International Security

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Anne Getmanski CBG.8.05


This course is available on the BSc in International Relations, BSc in International Relations and Chinese, BSc in International Relations and History and BSc in Politics and International Relations. This course is not available as an outside option. This course is available to General Course students.

Course content

This course tackles questions of war, peace and security from an analytical perspective, by highlighting changes and continuities in international security. What are the causes and consequences of war? What explains the use of violence for the resolution of inter and intra-state disputes? Does the liberal order promote peace and stability? What are the implications of changes in the distribution of power and the world? What renders the threat of force credible? Can intervention in civil wars ever curb violence and bring about peace? Do nuclear weapons make the world less safe? We address these questions through a combination of theoretical discussions and contemporary policy debates. The first half of the course reviews the major theoretical frameworks that have been used to explain the causes of war on the world stage, as well as its character and duration in the international and domestic arenas. We use these theoretical frameworks as a lens through which to examine problems of war and peace, and threats to individual, national and international security in the contemporary era. The second half of the course turns to questions of security more generally. We examine political violence, terrorism, insurgency, humanitarian emergencies, climate change, and other threats to individual and collective security.


10 hours of lectures and 9 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT.

Students will be expected to contribute to class discussions and present papers each week.

In line with departmental policy, students on the course will have a reading week in Week 6.

Formative coursework

Students will submit one formative essay which they may use to develop ideas for their summative essay. Students will also make class presentations and distribute short summaries of the readings to the class in preparation for the exam

Indicative reading

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, "Principles of International Politics," 5th edition (Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ Press, 2014)

John J. Mearsheimer, "Structural Realism," in Tim Dunne, Milja Kurki, and Steve Smith, eds.,International Relations Theories: Discipline and Diversity, 3rd Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 77-93.

Robert M. Axelrod, "The Evolution of Cooperation," (Basic Books, 1985)

Erica Chenoweth and Pauline L. Moore, "The Politics of Terrorism," (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018)

Tanisha M. Fazal, "Wars of Law," (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2018)



Exam (50%, duration: 2 hours) in the summer exam period.
Essay (50%, 2500 words) in the LT.

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2018/19: 132

Average class size 2018/19: 15

Capped 2018/19: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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