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David Boucher

Professor David Boucher

Professor of Political Philosophy and International Relations

School of Law and Politics

+44 29208 74862
69 Park Place, Room 0.02, Cathays, Cardiff, cf103as


My research interests include African Political Thought, coloniality and decoloniality: Modern Political Theory; History of Political Thought; Theory of International Relations; Human Rights; Collingwood and British Idealism, and Popular Culture. I am professor of political philosophy and international relations, and Director of the Collingwood and British Idealism Centre at Cardiff University. I have previously held visiting fellowships and professorships at the Australian National University; Canterbury University, Christchurch, New Zealand; The National Sun Yat Sen University, Taiwan; and Oxford University. I am a fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences; the Royal Historical Society; and the Learned Society of Wales, on whose Council I served 2011-2020. In 2017-20 I became the Vice-President for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences of the Learned Society of Wales. I am also a Distingusihed Visting Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Johannesburg, South Africa 2016-2021. I have been Executive Editor of Collingwood and British Idealism Studies: Incorporating Bradley Studies, since 1993.






















  • Boucher, D. 2003. The social and political thought of R. G. Collingwood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Boucher, D. and Kelly, P. J. eds. 2003. Political thinkers: from Socrates to the present. NewYork, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Boucher, D. 2003. International justice. In: Bellamy, R. and Mason, A. eds. Political Concepts. Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 196-210.
  • Boucher, D. 2003. Burke. In: Boucher, D. and Kelly, P. eds. Political Thinkers: from Socrates to the Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 363-382.
  • Boucher, D. 2003. Oakeshott. In: Boucher, D. and Kelly, P. eds. Political Thinkers: From Socrates to the Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 459-479.
  • Boucher, D. 2003. Rousseau. In: Boucher, D. and Kelly, P. eds. Political Thinkers: From Socrates to the Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 235-252.
  • Boucher, D. and Kelly, P. J. 2003. Introduction. In: Boucher, D. and Kelly, P. J. eds. Political Thinkers: From Socrates to the Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 1-22.
  • Boucher, D. 2003. The transition from natural rights to the culture of human rights. In: Haddock, B. A. and Sutch, P. eds. Multiculturalism, Identity and Rights. Routledge Innovations in Political Theory Vol. 12. London: Routledge, pp. 196-213.


  • Boucher, D. 2002. R. G. Collingwood (1889-1943). In: Dematteis, P. B., Fosl, P. S. and McHenry, L. B. eds. Dictionary of Literary Biogrpahy: British Philosophers, 1800-2000. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 262. Detroit, MI: Gale Group, pp. 70-79.










  • Boucher, D. 1991. Originality and ambiguity as criteria of greatness. In: Rubinoff, L. and Dussen, W. J. v. d. eds. Objectivity, Method and Point of View: Essays in the Philosophy of History. Philosophy of History and Culture Vol. 6. Leiden: E. J. Brill, pp. 22-46.




Book sections



Boucher was born in Ebbw Vale, Wales in 1951. He studied Politics at Swansea University, The London School of Economics and Liverpool University before appointment to a tutorial fellowship at Cardiff University in 1980. He then worked at La Trobe University, Melbourne, and The Australian National University in Canberra, before returning to the United Kingdom to take up a senior lectureship at Swansea University in 1991.

In 2000 he became a Professorial Fellow at Cardiff University, and the University's first Dean of the Graduate School in Humanities. He was head of the School of European Studies; Acting Head of the Centre for Continuing Adult Education; and Deputy Pro-Vice Chancellor for Staffing and Diversity. He has been Chairman of the Trustees of the R. G. Collingwood Society since 1993, and is the executive editor of its journal British Idealism and Collingwood Studies. He has held fellowships at The History of Ideas Unit, Australian National University; Christchurch University, Canterbury, New Zealand; Sun Yat Sen University, Taiwan; and is a Distinguished Visiting Professor University of Johannesburg, South Africa (2016-2021).

Research and work

Methodology, hermeneutics and the history of political thought

From the late 1960s the study of political thought in the Anglo-American tradition became self-reflective in demanding a greater methodological self-awareness. This self-awareness drew very heavily on the work of continental hermeneutic theorists such as Dilthey, Gadamer and Ricoeur. Many historians, including W. H. Greenleaf, Quentin Skinner and J. G. A. Pocock attempted to impose upon the discipline a preferred method of inquiry which excluded the intrusion of present philosophical, practical and moral considerations into an historical inquiry. Boucher wrote a number of articles criticising such legislative enactments culminating in the first book to give a comprehensive consideration to the sources of their arguments, their logical form and the practicality of their implementation. In Texts in Context (Matinus Nihof, 1985) Boucher argued that methodological pluralism acted as a brake upon the excesses of idiosyncrasy, and ensured the continuance of a healthy methodological self-awareness.

