Rosemary Hollis, 1952-2020

A British academic pioneer in strategic studies, strongly focused on the Middle East region in all its contradictions, Professor Rosemary Hollis died aged 68 after an illness in early June.

Very well-informed, sometimes combative and often funny, Rosie in later years was best known for her work on – and support for – Palestinian issues, until 2016 as director of the Olive Tree Scholarship Programme, which awarded scholarships for exceptional Palestinian and Israeli students. Not one to pull the rank afforded by her distinguished academic resumé, she was nevertheless proud of being a woman who broke into the male bastions of strategic studies, opening the way for the changes that slowly followed in the most prestigious of institutions’ gender and ethnic balances.

Having left King’s London with an MA in war studies to join legendary advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi – an appointment which those who knew Rosie can only marvel at – she worked in PR and then took a Phd at George Washington University in the United States, before returning to the United Kingdom in 1990 to establish the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi)’s Middle East studies programme. In an obituary, Rusi observed that her early research achievements “included the publication of a seminal article which warned about the possibility of an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait a full few months before the 1990 invasion took place”.The Gulf region remained central to her wide-ranging academic interests and broad network of contacts.

She left Rusi in 1995 to take over the Middle East and North Africa programme at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), where Rosie’s tenure – which from 2005 was as director of research – was marked by creative projects (not least bringing belligerents together), inspiring research and sometimes by fighting internal battles. She left to join City University in March 2008, where she was professor of Middle East policy studies until she retired in 2018. A memorial page has been established.

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