Not available in 2020/21
IR474      Half Unit
Revolutions and World Politics

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr George Lawson CBG.9.12


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

All students are required to obtain permission of the Teacher Responsible by completing the online application linked to LSE for You.  Admission to the course is not guaranteed.

Course content

Revolutions are often considered to be a 'side order' to the 'main course' of International Relations.  But as this course explores, the lack of attention paid to revolutions is a mistake - revolutions have played a major part in the making of the modern international order.  From the 'Atlantic Revolutions' of the late 18th and early 19th centuries to the 'colour revolutions' of the early 21st century, revolutions have been constitutive of notions of sovereignty, order, justice, and more.  Revolutions have also been tightly bound up with dynamics of war and peace.  This course explores both the theory and practice of revolutions, teasing out their effects and examining the prospects for revolutionary change in the contemporary world.

List of Topics:

Part 1: Thinking about revolutions

1. What are revolutions?

2. Key themes in the study of revolutions

3. Revolutions in world politics

Part 2: The experience of revolutions

4. The Atlantic 'age of revolutions'

5. Socialist revolutions

6. Reading week - session on the assessed essay

7. 'Third World' revolutions

8. The 'last great revolution'?

9. 'Colour' revolutions

Part 3 Revolution today

10. The Arab uprisings

11. Rethinking revolutions


10 hours of lectures, 20 hours of seminars and 4 hours of workshops in the MT.

The main aim of the course is to provide an opportunity for students to make informed judgements about how and in what ways revolutions have impacted on core features of modern international order.  Additional aims include assessment of the place of revolutions in the contemporary world and, more generally, the ability to connect theoretical arguments about revolutions with the substantive experience of revolutions.

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

Formative coursework

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

Formative essay 1,500 words. 

Indicative reading

Hannah Arendt, On Revolution (Penguin: 1963)

Colin Beck, Radicals, Revolutionaries and Terrorists (Polity: 2015)

Mlada Bukovansky, The American and French Revolutions in International Political Culture (Princeton: 2002)

John Foran, Taking Power (Cambridge: 2005)

Jeff Goodwin, No Other Way Out (Cambridge: 2001)

Fred Halliday, Revolution and World Politics (Palgrave: 1999)

Doug McAdam, Sidney Tarrow and Charles Tilley, Dynamics of Contention (Cambridge: 2001)

Daniel Ritter, The Iron Cage of Liberalism (Oxford: 2015)

Theda Skocpol, States and Social Revolution (Cambridge: 1979)

Stephen Walt, Revolutions and War (Cornell: 1996)


Essay (70%, 4000 words), presentation (15%) and blog post (15%) in the MT.

Students are expected to produce 10 weekly blog posts of 250 words.

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: 17

Average class size 2019/20: 17

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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