Elie Kedourie (1926-92) taught politics and history at the London School of Economics for most of his life. He had, indeed, studied there as an undergraduate, having left his native Baghdad as part of the post-1948 Jewish exodus from Arab lands. After a brief period in Oxford, he returned to the LSE in 1953 and stayed until his retirement.
Kedourie was essentially a scholar, but contingently a guru or pundit. Although his ideal life would have been spent conversing with students in scholarly obscurity, his moral convictions, sense of public responsibility, and the fact that his academic interests closely bordered hot issues of the day, particularly the Middle East, drew him into wider concerns. That he transformed our understanding of nationalism is widely understood, though also disputed. Less recognised is the clear-headedness that he brought to public affairs.
A central feature of Kedourie's grasp of human reality lay in his relentless attention to the fact that human beings act in terms of the beliefs they hold. Those beliefs are uncertain, tinged with urgency, and constantly in flux. This made him critical of those who thought they had found some determining structure, revealing the way things were going. He had as little time for French Annales history as for Marxism. He rejected these views for the simple logical reason that no one could - or ever did - manage to explain the precise steps leading from analysis to the -actual decisions studied by the historian. -Kedourie could hardly conceal his derision in dealing with historical actors who thought that their decisions merely responded to the inevitable processes of history.