Introduction to international relations IR1011

This is the level 100 course on which subsequent and more specialised courses in the area of international relations are based.

Topics covered

  • The evolution of IR during the twentieth century
  • The impact of key historical events on the development of the discipline, including the Peace of Westphalia, European Imperialism, and the First World War
  • Changes to the international system since end of the Cold War
  • The history of globalization and its influence on the evolution of the discipline’s main theories and concepts
  • The meaning of anarchy and systems in IR’s understanding of the world
  • Some of the similarities and differences between mainstream approaches to IR – particularly Liberalism, Realism, and Marxism
  • Alternative theories of world politics presented by some of IR’s newer theoretical schools – particularly Constructivism, Post-colonialism, and International Political Economy
  • The difficulties implicit in defining and limiting war between and within states
  • The contentious place of peace in international society
  • The role and responsibilities of the state as one actor amongst many in the international system
  • Our changing understanding of international power
  • The impact of globalization and the end of the Cold War on actors’ definitions of security
  • The difficulties of global governance in an anarchic international society
  • The likely impact of Asia’s (especially China’s) rise on the units, processes, and structures of the international system. 

Learning outcomes

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

  • Describe the evolution of International Relation as an academic discipline
  • Explain the relevance of key terms in International Relations
  • Identify the strengths and weaknesses of IR’s various theoretical approaches
  • Analyse contemporary and historical international events from a variety of theoretical viewpoints.


Unseen written exam (3 hr). 

Essential reading

  • Baylis, J. and S. Smith (eds). The Globalization of World Politics: an Introduction to International Relations. 5 th Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2010
  • Griffiths, M. T. O’Callaghan and S.C. Roach. International relations: the key concepts. Abingdon: Routledge, 2007. Second edition [ISBN 9780415774376].
  • Galtung, Johan ‘Violence, Peace and Peace Research’. Journal of Peace Research (6:3). 1969. Pp. 166-91.
  • Hirst, Paul. ‘The eighty years’ crisis, 1919-1999 – power’. Review of International Studies (24:5). 1998. Pp. 133- 148.
  • Hobbes, Thomas, and Edwin Curley. Leviathan: with selected variants from the Latin edition of 1668. Vol. 8348. Hackett Publishing, 1994.
  • Human Security Report Project. Human Security Report 2009/2010: the causes of peace and the shrinking costs of war. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. [ISBN 9780199860814].
  • Medcalfe, R & R. Heinrichs. Crisis and Confidence: major powers and maritime security in Indo-Pacific Asia. Double Bay, Australia: Longueville Media, 2011. [ISBN 9780987057051]
  • Xiang, L. ‘China and the “Pivot”’, Survival 54(5) October-November 2012, pp. 113-128.

Course information sheets

Download the course information sheets from the LSE website.