Not available in 2022/23
IR354      Half Unit
Governing International Political Economy: Lessons from the Past for the Future

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr James Morrison 95 ALD 1.14


This course is available on the BSc in International Relations, 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.


Some background knowledge of international political economy, such as that provided by IR204 'International Political Economy', will be useful for students taking this course.

Course content

Who governs the global economy? How do they do so? And to what ends do they govern it? This course examines these questions by examining the canonical theories of—and state approaches to—the challenges of global economic governance across the last several centuries. While this course takes history seriously, the primary objective is to use the history to tease out generalisable insights into those challenges we face today.

More generally, this course of study will demonstrate the incomparable insights historical thinking offers in addressing contemporary challenges. 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. These 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 10 hours of classes 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 MT.

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Capped 2021/22: No

Value: Half 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
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication