Not available in 2015/16
IR463      Half Unit
The International Political Theory of Humanitarian Intervention

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Christopher Brown CLM 4.08


This course is available on the MSc in China in Comparative Perspective, MSc in Global Politics, MSc in Human Rights, MSc in International Migration and Public Policy, MSc in International Relations, MSc in International Relations (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in International Relations (Research), MSc in International Relations Theory, MSc in Political Theory and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

The course will involve both theoretical explorations of the nature and prehistory of 'humanitarianism' and empirical examples of claimed 'humanitarian interventions' (such as Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor) along with cases where it is claimed interventions should have taken place (such as Rwanda 1994) and others where humanitarianism has been combined with geo-strategic motivations. Notions of 'global social justice' as a response to the root causes of humanitarian disasters will be explored, along with the future of humanitarianism in the light of the changing global strategic architecture.

Watch a short introductory video on this course:


10 hours of lectures and 20 hours of seminars in the LT. 6 hours of seminars in the ST.

Formative coursework

1 x 2,000 word essay

Indicative reading

Michael Barnett Empire of Humanity: A History of Humanitarianism (2011); Michael Barnett & Thomas G Weiss Humanitarianism Contested (2011); Chandler, D. From Kosovo to Kabul: Human Rights and International Intervention (Pluto, 2002); Collier, P. The Bottom Billion (Oxford UP, 2007); Finnemore, M The Purpose of Intervention: Changing Beliefs about the Use of Force (Cornell UP, 2004); Forsythe, D. The Humanitarians (Cambridge UP, 2005); International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty The Responsibility to Protect (Ottawa, 2001); Hochschild, A. Bury the Chains: The British Struggle to Abolish Slavery (Pan Books, 2006); Kennedy, D. The Dark Side of Virtue: Reassessing International Humanitarianism (Princeton UP, 2004); Kouchner, B. Les Guerriers de la Paix (Bernard Grasset, 2004); Pogge, T. Freedom from Poverty as a Human Right (Columbia, 2007)


Exam (50%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (50%, 4000 words) in the MT.

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2014/15: Unavailable

Average class size 2014/15: Unavailable

Controlled access 2014/15: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information