World Politics

Research Article

What is the Commonwealth?

Hedley Bull

The association of states known as the Commonwealth of Nations has received little attention from students of international politics. Outside the Commonwealth the association has, on the whole, been ignored; alongside other institutions and alliances, its significance is not great; and the foreign policies of the ten states that now belong to it can to a large extent be accounted for, except in the case of Britain, without reference to the fact of their membership. Within the Commonwealth there has been study of it, but the impulse behind this has been provided less by intellectual curiosity than by the desire to see it prosper: British students have been themselves in the grip of the myth of the Commonwealth, which has become in Britain, along with much else, a totem which it is scarcely good form to examine with an innocent eye.

Hedley Bull is Assistant Lecturer in International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is engaged in research on the theory of international relations and on military and disarmament questions.