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International relations


International relations is the study of an international system composed of territorial states which acknowledge no superior authority over matters which they consider of vital interest. It deals with the nature of the changing relations between states and with non-state actors. It studies the functioning of the international system - the forces, factors and interests, the customs, rules, institutions and organisations from which the theory and history of its development are formed.

Many study the programme for general interest or to lead to graduate study or research rather than in preparation for a career. However, a few students each year enter their country's diplomatic service and many more go into other branches of government and often reach senior positions. Others have taken up careers in international business and banking, in the media, or in international organisations.

Features of LSE courses

Our degrees aim to give you insight into how the international community works. You will study alongside students from a wide range of countries.

Questions of central interest to the programme are - why do states go to war and what impact does this have on the international system? Why, on the other hand, do they often cooperate and obey the law? What is meant by international integration and how do we explain regional developments like the European Union, or the re-emergence of the United Nations? We will also investigate the widely different characters and circumstances of states: the highly uneven distribution of money, welfare and knowledge has major implications for the foreign policies of states towards each other, and for the maintenance of international order.

Degree structure

You can take a single honours degree in our BSc International Relations, or study it as part of a joint honours degree in the BSc International Relations and History|.

Teaching and assessment

Each course involves a series of lectures supported by classes where you will meet in a smaller group with a member of staff.

You will have regular meetings with an academic adviser who will discuss your academic progress and any problems which you might have. The total teaching time amounts to around ten hours per week, as well as LSE100 teaching.

You will have examinations at the end of the first and second years for each of the four courses you have taken. There will also be four examinations at the end of the third year unless you take the opportunity to submit the 10,000 word dissertation for assessment on an approved topic of your choice.

Note: The International Relations Department reserves the right to withdraw courses with fewer than eight students registered.

Preliminary reading

If you wish to gain further insight into the subject we suggest that you look at one or more of the following books:

  • J Baylis, S Smith and P Owens (Eds) The Globalization of World Politics: an introduction to international relations (Oxford University Press, 2010)
  • C Brown, with K Ainley Understanding International Relations (Macmillan, 2009)
  • B Buzan and R Little International Systems in World History: remaking the study of international relations (Oxford University Press, 2000)
  • M Cox (Ed) E H Carr: a critical appraisal (Palgrave: 2000, paperback, 2004)
  • F Halliday Rethinking International Relations (Palgrave Macmillan, 1994)
  • F Halliday Revolution and World Politics (Macmillan, 1999)
  • D Held et al Global Transformations: politics, economics and culture (Polity Press, 1999)
  • R Jackson and G Sorensen An Introduction to International Relations (Oxford University Press, 1999)
  • M Nicholson International Relations (Macmillan, 1998)
  • J Young and J Kent International Relations since 1945: a global history (Oxford University Press, 2004)