Of Jewish descent, Freedman was educated at Whitley Bay Grammar School, the Victoria University of Manchester (BA), University of York (BPhil), and University of Oxford, where he was a student of Nuffield College (Fellow 1974–75) and the Faculty of Social Studies. His DPhil thesis, submitted in 1975, was The definition of the Soviet threat in strategic arms decisions of the United States: 1961–1974. He also then held a part-time lectureship at Balliol College.
Freedman held positions at the International Institute for Strategic Studies and Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) before he was appointed, in 1982, Professor of War Studies at King's College London. He was head of the War Studies until 1997. In 2000, he was the first head of the College’s School of Social Science and Public Policy. From 2003 to December 2013, he was a Vice Principal at King's College London. He retired from King’s in December 2014. He was appointed a Fellow of the College in 1992. He was appointed a Visiting Professor at the University of Oxford in the Blavatnik School of Government in 2015.
Freedman's principal areas of interest include contemporary defence and foreign policy issues. He has written extensively on nuclear strategy and the cold war, as well as commentating regularly on contemporary security issues, and provides book reviews for Foreign Affairs. His recent books include an Adelphi Paper on The Revolution in Strategic Affairs, an edited book on Strategic Coercion, an illustrated book on the Cold War, a collection of essays on British defence policy and Kennedy's Wars that covers the major crises of the early 1960s over Berlin, Cuba and Vietnam. Kennedy's Wars was a Silver Medal Winner of the Arthur Ross Prize, awarded by the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. In addition, a book on deterrence was published in 2004. A Choice of Enemies: America Confronts the Middle East (New York: PublicAffairs, 2008), won the 2009 Lionel Gelber Prize and the 2009 Duke of Westminster's Medal for Military Literature. Strategy: A History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013) was named as one of the best books of 2013 by the Financial Times and was awarded the W J McKenzie Book Prize by the Political Studies Association.
Honours and awards
Freedman was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1995 and appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1996 and Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George in 2003.
In January 2006, he was awarded the Chesney Gold Medal by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) to mark a lifelong distinguished contribution in the defence and international security fields. The citation read:
‘…Under his supervision, generations of students, as well as officers in Her Majesty's Forces learnt about the changing nature of war, and Britain's military history.
In his early academic career, Professor Freedman concentrated on the Soviet strategic threat, Britain's nuclear deterrent and the evolution of the trans-Atlantic Alliance.
As the Cold War ended, Professor Freedman was one of the prime movers in the growing debate about European security arrangements, as well as the new and emerging threats of terrorism and failed states. In all his contributions, he has combined erudition with a sympathetic view of the challenges facing Britain's Armed Forces, thereby enlightening a generation and more, in Britain and abroad, about the challenges facing us, and the appropriate role which the military can play to overcome them…'
His other awards include Distinguished Scholar Award from the International Security Studies Section of the US International Studies Association (2007) and the first George G Bell Award for strategic studies leadership from the Canadian International Council (2008).
- "The Special Relationship, then and now". Foreign Affairs. May/June 2006.
- Freedman, Lawrence (2013). Strategy: A History. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-932515-3.
- Freedman, Lawrence (4 October 2018). Nuclear Deterrence. illus. Duncan Smith. London: Ladybird Books. ISBN 978-0-7181-8889-4.
- DeGroot, Gerard (13 December 2013). "'Strategy: A History' by Lawrence Freedman". The Washington Post. Katharine Weymouth. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
- Corn, Tony (9 September 2006). "Clausewitz in Wonderland". RealClearPolitics. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
- "Biography of Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman". Iraq Inquiry. Retrieved 25 November 2009.
- Miles, Oliver (22 November 2009). "Oliver Miles: The key question – is Blair a war criminal?". The Independent. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
- OLIS web OPAC Archived 12 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine, University of Oxford.
- Debrett's People of Today (2009).
- "Visiting Scholars and Practitioners - Lawrence Freedman". Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford. Retrieved 7 September 2020.
- "Chicago speech memo" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 May 2014.
- "Letter Freedman wrote to John Chilcot explaining his role in the Chicago speech" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 April 2016.
- "Current research & consultancy projects: Lawrence Freedman". King's College London. Retrieved 25 November 2009.
- "Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman". King's College London. Retrieved 25 November 2009.
- "Authors: Lawrence D. Freedman". Foreign Affairs.
- "Past Winners of the Arthur Ross Book Award". Council on Foreign Relations.
- "Biography: Lawrence Freedman". King's College London. Retrieved 25 November 2009.
- "Books of the Year". Financial Times.
- "W.J.M Mackenzie Book Prize: Past Winners" (PDF). Political Studies Association.
- "No. 54427". The London Gazette. 14 June 1996. p. 8.
- Oxford University Strategic Studies Group (OUSSG)
- "No. 56797". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2002. p. 3.
- "Gold medal for Sir Lawrence". King's College London.
- "International award for King's VP". King's College London.
- "First Annual George G. Bell Strategic Leadership Award". Canadian International Council.[permanent dead link]
- "Biography of Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman". The Iraq Inquiry.
- "Judith Freedman". University of Oxford. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
- "Sam Freedman". Teach First. Archived from the original on 21 August 2016. Retrieved 10 July 2016.
- Christopher Clark, "'This Is a Reality, Not a Threat'" (review of Lawrence Freedman, The Future of War: A History, Public Affairs, 2018, 376 pp.; and Robert H. Latiff, Future War: Preparing for the New Global Battlefield, Knopf, 2018, 192 pp.), The New York Review of Books, vol. LXV, no. 18 (22 November 2018), pp. 53–54.
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