RIP: Professor Robert Jackson

May 27, 2020

Robert Jackson, Professor Emeritus of International Relations and Political Science at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, passed away on March 11, 2020 after a battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife, Margaret, and his daughter, Jennifer.

Professor Jackson started his career teaching in East Africa for the Rockefeller Foundation and the University of Nairobi, not long after Kenya gained independence. Before he became a faculty member at Boston University, much of his career (1970-2001) was spent at the University of British Columbia. He served with great distinction in Boston University’s departments of Political Science and International Relations, now the Pardee School, from 2001 to 2012. Upon retiring from Boston University, Jackson and his wife Margaret moved to England to be near their daughter – a professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science – and her family.

“Bob Jackson was an enormously important scholar of international relations. As one of the leading writers of the ‘English School,’ he showed how legitimacy operated at the international level and the effects that it had on the behavior of states,” said said William Grimes, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of International Relations and Political Science at the Pardee School. “In particular, his work illuminated the meaning and boundaries of sovereignty. Bob was also an exceptionally kind and courteous person who never hesitated to extend himself to his students and colleagues.

Jackson authored/edited ten books, including Classical and Modern Thought on International Relations (2005) The Global Covenant (2000), Sovereignty at the Millennium(1999), Quasi-States (1990), and Personal Rule in Black Africa (1982). He has co-authored a widely adopted textbook: Introduction to International Relations: Theories and Approaches (2nd ed 2003).

He has been published in leading international journals, including World PoliticsInternational OrganizationPolitical StudiesReview of International StudiesMillennium, and Diplomacy & Statecraft.

“In building the International Relations program, we were immensely fortunate to recruit Bob Jackson as a senior member of the faculty, bringing great intellectual luster to a growing program,” said Erik Goldstein, Professor of International Relations and History at the Pardee School. “Bob already had an international reputation when he joined us, though as a colleague he was always modest and collegial.”

“Robert Jackson was a thoughtful scholar and engaging person with whom I had many long conversations about the nature of state sovereignty in a changing world,” said Vivien Schmidt, Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration and Professor of International Relations and Political Science at the Pardee School. “We didn’t always agree, but that made our discussions all the more enjoyable, as well as intellectually rewarding.”

Cathal Nolan, Professor of History and Director of the International History Institute at Boston University recalled:

I met Bob when I was on the faculty at the University of British Columbia before I came to Boston University in 1995. Soft spoken and gentlemanly, he was easily the most pleasant person in the Department and certainly was the nicest to me. He was already an internationally recognized and authentically original voice in IR theory when I first met him. He stayed on top of his field, writing and engaging in scholarly argument at the highest level. Yet, he remained refreshingly old-fashioned in his approach to teaching politics and international relations, so that students could actually understand and converse with him on wide-ranging topics of real, substantive import and interest.

At Boston University, Bob was an outstanding citizen. I knew him best as a regular attendee, and sometime presenter, at events hosted by the International History Institute, many of which ranged widely beyond his main interests but appealed to his omnivorous intellect. He was lively and engaging, laughing freely and often at the foibles and follies of the times and about what he saw as more certain verities of the human condition. I shall miss his wit and humor, and his wisdom.

Robert Jackson will be dearly missed by his family, his students, his colleagues, and his friends around the world.

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