Masters Admissions Advisor

Dr Joanna Lewis

At LSE you can study this subject at the UK's most established and well known department devoted to International History.


Email Dr Joanna Lewis here.

What is your field of history?

I am fascinated by the history of Africa’s interaction with the world. I have specialised in Britain’s contribution to this story from 1800 to the present day. I like my history without limits: so far I’ve studied British colonial rule; explorers and Victorian imperialism; African chiefs; violence, power, masculinity; and the role of emotion in history. Currently I am writing a history of the resilience of Somali women refugees post-conflict in the London diaspora.

Why are you interested in this subject and why is it important?

If you appreciate drama, intensity, beauty, tragedy and resilience, each at their most extreme, then you will understand why African history is so compelling. Africa has been at the centre of global, imperial and human history for millennia. It is one of the richest and diverse continents on the planet. But outcomes have often been disastrous for its people. And yet Africa’s relations with the outside world produced the first global human rights movement (anti-slavery)  and the world’s most influential and respected  humanitarian campaigner (Nelson Mandela). Unravelling these processes and paradoxes, which begin in the deep past, are major intellectual challenges which help us engage more meaningfully and compassionately with inequality and injustice in today’s world.

Why is it crucial to take an international perspective in studying history?

How nations have interacted and represented their interests - producing conflict or compromise, controls  or new freedoms - have arguably been the most important factors affecting  the world we live in today. Nations have enduring appeal and explanatory significance in our understanding of war, diplomacy and globalisation. But paradoxically this is also fundamentally a history without boundaries. For these interactions are driven by the fluid and continual movement of people, material goods, religious and non-religious ideas, technologies and symbols. And  today, all the major drivers of human behaviour which demand our attention, as never before, and threaten our very existence – humanitarian disasters, conflict, intolerance, environmental destruction, and resource exploitation – are histories without borders.

Why study international history at LSE?

At LSE you can study this subject at  the UK's most established and well known department devoted to International History. Traditionally the IH Department has pioneered the history of nation states, through global conflicts, supranational organisations and diplomacy. The latest approaches to the First world war, Second World, Cold War, US foreign policy, and European integration across the twentieth century can be studied here. But  the Department also reflects how the discipline has evolved. Regional specialists also include international historians of the Middle East, South Asia, China, Africa, Caribbean and Latin America. And last but by no means least, the Department has developed a strong presence in the history of imperialism, colonialism and globalisation. Students of whatever area of intellectual interest, can also find an added edge to their studies by taking advantage of the broader intellectual environment provided by being the world's number two ranked social science institute. LSE is home to some of the most dynamic research centres in the world and a line-up, each year,  of outside speakers unrivalled in influence. And all of this can be enjoyed on the most internationally diverse campus located at the centre of the world’s most cosmopolitan city.

What should a prospective student in International History at the LSE be reading?

General reading

  • Antony Best, Jussi Hanhimaki, Joe Maiolo, and Kirsten Schulze, International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond (Routledge, 2014 3rd edition)

Subject specific recommendations

  • Mark Mazower, Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century (1999)
  • Jeremy Friedman, Shadow Cold War: The Sino-Soviet Competition for the Third World (2015).
  • Elizabeth Economy, The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State (2019).
  • Hazel V Carby, Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands (Verso 2019)
  • Kristina Spohr, Post Wall, Post Square, How Bush, Gorbachev, Kohl, and Deng Shaped the World after 1989 (YUP, 2020)
  • O. A. Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (2011)
  • Desmond Dinan, ed, Origins and Evolution of the European Union (OUP, 2014) (for HY411)
  • David van Reybrouck Congo: The Epic History of a People (2014 edn)
  • Nelson Mandela, Conversations with Myself (2010)


  • C. A. Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World, 1780-1914: Global Connections and Comparisons (2004)
  • Pankaj Mishra, From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia (2012)
  • A Osiander, Sovereignty, International Relations and the Westphalian Myth, (2001)
  • Buzan and Lawson, The Global Transformation: the Nineteenth Century and the Making of International Relations (2015)
  • David Olusoga, Black and British: A forgotten History (latest edn)

MSc Theory and History of International Relations

  • Joseph Nye, Understanding International Conflicts (2006)
  • Chris Brown, Understanding International Relations (5th ed, 2019)

MSc International and Asian History

  • Sunil S. Amrith, Unruly Waters: How Mountain Rivers and Monsoons have shaped South Asia’s History (Penguin 2018)
  • Sunil S. Amrith, Crossing the Bay of Bengal: The Furies of Nature and the Fortunes of Migrants (Harvard University Press, 2015)
  • Antony Reid, A History of Southeast Asia: Critical Crossroads (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015)
  • M.C. Rikleffs (et al), A New History of Southeast Asia (Red Globe Press, 2010)
  • C. Tsuzuki, The Pursuit of Power in Modern Japan 1825-1995 (Oxford, 2000)
  • K.W. Larsen, Tradition, Treaties, and Trade: Qing Imperialism and Choson Korea, 1850-1910 (Cambridge, MA, 2008)
  • Frederick W. Mote, Imperial China, 900-1800 (Harvard University Press, 1999).
  • Frederic Wakeman, Jr. The Great Enterprise: The Manchu Reconstruction of Imperial Order in Seventeenth-Century China (University of California Press, 1985).
  • J.D. Spence, The Search for Modern China (3rd edition, New York, 2013)

And Joanna’s virtual beach-holiday reads for 2020

  • Petina Gappah, Out of Darkness, Shining Light (Faber, 2019)
  • Scott Ellsworth, The World Beneath Their Feet: the race to conquer the Himalayas (John Murray 2020)
  • Valerie Hansen, The Year 1000 (Viking, 2020)