering the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) given perceptions among some states in the Global South that the norm favours powerful, largely former colonial powers in the Global North. Centrally, I ask: does reparation for colonial injustice offer a sound basis for attributing a special responsibility to protect to the UK? Following on from this, however, I am concerned with what exactly this “special responsibility” may entail: one could argue that the UK should remove itself from the stage as an R2P advocate if it proves to be too toxic an actor, while others might argue that the UK should instead prioritise preventative non-coercive means. The nature of the special responsibility stems from asking why British colonialism was unjust, and in what ways it might made the perpetration of mass atrocities more likely. Finally, my thesis asks not just “what” and “why”, but to whom precisely does the UK have this special responsibility – to all states, to only post-colonial states, or only to its own former colonies? Ultimately, my research seeks to find a path forward for how the UK might become a good global citizen in an age where it is facing relative decline and North-South cooperation is vital.

Related to this, I am also interested in post-colonial power dynamics between a former imperial power and its former colonies, the ethical implications of further interference post-independence, and the potential of the Commonwealth in British diplomacy. Broadly speaking, though, my main research interests include normative international relations theory, R2P, and – to put it rather loosely – the role the past plays in shaping contemporary state interaction.


  • MA International Relations
  • BA (Hons) English Language and Literature

Research groups and institutes

  • European Centre for Responsibility to Protect
  • Centre for Contemporary Political Theory