Coral Mary Bell AO, who died in 2012, was one of the world’s foremost academic experts on international relations, crisis management and alliance diplomacy. This collection of essays by more than a dozen of her friends and colleagues is intended to honour her life and examine her ideas and, through them, her legacy.
Part 1 describes her growing up during the Great Depression and the Second World War, her short-lived sojourn in the Department of External Affairs in Canberra, where she was friends with some of the spies who worked for Moscow, and her academic career over the subsequent six decades, the last three of which were at The Australian National University.
Most of Coral’s academic career was spent in Departments of International Relations. She was disdainful of academic theory, but as discussed in Part 2, she had a very sophisticated understanding of the subject. She was in many ways a Realist, but one for whom agency, in terms of ideas (the beliefs and perceptions of policy-makers) and institutions (including conventions and norms of behaviour), essentially determined events.
Part 3 is concerned with power politics, including such matters as Cold War competitions, crisis management, alliance diplomacy, and US and Australian foreign policies. She recognised that power politics left untrammelled was inevitably catastrophic, and was increasingly attracted to notions of Concerts of Power.
‘Coral would be touched by this collection of essays about her professional and personal life. The contributors offer honest, professional and insightful reviews of her many academic achievements and especially her ideas, many of them the forerunners of others’ work, that makes her one of the very best international relations and strategic thinkers.’
— Dr. Pauline Kerr, Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy, The Australian National University
‘It’s a rare thing in an international relations expert to possess a balance of theory and experience, history and imagination, realism and hope. Coral had this, and she had a 19th-century prose style to match it. Through her writing she explained the chaos of international events and human affairs in simple and clear language to her baffled compatriots. For the rest of the world, she brought an antipodean temperament and perspective to the great questions of our time; she was our George Kennan in thick glasses, blue floral dress, white sneakers and a string of pearls.’
— Minh Bui Jones, The Lowy Interpreter, 5 October 2012