Fred Halliday, 1946-2010: a tribute

The death of political analyst and international-relations scholar Fred Halliday extinguishes a voice and a light that have illuminated world politics for more than forty years. David Hayes pays tribute and presents a selection of his work for openDemocracy.
David Hayes
26 April 2010

Fred Halliday, the political analyst and international-relations scholar of worldwide renown, died on 26 April 2010 at the age of 64. Fred’s immense knowledge of global politics, astounding energy and forensic analytical skills were for over four decades put in the service of rational argument and universalist political values whose intellectual and human core survived extraordinary changes in the world’s political complexion.

For six years, from January 2004 (a retrospective of Saddam Hussein) to December 2009 (a survey of "the other 1989s"), Fred wrote a regular column for openDemocracy which I was privileged to edit. In subject-matter, the eighty-one columns embraced the world - from Jerusalem to jihadism, Finland to Libya, Iraq to his native Ireland, Cuba to his beloved Yemen and Iran; in style they combined sharp political assessment with rich personal memory and voice; in content they deployed years of concentrated learning and observation in the constant effort to understand, to get inside the reality under scrutiny. In all this they represent the heart, the best, of what openDemocracy in our ten years of life has tried to do.

The profound sadness at this bereavement is felt most acutely by those closest to Fred, to whom we extend our deep condolences. The great loss is shared among a worldwide community of scholars, activists, and publishers such as Saqi books; and among the institutions with which Fred was most closely associated - including the Transnational Institute, the London School of Economics, and the Barcelona Institute for International Studies (IBEI).

The small consolation that can be found today is that Fred Halliday’s work will continue to be an imperishable resource for those seeking to make sense of the world since 1945 and into the 21st century: its complex politics, multilayered conflicts, and epic intellectual journeys. As long as we read, engage with and discuss this work, Fred Halliday - his voice, his ideas and his huge personality - will remain alive for us and within us.

Fred Halliday: openDemocracy columns, a selection

Terrorism, jihadism, universalism

Terrorism in historical perspective (21 April 2004)

The crisis of universalism: America and radical Islam after 9/11 (15 September 2004)

A Lebanese fragment: two days with Hizbollah (19 July 2006)

In time of war: reason amid rockets (10 August 2006)

The attorney-general comes to town (27 March 2006)

Lebanon, Israel, and the “greater west Asian crisis” (17 August 2006)

What was communism? (16 October 2009)

The other 1989s (6 November 2009)

The shaken middle east

America and Arabia after Saddam (12 May 2004)

Al-Jazeera: the matchbox that roared (23 March 2007)

Yemen: murder in Arabia Felix (13 July 2007)

The “Barcelona process”: ten years on (11 November 2005)

Crises of the middle east: 1914, 1967, 2003 (15 June 2007)

Libya’s regime at 40: a state of kleptocracy (9 September 2009)

Iran: the “great nation” 

Iran's revolutionary spasm (30 June 2005)

The matter with Iran (1 March 2007)

Iran’s revolution in global history (5 March 2009)

Iran's tide of history: counter-revolution and after (17 July 2009)

Political voyages, personal traces

Looking back on Saddam Hussein (9 January 2004)

Political killing in the cold war (11 August 2005)

Maxime Rodinson: in praise of a “marginal man” (8 September 2005)

The forward march of women halted? (4 May 2006)

Auschwitz's 21st-century legacy (26 January 2007)

The Malvinas and Afghanistan: unburied ghosts (3 May 2007)

The assassin’s age: Pakistan in the world (28 December 2007)

Fidel Castro’s legacy: Cuban conversations (19 February 2008)

Two feminist pioneers: Iranian, Lebanese, universal (20 April 2008)

1968: the global legacy (13 June 2008)

The Dominican Republic: a time of ghosts (23 April 2009)  

Islamic questions, political answers

A transnational umma: reality or myth? (6 October 2005)

Blasphemy and power (13 February 2006)

Sunni, Shi'a and the “Trotskyists of Islam” (9 February 2007)

The Left and the Jihad (7 September 2006)  

Islam, law and finance: the elusive divine (12 February 2008)

Paths of nationalism  

George W Bush's triumph: three ends and a beginning (17 November 2004)

Eternal Euzkadi, enduring ETA (3 August 2007)

Sovereign Wealth Funds: power vs principle (5 March 2008)

Tibet, Palestine and the politics of failure (13 May 2008)

The miscalculation of small nations (26 August 2008)

Armenia’s mixed messages (15 October 2008)

True and false trails...

The revenge of ideas: Karl Polanyi and Susan Strange (24 September 2008)

The world's twelve worst ideas (8 January 2007)


Fred Halliday: a short biography and bibliography

Fred Halliday was most recently Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats / Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA) research professor at the Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals (Barcelona Institute for International Studies / IBEI). He was from 1985-2008 professor of international relations at the London School of Economics (LSE), and subsequently professor emeritus there. He was elected a fellow of the British Academy in 2002.

