Quincy Wright

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Quincy Wright
Quincy Wright, circa 1940
Quincy Wright, circa 1940
Born(1890-12-28)December 28, 1890
Medford, Massachusetts, United States
DiedOctober 17, 1970(1970-10-17) (aged 79)
Charlottesville, Virginia, United States
Occupationprofessor, Political scientist
GenreWar, International law

Philip Quincy Wright (December 28, 1890 – October 17, 1970) was an American political scientist based at the University of Chicago known for his pioneering work and expertise in international law and international relations. Daniel Gorman argues that Wright played a major role in transforming international law "from a set of guidelines by which states governed their interactions to a tool for enacting peaceful change in international relations."[1] He is also a pioneer in the field of security studies.[2]


Born in Medford, Massachusetts, Wright received his B.A. from Lombard College in 1912.[3] He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois in 1915. He also received an LL.D. He taught at Harvard University and the University of Minnesota before joining the department of social sciences at the University of Chicago in 1923.[4] In 1927, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[5] He was one of the co-founders of Chicago's Committee On International Relations in 1928, the first graduate program in international relations established in the United States. In addition to his academic work, Wright was an adviser to Justice Robert H. Jackson at the Nuremberg Trials, and often provided advice to the U.S. State Department. During World War II, Wright was a consultant in the U.S. State Department.[6] In 1956 he became Professor of International Law in the Woodrow Wilson Department of Foreign Affairs at the University of Virginia. He retired in 1961 and became a visiting professor at numerous universities, both within the United States and abroad, including, Tsing Hua University in Beijing, Geneva, Mexico, Cuba, the Hague and Turkey.

Quincy Wright in 1909

Throughout his career Wright served as president of several scholarly bodies, including the American Association of University Professors (1944–1946), the American Political Science Association (1948–1949), the International Political Science Association (1950–1952), and the American Society of International Law (1955–1956). He was a member of the editorial board of the American Association of International Law from 1923 until his death. He was also active in the U.S. United Nations Association. See Eleanor R. Finch, "Quincy Wright, 1890–1970" (obituary), The American Journal of International Law 65 (January 1971): 130–131.

Wright's father was the economist Philip Green Wright and his brothers were the geneticist Sewall Wright and the aeronautical engineer Theodore Paul Wright.

Academic work[edit]

During the 1920s, the horrors of World War I were foremost in the thoughts of many social scientists. Soon after his arrival at Chicago, Wright organized an ongoing interdisciplinary study of wars, which eventually resulted in over 40 dissertations and 10 books. Wright summarized this research in his magnum opus A Study of War (1942).

According to Karl Deutsch of Harvard University,

War, to be abolished, must be understood. To be understood, it must be studied. No one man worked with more sustained care, compassion, and level-headedness on the study of war, its causes, and its possible prevention than Quincy Wright. He did so for nearly half a century, not only as a defender of man's survival, but as a scientist. He valued accuracy, facts, and truth more than any more appealing or preferred conclusions; and in his great book, A Study of War, he gathered, together with his collaborators, a larger body of relevant facts, insights, and far-ranging questions about war than anyone else has done. (Deutsch 1970).

Wright's study of warfare inspired many social scientists and his database of wars is an indispensable resource for anyone seriously interested in quantitative studies of human conflicts.

Other than A Study of War, Wright published a further 20 books and nearly 400 journal articles during his career. Several of his books became standard texts, including Mandates Under the League of Nations (1930) and The Study of International Relations (1955).

Wright was a prominent legal expert on the mandates system.[7] While conducting research for Mandates Under the League of Nations (1930), which was funded by a Guggenheim Foundation grant, Wright visited Damascus less than two weeks after it had been shelled during the Great Syrian Revolt.[7] His experiences in Damascus shaped his views on the mandates system and colonialism. Wright rebutted notions that Syrians were barbarians who could not govern themselves. He argued that the Syrian rebels were a state in the making and that French actions to repress the Syrians were a "policy of terrorism" and war crimes.[7]

Selected publications[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gorman, 2017, p 336.
  2. ^ Baldwin, David A. (1995). "Security Studies and the End of the Cold War". World Politics. 48 (1): 117–141. doi:10.1353/wp.1995.0001. ISSN 0043-8871. JSTOR 25053954. S2CID 154382276.
  3. ^ Fox, William T. R. (1970). ""The Truth Shall Make You Free": One Student's Appreciation of Quincy Wright". Journal of Conflict Resolution. 14 (4): 449–452. doi:10.1177/002200277001400404. JSTOR 173343. S2CID 145055233.
  4. ^ "Quincy Wright | American political scientist | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved January 16, 2022.
  5. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter W" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
  6. ^ Walker, Harvey (1945). "Political Scientists and the War". American Political Science Review. 39 (3): 574. doi:10.2307/1949538. ISSN 0003-0554.
  7. ^ a b c Pedersen, Susan (2015). The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire. Oxford University Press. pp. 149–150. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199570485.001.0001/acprof-9780199570485. ISBN 978-0-19-957048-5.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]