Boucher's most recent book, Appropriating Hobbes: Legacies in Politics, Law and International Relations (OUP, 2018) begins with a justification of the approach taken in the book, focusing upon hermeneutics and particularly the concept of distanciation, incorporating Reinhart Koselleck's distinction between the space of experience and the horizon of expectation. He argues that Hobbes's texts do not stand independently of interpretation, and that each appropriation is a rewriting of the arguments sustained with different patterns of evidence, constrained by the conventions and settled norms of scholarship that enable people to differentiate between fiction and evidentially supported argument. Boucher and Paul Kelly have edited Political Thinkers: From Socrates to the Present, which has sold over 30,000 copies, and is in its thee editions.

  1. G. Collingwood and European Civilisation

Boucher has contributed significantly to the philosophy of R.G. Collingwood. Boucher's book The Social and Political Thought of R. G. Collingwood discusses Collingwood's philosophy of European Civilisation. Collingwood's distinctive contribution was to challenge the conventional distinction generally accepted between savagery, barbarism and civilisation. Barbarism was for him a reaction against civilisation. Collingwood showed that the civilising process has three aspects: the elimination of force in relation to one's fellow members of the body politic, between members of different bodies politic, and between humans and nature. The implications Boucher discussed in a number of articles, including The British Journal of Politics and International Relations (2000), 'Collingwood, Tocqueville and the expansion of the moral community'. When Sir Malcolm Knox edited Collingwood's The Idea of History in 1946 he effectively prohibited the further publication of manuscript material, a prohibition to which Collingwood's widow and daughter strictly adhered. In 1989 Boucher was the first person to be granted permission to publish manuscript material from Collingwood's unpublished papers since Sir Malcolm Knox. Essays in Political Philosophy includes extracts from the manuscripts. Boucher has since edited a revised version of Collingwood's The New Leviathan; The Philosophy of Enchantment (with Wendy James and Philip Smallwood); and An Autobiography (with Collingwood's daughter, Teresa Smith). Fred Inglis, the author of History Man: The Life of R. G. Collingwood maintains: 'Boucher's own dutiful fidelity makes an indispensable link in the very survival of the social history of a philosopher's thought.' (p. 323).

British Idealist Political Thought

Boucher has from the start maintained an interest in British Idealist political thought which derives its main sources of inspiration from continental Europe. Boucher has published articles on many aspects of British Idealism in such international Journals as Storia, History and Theory, Australian Journal of Political Science, Journal of the History of Ideas, History of Political Thought, New Literary History, and edited The British Idealists for Cambridge University Press. He jointly authored two further books with Andrew Vincent, British Idealism and Political Theory (Edinburgh University Press, 2000), and The British Idealists: A Guide for the Perplexed (Continuum, 2011) in which they argued that Idealism is a living philosophy with contributions to be made to contemporary issues. Through his establishment of the Collingwood and British Idealism Centre in Cardiff with Andrew Vincent and Bruce Haddock, he has, with others contributed to the rehabilitation of British Idealism into mainstream philosophy and history of ideas.

Political Theory of International Relations

In this field of study, Boucher's main contribution is to argue that the categories of Realism and Idealism (which has a different meaning from philosophical Idealism), and Cosmopolitanism and Communitarianism, are inadequate for conceptualising the whole of the history of international relations theories. In Political Theories of International Relations from Thucydides to the Present (OUP, 1998) Boucher suggests that alternative categories are contrived and unable to explain away elements which belong in other traditions. He argues that the history of this subject is best seen in terms of three related categories, Political Realism, Universal Moral Order, and Historical Morality. The elements of all three appear in the works of great writers as they try to come to terms with the standard issues relating to the universal obligations of men and women, and the obligations of citizens to each other. He developed these arguments in published form in relation to Hobbes and Burke, and more generally in trying to conceptualise the whole of the history of international relations thought from Thucydides to the present with reference to such thinkers as Vitoria, Pufendorf and Kant. One of the traditions, Universal Moral Order, was explored in more depth in The Limits of Ethics in International Relations (OUP, 2009). In it Boucher argued that universal principles almost invariable entail qualifications for their enjoyment and exercise, and have been, far from liberating, instruments of oppression. He illustrates this with reference to cultural encounters, colonialism, slavery, and gender. Boucher's contribution to the history of thought in international relations is widely acknowledged and his work is cited extensively in the field.

