International Security

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Anna Getmansky 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 with permission 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.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totaling a minimum of 40 hours across Michaelmas Term and Lent Term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online lectures and in-person classes/classes delivered online. This course includes a reading week in Week 6 in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students will submit one formative essay (up to 1,500 words) which they may use to develop ideas for their summative essay. Students will also complete two online quizzes (one per term) in preparation for the exam. In addition, each student once per term will circulate to the class using Moodle a written summary and discussion points (up to 1 page) based on the assigned readings.

Indicative reading

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

James Fearon. 1995. Rationalist Explanations for War. International Organization 49(3):379-414.

Jessica Weeks. 2012. Strongman and Straw Men: Authoritarian Regimes and the Initiation of International Conflict. American Political Science Review 106(2):326-347.

Michael Tomz and Jessica Weeks. 2013. Public Opinion and the Democratic Peace. American Political Science Review 107(4):849-865.

Elizabeth Saunders. 2018. Leaders, Advisors, and the Political Origins of Elite Support for war. Journal of Conflict Resolution 62(10):2118-2149.

Zeynep Bulutgil. 2019. Prewar Domestic Conditions and Civilians in War. Journal of Global Security Studies (Review Essay).

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


Exam (40%, duration: 2 hours) in the summer exam period.
Essay (60%, 2500 words) in the LT.

Student performance results

(2017/18 - 2019/20 combined)

Classification % of students
First 22.5
2:1 63.6
2:2 11.9
Third 0.8
Fail 1.2

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 Relations

Total students 2019/20: 127

Average class size 2019/20: 12

Capped 2019/20: Yes (140)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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