Crisis Decision-Making in War and Peace 1914-2003

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof David Stevenson SAR 3.11


This course is compulsory on the MSc in International Affairs (LSE and Peking University). This course is available on the MSc in History of International Relations, MSc in International and Asian History, MSc in International and World History (LSE & Columbia) 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.


The course is intended for students with or without a detailed knowledge of the international relations of the twentieth century. Students without a detailed knowledge are advised to undertake preliminary background reading.

Course content

The history of international relations from the First World War to the Iraq War. Particular stress is placed upon key turning points and on crisis decision-making. Topics examined in this course include German decision-making in 1914; peacemaking, 1919; the Ruhr occupation crisis; Manchuria, Abyssinia and the crises of collective security; the Munich agreement; the Nazi-Soviet Pact and the outbreak of war in 1939; Hitler's decision to invade the Soviet Union; the outbreak of the Pacific War; the creation of the state of Israel, 1948-49; the Berlin Blockade; the outbreak and escalation of the Korean War; the Suez Crisis; the Cuban Missile Crisis; the US and Vietnam, 1961-65; the Arab-Israeli Wars of 1967 and 1973; German reunification and the collapse of the Soviet bloc; the origins of the Gulf War, 1990-91; the road to the 2003 Iraq War.


Students will engage with seminar contect in large and small group meetings. There is one reading week in the MT and one in the LT. Students will be expected to read widely in documentary and other primary sources, and to participate actively in the seminars, which will address the historiographical debates raised in the secondary literature on the topics covered.

Formative coursework

Students will write three essays, each of up to 3,000 words in length, drawing upon primary sources. 

Indicative reading

Full bibliographies are provided in the seminars. Students may consult the following introductory accounts: W. R. Keylor, The Twentieth-Century World: an International History; A. Best, J. M. Hanhimäki, J. A. Maiolo, and K. E. Schulze, International History of the Twentieth Century; S.Marks, The Ebbing of European Ascendancy: an International History of the World, 1914-1945; Z. Steiner, The Lights that Failed: European International History, 1919-1933; Z. Steiner, The Triumph of the Dark: European International History, 1919-1939; R.W. Boyce and J. A. Maiolo (eds.), The Origins of World War Two: The Debate Continues; O. A. Westad, Reviewing the Cold War: Approaches, Interpretation, Theory; D. J. Reynolds, One World Divisible: a Global History since 1945; M. P. Leffler and O. A. Westad, eds, The Cambridge History of the Cold War. 


Take-home assessment (100%) in the ST.

Teachers' comment

This course has no designated lectures; it is taught through two-hour seminars.

Students wishing for a survey of the period and topics covered by the course are welcome to attend the undergraduate lecture course HY116 International History since 1890.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2019/20: 60

Average class size 2019/20: 12

Controlled access 2019/20: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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