Aspects of Popular Culture

Boucher has applied some of the political theories on which he worked over the years to aspects of popular culture. In Dylan and Cohen: Poets of Rock and Roll (Continuum, 2004 and 2017), he applied hermeneutic and aesthetic theories to the lyric poetry of two of the leading icons of the 1960s, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, in order to explore the political culture of their day. Boucher analysed Dylan's and Cohen's songs in terms of three aesthetic theories, those of Collingwood, Oakeshott and Lorca, in order to differentiate the types of expressions the songs convey to suggest that certain kinds of response are inappropriate to some songs, but may be appropriate to others. This book has been translated into six languages, including Spanish, Serbian and Polish. It has been re-issued following the death of Leonard Cohen and the conferment of the Nobel Prize for Literature on Bob Dylan. Boucher extended this research to explore the relationship with Bob Dylan, the Beats, and Dylan Thomas. With various experts in the field including Jeff Towns, Michael Gray, Michael Jones and Danny Williams he has presented multi-media events at a variety of literary festivals and travelled extensively around Wales in 2013 promoting the Dylan Thomas Centenary. Boucher's most recent work in this area has appeared in The Journal of Popular Music (2013) and Symbiosis (2016). He has just completred a book Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen: Deaths and Entrances with his daughter Lucy Boucher, published by Bloomsbury, New York.

African Political Thought, and decoloniality

Boucher began his association with University of Johannesburg in 2011, first as a research associate and then as a Distinguished Visting Professor. He has worked closely with colleagues across Africa and collaborated with Johannesburg Instutued for Advanced Study on three conferences and publishing projects. The first conference was 'The Prelude to Decolonisation', and resulted in a special issue of a the International Journal of Social Economics. 'Reclaiming history: dehumanization and the failure of decolonization', International Journal of Social Economics, Issue 11, vol. 46 (2019), pp. 1250-1263. Guest editorial, 1249. Social and Economic Injustices of Colonialism , International Journal of Social Economics (2019). The second conference took as its theme 'After the Prelude: Decolonization Revolution and Evolution', whcih resulted in an edited volume (with Ayesha Omar Witts University), to be publisjed by Witts University Press in 2022. The third conference focused on Language and Liberation and has resulted in an edited book entitled Language, Culture and Liberation. Boucher contributed 'Language and Liberation' and 'Language and Decoloniality in Context', to this volume: David Boucher ed. Language, Culture and Decolonisation, Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council, in Press, 2021. He has also published many articles on European Colonialism and Imperialism including: 'Invoking a World of Ideas: Theory and Interpretation in the Justification of Colonialism', Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory, 63 (2016), pp. 6-24.   ISSN 0040-5817: 'Idealisation and the Agents of Change', The Good Society, vol. 26, No 1 (2017), pp. 19-33. ISSN 2334-1777; ' Sane and Insane Imperialism: Liberal Imperialism, New Liberalism and British Idealism', History of European Ideas, 17 November 2018, vol 44 (8), pp 1189-1204: 'David George Ritchie, International Relations and the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902)', Collingwood and British Idealism Studies, 25 (2019), pp. 282-314.

  • 30 'Reclaiming history: dehumanization and the failure of decolonization', International Journal of Social Economics , Issue 11, vol. 46 (2019), pp. 1250-1263. Guest editorial, 1249. Social and Economic Injustices of Colonialism , International Journal of Social Economics (2019)

  • 31 'British Idealism, Imperialism and the Boer War', History of Political Thought,


I have taught at the undergraduate level: Modern Political Theory, Modern Ideologies, World Politics (Open University), History of Political Thought, Decision Making in Britain (Open University), The European Union, Political Theories of International Relations, and British Politics.

At the postgraduate level I have taught, Approaches to Political Theory, Michael Oakeshott and R. G. Collingwood, The Human Rights Culture and its Discontents, The Idea of Europe, Research Skills, and Machiavelli, Hobbes and Rouseau on International Relations.

I am able to supervise a range of subject areas at the doctoral level including History of Thought in International Relations; Modern Political Theory; Aspects of Idealism; and philosophy of history.


