International History since 1945 IR1200

This course is to introduce you to some of the key developments in international history from 1945 to the end of the Cold War era, including differing historical interpretations and debates over major events and episodes.

Attention will be given to relations between the United States, the Soviet Union, and the People’s Republic of China. The course will also explore the processes of European decolonization and the conflicts this generated; regional crises and key issues in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America; the dynamics of the nuclear arms race; the role of international institutions, including the UN system; and the increasing salience of social, environmental and human rights issues in international affairs

Topics covered

  • The emergence of, and responses to, anti-colonial resistance in the post-war European empires.
  • The emergence of Communist China and spread of Cold War tensions to Asia, including the Korean War.
  • The development of the nuclear arms race.
  • The development of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
  • Decolonization in Africa, and the persistence of white rule in southern Africa.
  • The social, environmental, and human rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

Learning outcomes

If you complete the course successfully, you should be able to:

  • explain the development of the Cold War, including the relationships between the United States, the Soviet Union, and China
  • understand the historical processes that lay behind European decolonization in the second half of the twentieth century
  • analyse key regional conflicts and crises in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America
  • appreciate the importance during the period of such phenomena as the growth of international institutions; the nuclear arms race and nuclear proliferation; and the emerging global human rights agenda
  • understand the processes that led to the end of the Cold war and debates over the kind of system that replaced it.


Three pieces of coursework consisting of two essays (2,000 words and 25% each) and one (4,000 word) essay worth 50% of the final mark.

Essential reading

  • Best, A., Hanhimaki, J., Maiolo, J., and Schulze, K., International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond, 3rd edition (Abingdon: Routledge, 2015).
  • Holland, R. F., European Decolonization 1918- 1981: An Introductory Survey (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1985).
  • Keylor, W. R., The Twentieth Century World and Beyond: An International History since 1900, 5th ed (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).
  • Westad, O. A, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

Course information sheets

Download the course information sheets from the LSE website.