Not available in 2013/14
IR438      Half Unit
Theory of International Society: The English School and its Critics

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Peter Wilson CLM 5.10


This course is available on the MSc in International Relations, MSc in International Relations (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in International Relations (Research) and MSc in International Relations Theory. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

All students are required to obtain permission from the Teacher Responsible by completing the online application form linked to course selection on LSE for You. Admission is not guaranteed.

Course content

A critical examination of the core ideas and debates of the English school (ES) of International Relations. The idea of international society and the formal structure of that society as depicted by Bull, Wight, James and other leading ES scholars. The dynamics of and challenges to international society as articulated by Vincent, Watson, Buzan among others. The pluralist-solidarist debate. The institutions of international society. The relationship between international and world society. Diplomacy. Order. Human rights, sovereignty and intervention. English School Methods. Watch a short introductory video on this course:


2 hours of lectures and 18 hours of seminars in the LT. 2 hours of lectures in the ST.

2 hour (introductory) lecture in week 1 of Lent Term. 9 x 2 hour seminars commencing in week 2 of Lent Term. 2 hour (concluding) lecture in week 1 of Summer Term.

Formative coursework

Two x 2,000 word essays

Indicative reading

T. Dunne, Inventing International Society: A History of the English School (1998); A. Linklater and H. Suganami, The English School of International Relations: A Contemporary Reassessment (2006);C. A. W. Manning, The Nature of International Society (1962); H. Bull, The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics (1977); P. Sharp, Diplomatic Theory of International Relations (2009); A. James, Sovereignty: The Basis of International Society (1986); R. J. Vincent, Human Rights and International Relations (1986); J. Mayall, Nationalism and International Society (1990); A. Watson, The Evolution of International Society (1992); B. Buzan, From International to World Society (2004); R. Little, The Balance of Power in International Relations (2007).


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.

Student performance results

(2009/10 - 2010/11 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 11.1
Merit 44.4
Pass 44.4
Fail 0

Teachers' comment

Despite the long standing connection between the English School approach and the IR Department at LSE this specialist course is relatively new. It came into being in 2009/10 but due to sabbatical leave has been available for only two years. The course was updated and substantially revised for 2013/14. Prospective students should bear in mind that the statistics available for this course are based on a small data set.

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2012/13: Unavailable

Average class size 2012/13: Unavailable

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills