International Politics

This information is for the 2018/19 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Peter Wilson


This course is compulsory on the MSc in International Relations and MSc in International Relations (LSE and Sciences Po). This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

This course has 5 objectives: (i) to enquire into the nature of international politics and the role of general theory in advancing our understanding of it; (ii) to introduce the main contributions to the general theory of international politics; (iii) to provide students with a range of concepts, ideas, and perspectives to enable them to widen and deepen their understanding of international politics; (iv) to encourage critical, independent, thought; (v) to ascertain the extent to which progress has been made in our understanding of international politics, and more tentatively to what degree international politics itself can be deemed intrinsically or latently progressive. The primary pedagogical device of the course is a close reading of 13 seminal IR texts.  Students are encouraged to investigate the epistemological assumptions underlying these texts, the methods of analysis they employ, their importance in the canon of IR, and their value for thinking about international politics today.


10 hours of lectures and 13 hours and 30 minutes of seminars in the MT. 7 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the LT. 1 hour and 30 minutes of seminars in the ST.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students deliver seminar papers and write three 2,000-word essays for their seminar teachers on topics notified at the beginning of the session.

Indicative reading

H. Bliddal. C. Sylvest and P. Wilson (eds.) Classics of International Relations: Essays in Criticism and Appreciation (2013)

E. H. Carr, The Twenty Years’ Crisis, 1919-1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations (1939)

V. Woolf, Three Guineas (1938)

H. J. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace (1948)

H. Bull, The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics (1977)

K. N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (1979)

R. Cox, ‘Social Forces, States, and World Orders: Beyond International Relations Theory’ (1981)

M. Doyle, ‘Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs: Parts 1 & 2’, Philosophy and Public Affairs (1983)

R.J. Vincent, Human Rights and International Relations (1986)

C. Enloe, Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics (1989)

A. Wendt, ‘Anarchy is what States Make of it: The Social Construction of Power Politics’, International Organization (1992)

D. Campbell, Writing Security: United States Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity (1992)

S. Huntington, ‘The Clash of Civilizations?’ Foreign Affairs (1993)

J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (2001).


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

The paper contains about 12 questions, of which three are to be answered.

Student performance results

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 14.3
Merit 56
Pass 27.3
Fail 2.3

Teachers' comment

IR410 is organized around texts that have had a major influence on general thinking in IR since it became established as an academic field around the time of the First World War.  The primary reading for each week consists of a seminal text, usually a book but in a few cases a major article. The secondary reading consists of appraisals, critiques, competing and contextualizing texts. The syllabus of the course covers: war, peace, order, justice, security, intervention, human rights, gender, etc. 

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2017/18: 94

Average class size 2017/18: 14

Controlled access 2017/18: Yes

Lecture capture used 2017/18: Yes (MT & LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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