International History since 1890

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Sonke Neitzel E603


This course is compulsory on the BSc in International Relations and BSc in International Relations and History. This course is available on the BA in History, BSc in Economic History and BSc in Government and History. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

The history of international relations from the 1890s through the 1990s. The course emphasises the changing character of international politics over the course of the 'long twentieth century', and aims to equip students with a comprehensive knowledge of international politics since 1890, to provide the factual grounding and conceptual apparatus necessary to understand the contemporary world, and to gain a sense of how some of the main historiographical debates have developed over the last few decades. Lectures and classes fall into six distinct chronological and analytical phases. The first segment covers the 'globalization' of the European balance-of-power system after 1890 through the advent of extra-European great powers: Russia-in-Asia, Japan, and the United States, and the crisis and collapse of the system in the First World War. The second segment covers the failure of both attempts to tame the resulting chaos: Wilson's new vision of international politics and British and French efforts to reconstitute the 1914 world. The consequences of failure, the successful revolt against world order of four discontented powers, Imperial Japan, Fascist Italy, National Socialist Germany, and the Soviet Union, and the outbreak of the 'second round of the German War', close the third phase. The fourth phase opens with the expansion of European war into global war and closes with the birth of a bipolar world dominated by the United States and the USSR. The ensuing era of superpower rivalry forms the fifth segment; themes covered include the origins of the Cold War in both Europe and Asia, decolonisation, European unity, the 'American war' in Vietnam, and the rise and fall of superpower détente. The final phase of the course examines the causes and consequences of the collapse of the Soviet empire, the rising power of China; and the patterns of international disorder in the post-Cold War era.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 1 hour of lectures and 2 hours of classes in the ST.

Formative coursework

Students will be required to write three 2,000-word essays during the course of the year, two in MT and one in LT, from topics designated in the course reading list, and in addition to complete a one-hour mock examination in ST. Essays and mock examination do not form part of the final course Assessment. But they are required components of the course, and students must complete them in order to be admitted to the course examination.

Indicative reading

A detailed course outline and reading list, subdivided by weekly topics, will be provided at the first lecture, and will also be found, along with other course materials, in the public folders. The following works offer useful background; students should consider reading one or two of them in advance: W R Keylor, The Twentieth Century World: an International History; C J Bartlett, The Global Conflict, 1880-1970; D Stevenson, The First World War and International Politics; P M H Bell, The Origins of the Second World War in Europe; Akira Iriye, The Origins of the Second World War in Asia and the Pacific; J P Dunbabin, International Relations since 1945 (2 vols).


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2012/13: 153

Average class size 2012/13: 14

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

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