Crisis Decision-Making in War and Peace 1914-2003

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof David Stevenson SAR 3.11 (MT) and Prof Anita Prazmowska (LT and ST)


This course is compulsory on the MSc in International Affairs (LSE and Peking University). This course is available on the MA in Asian and International History (LSE and NUS), MA in Modern History, 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.


The School aims to run in-person seminars, subject to circumstances, with some online provision if and where necessary. 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.

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 listen to the pre-recorded lectures for the undergraduate course HY116 International Politics since 1914.

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 on the HY400 Moodle. Students may consult the following introductory accounts: W. R. Keylor, The Twentieth-Century World and Beyond: an International History; A. Best, J. M. Hanhimäki, J. A. Maiolo, and K. E. Schulze, International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond; 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.


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours) in the summer exam period.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

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 Politics since 1914: Peace and War.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 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 differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching 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 2020/21: 87

Average class size 2020/21: 15

Controlled access 2020/21: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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