Caiban Butcher


International Relations (2018)

Nature’s Empire: A Global Intellectual History of Darwinian Internationalism

I am a DPhil student in International Relations at the University of Oxford, and my main interests are in the history of international thought and English School approaches to the study of international order (both particularly in the long nineteenth century). My present research focusses on Darwinism as a distinctive historical idiom of international theory.

More specifically, I aim to expand my MPhil thesis—which examined how Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection transformed ideas of war, ‘savagery’, and empire in late Victorian Britain—into a global intellectual history of Darwinian internationalism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Accordingly, I excavate the Darwinian idiom in its various contexts and points of transmission, from Britain to France, Germany, the United States, China, and their colonial peripheries, exploring how the political language of Darwinian naturalism changed as it entered new national languages and crossed political boundaries. In its broadest implications, my research incises upon salient contemporary issues: namely, how exactly the category of ‘science’ should be understood as a criterion of theoretical rigour in the social sciences; and, in its emphasis on changing ideas of ‘nature’, how we might re-narrate our intellectual inheritance in the age of the Anthropocene.

Prior to my studies at Oxford, I graduated from the University of Cambridge with a BA (Hons) in Human, Social, and Political Sciences.