Positions within the School

Deputy Pro-Vice Chancellor for Staffing and Diversity, 2010-12. Inaugural Director of the Graduate School in Humanities, 2005-8; Became Head of School 2009-12; Acting Head of School 2008-2009; Assistant Head of School Research 2000-2008; Director of the Collingwood and British Idealism Centre; and, Adjunct professor of International Relations, University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia; Senior Research Associate, and later Distinguished Visiting Professor University of Johannesburg, South Africa. He was the founding Director of the Graduate School in Humanities at Cardiff.

Career profile

David Boucher studied at the University of Wales, Swansea, The London School of Economics and Liverpool University. He was a tutorial fellow at Cardiff, 1980-83, and a lecturer, 1983-4. He was a lecturer/senior lecturer at La Trobe University Melbourne, a research fellow, and senior lecturer at the Australian National University, and professor of politics at University of Wales Swansea, before returning to Cardiff in 2000 as a Professorial Fellow. He is currently professor of political theory and international relations, adjunct professor of international relations, University of the Sunshine Coast, Senior Research Associate and Distinguished Visiting Professor, University of Johannesburg, and Director of the Collingwood and British Idealism Centre since 1993.

Honours and awards

  • The Edwin Drew Prize in Public Administration. Awarded at University College, Swansea, 1975.
    Nuffield Foundation grant to study the unpublished papers of R. G. Collingwood. October, 1984-December, 1984.
  • La Trobe University, School of Social Sciences Research Grant to Study the Papers of R. G. Collingwood, January-February, 1986. $4000.
  • La Trobe University, School of Social Sciences Research Grant to Study the Papers of R.G. Collingwood, August 1987. $4000. (Published as The Social and Political Thought of R. G. Collingwood, C.U.P. 1989).
  • Contributor to Studies in Historical Change New Literary History the winner of the Best Special Issue award from the Conference of Editors of Learned Journals for the year 1987.
  • La Trobe University, School of Social Sciences Research Grant to Study Unpublished Papers of Sir Henry Jones, July-Dec. 1988. $2000. (Book completed with Andrew Vincent).
  • Research School of Social Sciences, A.N.U. $5000, 1989 to work on the unpublished papers of R. G. Collingwood (Published as R. G. Collingwood, Essays in Political Philosophy O.U.P. 1989).
  • Research School of Social Sciences, A. N. U. $2000, 1989 to attend the R. G. Collingwood Centenary Conference, Trent University, Canada, and to work in Toronto Public Library on reports of Henry Jonesí visit to Canada.
  • The Faculties Research Grants Committee, A.N.U. $4,500 1990 to work on papers relating to Henry Jones, Oxford, Cardiff, and North Wales September 1990 (With Andrew Vincent. Published by University of Wales Press and St Martinís Press, 1993).
  • December 1992: £1000 performance related payment, University College, Swansea.
  • July 1993-98: £30,000 awarded by Industrial Plastics Incorporated, Oregon with continuing annual support of £20,000 for the establishment and running of the Collingwood Centre at University of Wales Swansea.
  • March 1994: £800 awarded by the British Academy for the R. G. Collingwood Conference, 4-6 July, St. Catherineís College, Oxford.
  • August 1994: £12,000 grant from Industrial Plastics Inc., Oregon to work in Oxford during the Michaelmas and Hilary Terms, 1995-6 on British Idealist Political Philosophy.
  • March 1997: £1,000 awarded by the British Academy for the R. G. Collingwood Conference, 9-12 July, 1997.
  • May 1998: Nuffield Foundation. £4,100 to conduct research in Australia, Oxford and London on the extension of the moral community in British Idealist and modern political philosophy.
  • May 1998: British Academy. £1,100 to study the papers of John Watson in Canada.
  • September 1999-2002: £6,300 per annum for the Collingwood centre from Teresa Smith, Collingwoodís daughter.
  • January 2000: £6,700 (with Andrew Vincent), British Idealism and modern politics. AHRB.
  • Oct-Dec, 2001: Visiting Fellow, Institute for Cultural and Social Anthropology, Oxford.
  • February 2002: £4,200 AHRB for Politics, Poetry and Protest.
  • March – June 2003: Visiting Professorial Fellow, Department of Politics and the National Centre for the Study of Europe, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.
  • August 2004: Society for the History of Philosophy and Centre Study of Scottish Philosophy Plenary Lecture on Scottish Idealism.
  • February 2005: Elected Senior Research Fellow of the Centre Study of Scottish Philosophy, Aberdeen University.
  • Leverhulme Fellowship, 2007: £18,500 to complete Natural Law, Natural Rights and Human Rights in Transition.
  • Special projects Political Studies Associations grants 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012.
  • Professorial Fellow, January, 2010, National Sun Yat-sen University, Kaoshiung, Taiwan.
  • Elected an Academician of the Social Sciences, AcSS, March, 2010
  • Elected a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales, FLSW, March 2011.
  • Elected a member of Council, Learned Society of Wales, 2012.
  • Vice-President, Learned Society of Wales, 2017-2020.