Fred Halliday was born in Dublin and brought up in Dundalk, the Republic of Ireland town close to the border with Northern Ireland. He studied at Ampleforth College; received a BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Queen's College, Oxford (1967); an MsC in Middle East Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) (1969); and a PhD in International History at the London School of Economics (1985). The subject of his doctorate was Yemeni immigrant communities in Britain.

During this education and extensive travelling he acquired Arabic, Persian and a working knowledge of ten other languages (including French, German, Spanish and Russian). These resources allied to radical but always independent political convictions were put to use in a range of works in the 1970s and 1980s - on the Arabian peninsula, Iran, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and the "second cold war" - that established his reputation  as a pioneering scholar of international relations and a forensic analyst of international power-politics.

Fred was an editorial associate of the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP). Between 1975 and 2000, he was a fellow of the Amsterdam-based network of scholar-activists, the Transnational Institute (TNI); since then he has served as an advisor to the institute on the middle east, central Asia and eastern European matters.

Fred Halliday’s work in the 1990s and 2000s continued to make sense of new developments in world politics since the end of the cold war and the opening of a new era with the 9/11 attacks. His work extended in this period across a range of fields and themes: international-relations theory, revolutions in world history, changing patterns of geopolitics, Islam in the world, the politics of the middle east and “greater west Asia”, gender and development issues, nationalisms, intellectual history, linguistic and cultural dimensions of politics, and the complexities of political commitment.

He was a prolific lecturer, incisive broadcaster, inveterate traveller and irrepressible raconteur. His authoritative analyses of international affairs were broadcast frequently on the BBC, ABC, al-Jazeera television, CBC and Irish radio.

Fred Halliday died in Barcelona on 26 April 2010.


Fred Halliday’s homepage at IBEI is  here

His profile at the LSE (which includes an extensive list of publications, 1993-2006) is here 


• Fred Halliday is the author of more than twenty books and hundreds of journal and media articles. Among his books are:

Arabia Without Sultans (Penguin, 1974; republished by Saqi, 2001)

Iran: Dictatorship and Development (Penguin, 1978)

Mercenaries in the Persian Gulf: Counter-insurgency in Oman (Russell Press, Nottingham, 1979)

Soviet Policy in the Arc of Crisis (TNI/Institute for Policy Studies, 1981); published as Threat from the East? (Penguin, 1982)

The Ethiopian Revolution [with Maxime Molyneux] (Verso, 1982)

The Making of the Second Cold War (Verso, 1983)

State and Ideology in the Middle East and Pakistan (Macmillan, 1988) - edited with Hamza Alavi

Cold War, Third World: An Essay on Soviet-American Relations (Radius/Hutchinson, 1989)

Arabs in Exile: Yemeni Migrants in Urban Britain (IB Tauris, 1992); to be republished as Britain's First Muslims (IB Tauris, 2009)

Rethinking International Relations: Realism and the Neoliberal Challenge (Palgrave, 1994)

From Potsdam to Perestroika: Conversations with Cold Warriors (BBC Publications, 1995)

Islam and the Myth of Confrontation: Religion and Politics in the Middle East (IB Tauris, 1996)

Revolution and World Politics: The Rise and Fall of the Sixth Great Power (Palgrave, 1999)

Nation and Religion in the Middle East (Saqi, 2000)

The World at 2000: Perils and Promises (Palgrave, 2000)

Two Hours That Shook the World: September 11, 2001 - Causes and Consequences (Saqi, 2001)

Revolution and Foreign Policy: The Case of South Yemen, 1967–1987 (Cambridge University Press, 2002)

The Middle East in International Relations: Power, Politics and Ideology(Cambridge University Press, 2005)

100 Myths about the Middle East (Saqi, 2005)


• Among Fred Halliday’s many articles in books:

“The Siren of Nationalism”, in Chester Hartman & Pedro Vilanova (eds),  Paradigms Lost: The Post Cold War Era (TNI/Pluto Press, 1992)

“Islam is in danger: Authority, Rushdie and the Struggle for the Migrant Soul”, in Jochen Hippler & Andrea Lueg (eds),  The Next Threat: Western Perceptions of Islam (TNI/Pluto Press, 1995)

“Why do revolutions happen?”, in Harriet Swain (ed),  The Big Questions in History (Vintage, 2006)

“Anti-Arab Prejudice in the UK: the 'Kilroy-Silk Affair' and the BBC response”, in Elizabeth Poole (ed)  Muslims and the news media (IB Tauris, 2006)


• Among Fred Halliday’s hundreds of public lectures:

His valedictory lecture as Montague Burton Professor of International Relations at the LSE, delivered on 30 January 2008 can be accessed here

His lecture on the thirtieth anniversary of the Iranian revolution, delivered on 23 February 2009 at the LSE, can be accessed here



Had enough of ‘alternative facts’? openDemocracy is different Join the conversation: get our weekly email


We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData