Theories of International Relations

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Fawaz Gerges CBG.10.03


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

It may not be combined with IR410 International Politics. 

Course content

This course examines the ways that different theories conceive, analyse and explain the character of international relations. The purpose of the course is to provide a thorough interrogation of these theories, exploring debates both within and between them. Theoretical approaches to be considered include: classical and neo-realism; liberal institutionalism and neo-liberalism; Marxism; constructivism; English School theory; critical theory; post-structuralism; and feminism. The course also interrogates issues relating to the philosophy of science and philosophy of history.

Watch a short introductory video on this course:


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

In line with IR departmental policy, students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6 of both MT and LT.

Formative coursework

Students are required to submit formative coursework and to deliver at least one formal seminar presentation. All students are expected to prepare for and participate in seminar discussions. 

Indicative reading

  • Chris Brown and Kirsten Ainley (2010) Understanding International Relations, 4th Ed. (Palgrave Macmillan);
  • Patrick Jackson (2010), The Conduct of Inquiry in International Relations, (London: Routledge);
  • Christian Reus-Smit and Duncan Snidal (eds, 2010), The Oxford Handbook of International Relations, (Oxford: Oxford University Press);
  • Scott Burchill et al (eds, 2009), Theories of International Relations, 4th ed. (London: Palgrave).


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

Student performance results

(2015/16 - 2017/18 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 31.6
Merit 58.9
Pass 6.3
Fail 3.2

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2018/19: 35

Average class size 2018/19: 12

Controlled access 2018/19: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Problem solving
  • Communication