International Political Theory

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Martin Bayly CBG 9.13


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 available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

This course has a limited number of places (it is capped).


Students must have completed International Relations: Theories, Concepts and Debates (IR100).

Course content

This course offers an introduction to the history of international political theory (IPT). The course deals with debates and themes prompted by classical thinkers and considers their location within the existing IR canon including realism, liberalism, feminist, and postcolonial theory. The course also broadens this purview to consider how ‘classical’ international thought has been adopted, adapted, and critiqued by more recent thinkers, including those situated outside of the ‘west’. Students will be encouraged to consider how international thought sits within global intellectual history, the impact of world political events on IPT, and its enduring relevance. Topics covered will include sovereignty, the state, and war; international government, empire, and decolonization; gender, race, and class.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totaling a minimum of 40 hours across Michaelmas Term and Lent Term.

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

Formative coursework

Students are required to write two essays of a maximum length of 1,500 words each to be set and marked by class teachers. They are also expected to give at least one class presentation.

Indicative reading

D. Armitage, Foundations of Modern International Thought; E. Keene, International Political Thought: A Historical Introduction; S. Burchill, Theories of International Relations; R. Shilliam, International Relations and Non-Western Thought; I. Kant, Kant’s Political Writings; E. H. Carr, The Twenty Years’ Crisis; B. K. Sarkar, The Futurism of Young Asia; R. Vitalis, White World Order, Black Power Politics: The Birth of American International Relations


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

Student performance results

(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)

Classification % of students
First 34.9
2:1 54.2
2:2 9.4
Third 1
Fail 0.5

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2021/22: 83

Average class size 2021/22: 14

Capped 2021/22: Yes (84)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

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