History and Theory in International Relations

A Research Group within the Centre for International Studies


The research group supports researchers at the LSE (and beyond) who work on ‘History and Theory in International Relations’ broadly construed. It seeks both to raise the profile of historical work in IR and to deepen the historical sensibility of IR scholarship more generally.


The group is run by:


Recent years have seen renewed interest in historically informed IR scholarship, and a turn to historical materials in the development of IR theory. The rise of constructivism, the reconvening of the English School, and the re-emergence of classical realism exemplify this trend in mainstream IR. Historical sociology, post-colonial approaches, ‘British School’ IPE, and Marxian inspired work speak to the influence of history within critical approaches to the subject. The increasing salience of conceptual history, intellectual history, critical historiography, the history of ideas, and the philosophy of history further fuel these dynamics. To some extent, we are all historians now.

Despite this (re)turn to history, there is little reflection within IR about what type of history is used – and sometimes abused – by theorists. Indeed, relatively little work in IR is explicitly historical. This means that IR scholarship often fails to take seriously issues of context and temporality. At the same time, a reliance on secondary sources means that IR scholarship often regurgitates historical canards, while few researchers attend to issues of source interpretation and historical method. If we are all historians now, it does not follow that we are very good historians.

This group has been launched to address these concerns. It seeks to build bridges between scholars in a variety of fields—from positivist political science to post-colonial theory, from historical sociology to the New Institutional Economics—who work at the nexus of history and IR. 


The main activities of the group include:

  1. speaker series designed to raise the profile of historical IR and to foster links with those in other universities who share similar interests

  2. brown bag lunch series for LSE staff and students to present work in progress, fostering intellectually informed networks around issues of history and theory

  3. The development of a summer workshop in historical methods for PhDs from around the world

2015 PhD Symposium

In June 2015, the group hosted a symposium for PhD students from a range of disciplines, studying at seven institutions in the UK and US, all working at the nexus of history, theory and international relations.

Read the report


If you would like more details of the group, please contact James Morrison.