Not available in 2020/21
IR454      Half Unit
Governing International Political Economy: Lessons from the Past for the Future

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr James Morrison 95 ALD 1.14


This course is available on the MSc in International Political Economy, MSc in International Political Economy (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in International Political Economy (Research), MSc in International Relations, MSc in International Relations (LSE and Sciences Po) and MSc in International Relations (Research). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

History has always been central to the study and practice of international political economy. The most influential scholars and practitioners of international political economy have repeatedly turned to history both to explain, and to offer a fresh perspective on, the great challenges of their day. This course is designed to help students cultivate that invaluable skill and habit of mind.

Proceeding from the seventeenth century to the present, it examines:

- seminal theorists' particular treatments of international political economy

- the ongoing, timeless debate between these theorists

- the major shifts in the global economic order

- the interaction between theories and policy in each shift

The course begins with mercantilism and the ‘age of empires.’ It then explores the great critics of mercantilism—Adam Smith and David Hume—and the relationship between their critique and the revolutions in IPE that followed. It goes on to analyse the rise of so-called ‘English’ political economy and the ‘First Era of Globalisation’ in the 19th Century.

The course then pivots to consider two major challenges to this hegemony of thought and practice. First, it traces the development of socialism from an internal critique through the writings of Marx & Engels to an instantiated alternative system in the early Soviet Union. Second, it considers the German Historical School’s return to mercantilism and the ascent of the American Empire onto the global stage. The clash of empires then leads to the cataclysm of the First World War.

In the interwar period, the course analyses the failed attempts to restore the global order. It analyses the radical challenge posed by fascist political economy. It also considers the variety of responses issued by different types of liberals. The course then transitions into a discussion of the several postwar orders, from Keynes’s neoliberal institutionalism to Gandhi’s rejection of Eurocentric political economy.

Last, the course turns to the modern era. It analyses the trajectories of the postwar global trade and financial systems. It then turns to contemporary issues, such as the post-Cold War order, the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, and the rise of emerging markets.


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the MT.

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

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay and 2 presentations in the MT.

Indicative reading

Thomas Munn. England's Treasure by Forraign Trade. 

Adam Smith. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.

Karl Marx. Communist Manifesto.

JM Keynes. General Theory of Employment, Interest, & Money.

Gandhi, Mohandas K. Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule.


Essay (100%, 2000 words) in the LT.

Student performance results

(2016/17 - 2018/19 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 11.7
Merit 65
Pass 22.5
Fail 0.8

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: Unavailable

Average class size 2019/20: Unavailable

Controlled access 2019/20: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication