Elspeth O'Riordan

Honorary Lecturer in History



I studied international history at the London School of Economics, where I held a British Academy post-graduate scholarship.  Upon completion of my PhD, I held lectureships in the Department of War Studies at King's College London and in Modern History at the University of St Andrews, before joining the programme at Dundee.  I am now an Honorary Lecturer.

My focus is on twentieth century British and international history with a particular emphasis on Britain's foreign policy.  These interests are reflected in my teaching.  I am currently offering a Level 3 option, The Cold War(semester 2, 2010-11) and teach on the Level 1 module, Britain in the Twentieth Century.

I am especially interested in the process of foreign policy-making, analysing not simply the role on it of individuals but exploring the bureaucratic process itself and the complex interaction of contextual influences on decision-making.  My current research seeks to reappraise Britain's role in the origins of the Cold War in the light of developments in the academic debate which have followed its ending and the partial opening of Soviet and other archives since the 1990s. In order to address the broader issues regarding Britain's role, I am focussing on a detailed case-study - that of Britain's policy regarding Germany's Ruhr/Rhineland region.  After WWII, the Ruhr and Rhineland were a pivotal area where a broad spectrum of international tensions were distilled.   

This study also provides the opportunity for a comparative analysis with the post World War I period.  I previously worked on British foreign policy in the 1920s, concentrating on the fate of the Treaty of Versailles, in particular the prevarications over whether to uphold or revise its reparation provisions, which culminated in the Ruhr occupation crisis of 1922-4.   

My aim is to draw parallels between these two pivotal post-war periods.  In addition to providing a detailed study of Britain's role and influence in a key area of the origins of the Cold War, I hope to provide a deeper understanding of the underlying trends and influences on British foreign-policy making throughout the twentieth century, thus illuminating the dynamic and organic nature of foreign policy itself.




E.Y. O’Riordan, Britain and the Ruhr Crisis (Palgrave 2001, x + 208pp.)


E.Y. O’Riordan, ‘British Policy during the Ruhr Crisis 1922-1924.’ Diplomacy & Statecraft, 15:2 (2004), 221-51.

E.Y. O’Riordan, ‘The British Zone of Occupation in the Rhineland’. Diplomacy & Statecraft, 16:3 (2005), 439-54.

[This article was also published in C. Fischer and Alan Sharp, ed. After The Versailles Treaty: Enforcement, Compliance, Contested Identities (London, 2008).]

Conference Papers

Personalities and Policy-Making: the role of Bonar Law, Curzon and Baldwin in the shaping Britain’s Ruhr Policy, 1922-3. (London School of Economics, 1996)

Reparations, Railways and the Rhineland: Anglo-German Relations during Passive Resistance, 1923.   (German Historical Institute, London, 1997)

The End of French Predominance in Europe’ Britain and the Ruhr Crisis, 1922-4.   (British International History Group Conference, University of Ulster, September 1997.)

The British Zone of Occupation in the Rhineland. (University of Strathclyde, September 2003)