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Trust and Cooperation in Relation to Nuclear Adversaries

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  • Full or part time
    Prof N J Wheeler
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

A PhD project with Professor Wheeler will study the role of trust in mitigating and eliminating nuclear rivalries. It will particularly focus on the relationship between trust and cooperation in international nuclear politics, as well as on the conditions under which trusting relationships develop. The use of case studies is welcomed (such as India and Pakistan, the US and the USSR, the West and Iran etc.).

There is a rich literature on trust in other fields – notably Philosophy, Sociology, and Psychology, but those who have addressed trust in these other fields have not considered the relevance of their work to building trust and cooperation between adversaries at the international level. At the same time, it is only recently that International Relations scholars have begun to take the concept of trust seriously (key works include Larson 1997; Kydd 2000, 2005; Hoffman 2006; Booth and Wheeler 2008; Rathbun 2011). There has been some work on trust in the related field of Peace Research (key works include Deutsch 1957; Mitchell 2000) but none of this work has been systematically applied to the challenge of building trust between nuclear (and potential nuclear) adversaries.

The project builds on the major three-year research project ‘The Challenges to Trust-building in Nuclear Worlds’ awarded by the UK’s Research Councils programme ‘Global Uncertainties: Security for All in a Changing World’. The project explored the contribution that multidisciplinary research on trust can make to opening up new policy options for promoting cooperation and security in the nuclear field.

Professor Wheeler is currently writing a book provisionally entitled Trusting Rivals. This is a key output of a 3-year ESRC/AHRC Fellowship on ‘The Challenges to Trust-Building in Nuclear Worlds (awarded under RCUK’s ‘Global Uncertainties: Security For All in a Changing World’ programme).

On the basis of these projects, Professor Wheeler would also welcome proposals which consider the contribution that other disciplines can make to understanding cooperation and trust at the international level.

For information about the University of Birmingham’s Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security (ICCS), please visit:

To find out more about Professor Wheeler’s work in the ICCS, and the experiences of one of the doctoral researchers whose work he supervises, please visit:

Funding Notes

The School of Government and Society and the College of Social Sciences have a limited number of competitive studentships available for PhD study. Details on studentships available at the University of Birmingham can be found at:

For details of the funding available and advice on making your application, please contact:
[email protected]


K. Booth and N. J. Wheeler, The Security Dilemma: Fear, Cooperation, and Trust in World Politics (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).

N. J. Wheeler, ‘Beyond Waltz’s nuclear world: more trust may be better’, International relations, 23 (3), pp. 428-445, 2009.

N. J. Wheeler, ‘“I had gone to Lahore with a message of goodwill but in return we got Kargil”: the promise and perils of “leaps of trust” in India-Pakistan relations’, India review, 9(3), pp. 319-344, 2010.

N. J. Wheeler, ‘Investigating diplomatic transformations’, International Affairs, 89(2), pp. 477-496, 2013.

N. J. Wheeler, Trusting Rivals: Alternative Paths to Security in the Nuclear Age (forthcoming, 2014).

How good is research at University of Birmingham in Politics and International Studies?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 47.07

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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