Professional memberships

  • Member of The Political Studies Association of the UK
  • Member of the International Studies Association
  • Fellow of the Royal HIsotical Society
  • Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences
  • Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales

Academic positions

2000- 2021 Professorial Fellow; Professor of Political Theory and International Relations,Director of The Graduate School in Humanities; Head of the School of European Studies; Acting Head of LEARN (Adult Cintinuing Educations); Deputy Pro V-C for Staffing and Divrsity.

2016-2021 Distinguished Visiting Professor, University of Johannesburg

1991-2000 Senior Lecturer, Reader, Professor Department of Political Theory and Government, Swansea University.

1990-1991 Senior Lecrurer in Politics, Australian National University.

1989-1990 Research Fellow, The History of Ideas Unit, Australian National University.

1985 (Jan.) -1989 Lecturer and Senior Lecturer in Political Philosophy, La Trobe University, Melbourne

1980-1984 Tutorial Fellow and Temporary lecturer, Department of Politics, Cardiff University.

Committees and reviewing

SCOLAR Steering Group

Department Director of Research and Strategy Group Member.

Referee for Political Studies; History of Political Thought; Polity; Journal of the History of Ideas; Interpretation; Journal of the History of Philosophy, Oxford Review of Education, Contemporary Political Theory and Review of International Studies; Contemporary Political Theory; European Journal of Political Theory; British Journal of Politics and International Relations

  • Referee for Cambridge University Press, Australia Ltd. and U.K.; Oxford University Press, Great Britain and Australia; Routledge; Palgrave; Penn State University Press; Wales University Press Blackwells; Martinus Nijhoff, Westview Press; Edinburgh University Press.
  • Examiner of Ph.D. theses.
  • External Examiner for Nottingham Trent University 1997-2000; University of the West of England 1997-2001; Queen’s University, Belfast, 2007-; Lancaster University, 2007-date.
  • Member of the Editorial Board of The Australian Journal of Political Science, 1990-1992. Contemporary Political Theory, 2002-date.
  • Series Editor: British Idealism Studies: Collingwood, Imprint Academic.
  • Member of the O.U.P. Committee to oversee the publication of the R. G. Collingwood papers. (With Teresa Collingwood Smith, Professors W. H. Dray, Leon Pompa, W. J. van der Dussen and Rex Martin).
  • Chairman of the Board of Trustees, The Collingwood Society, 1993-date.
  • Director of Collingwood and British Idealism Centre, Cardiff University, 1993
  • Executive Editor Collingwood and British Idealism Studies
  • Editorial Board Modern Political Theory; International Political Theory


Ph.D External Examiner, University if Sydney (3); Australian National University (1); Queensland University (1)

Review of The Australian National University College of Asia and the Pacific, Assessor October, 2008

Assessment of research applications: Austalian Research Council; The Irish Research Council; Research Grants Council, Hong Kong.


TAIWAN: As Global Professorial Fellow 2010: 1) 2 x Sun Yat Sen, Kaohsiung, 2) University of Tainan, 3) Academia Sinica, Taipai:  JAPAN: four visits 2012/13 and 2017, 1) University of Tokyo, 2) Kobe, 3) Nagasaki, 4) Kowasaki, 5) twice at Keo, Tokyo.  Kobe University, Japan, July, 2017. ITALY:1) 1) Johns Hopkins University, Bologna, 2) University of Bologna; 3) SOUTH AFRICA, five visits 2011-16  1) 3 x University of Johannesburg; 2) 2 x Fort Hare, East London, and Alice 3) Wild Coast 4) University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, 5) University of Witwatersrand, 6) Cape Town 7) Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Studies, South Africa, August 2017 July, 2018, September 2019: UNITED STATES, 1) International Studies Association, New Orleans, 2) International Studies Association, Atlanta, 3) International Studies Association, San Francisco. MEXICO, 1) International Book Fair, Guadalajar, Nov. 2015: CANADA, 1) ECPR, Montreal, 2015.