Paul Wilkinson, 1937-2011

September 8, 2011

A leading international expert on terrorism, equally adept at offering his insights to academic audiences, policymakers or the public, has died.

Paul Wilkinson was born in Harrow, Middlesex and studied for a BA and an MA in modern history and politics at University College Swansea (now Swansea University), before serving in the Royal Air Force for six years. Embarking on an academic career in 1966, he rose through the ranks at University of Wales, Cardiff (now Cardiff University) to become reader in politics.

He moved to the University of Aberdeen as its first professor of international relations in 1989. A decade later, he found a permanent home at the University of St Andrews, where he was appointed to a similar position and then made head of the institution's new department of international relations.

Although he retained a general interest in the discipline and published a book titled International Relations: A Very Short Introduction in 2007, Professor Wilkinson was one of the first scholars to develop a specialist interest in terrorism and how to combat it, always maintaining that it was crucial for democracies to maintain civil rights and the rule of law while doing so. His first book on the subject, Political Terrorism, appeared in 1974 and was followed by many more.

Frequently called upon for media comment - from the time of the IRA bombings until the recent killings in Norway - Professor Wilkinson was consulted by the Department of Transport after the Lockerbie bombing in 1988 and acted as an adviser to Lord Lloyd of Berwick's inquiry, which eventually led to the Terrorism Act 2000.

His guidance was also sought by many other governments - and he once took part in a seminar with the Dalai Lama.

St Andrews' pioneering Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, which he co-founded in 1994, is still regarded as one of the most authoritative bodies in the field.

For Ali Watson, professor of international relations at St Andrews, Professor Wilkinson was "a true gentleman and a very gentle man...Many students have been attracted to study international relations, as I was myself, by the sight of Paul's calm demeanour - and occasional cream suit." He gave insights into why terrorist atrocities take place and counsel on the best responses to them, she said.

Professor Watson added: "Many of those same students were inspired to follow in his footsteps, ensuring that Paul's legacy continues for future generations."

Professor Wilkinson died after a heart attack on 11 August. He is survived by his wife Susan, two sons and a daughter.

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