International Security

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Anne Getmanski 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 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).

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 totalling a minimum of 40 hours across Michaelmas Term and Lent Term. This course includes a reading week in Week 6 in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students will submit one formative essay in MT and one formative essay in LT, each essay up to 1,500 words.. Detailed explanations and requirements will be posted on Moodle at the beginning of the academic year.

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)


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

Student performance results

(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)

Classification % of students
First 28
2:1 53.2
2:2 16
Third 1.8
Fail 1.1

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2021/22: 101

Average class size 2021/22: 12

Capped 2021/22: Yes (108)

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
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication