IR472      Half Unit
Diplomacy in the 21st Century

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Professor Thierry Balzacq (Susan Strange Visiting Professor during 2022/2023)


This course is available on the MSc in International Relations, MSc in International Relations (LSE and Sciences Po) and MSc in International Relations (Research). This course is not available as an outside option.

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

Course content

Diplomacy is one of the oldest institutions of world politics. Its study is on the rise, but the contours of diplomacy has considerably expanded which raises questions about its meaning if not its utility. This course investigates the discourses, theories and practices associated with diplomacy across time, types, and spaces. It equips you with the basic vocabulary of diplomacy and provides you with clear applications of its concepts to a wide range of subjects. Questions of central interest to the course are: What is diplomacy and where does it come from? What difference (if any) is there between state and non-state diplomacies? How is state diplomacy produced? What instruments actors employ to achieve their diplomatic objectives? Why International Organizations recruit “ambassadorial celebrities”? How do new technologies of information and communication influence classical tools of diplomacy? What are the characteristics of diplomacy in different areas (e.g., defense, culture, humanitarian and economics)?


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 20 hours across Michaelmas Term. Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Indicative topics include:

1. Introduction

2. The origins of diplomacy: Western and non-Western lineages

3. Diplomatic articulations: Ministry of foreign affairs and beyond

4. Relational social theories and diplomacy

5. Performing diplomacy: rituals and protocols

6. Enacting diplomacy: mediation and negotiation

7. Emotion and rationality: the case of humanitarian diplomacy

8. The character of diplomatic language

9. Diplomacies of entertainment

10. The rise of anti-diplomacies

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay (1,500 words) in the MT.

Indicative reading

Balzacq, Thierry, Frédéric Charillon and Frédéric Ramel (eds.), Global Diplomacy: An Introduction to Theory and Practice (Basignstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020).

Berridge, G. R., Maurice Keens-Soper and T. G. Otte, Diplomatic Theory from Machiavelli to Kissinger (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001).

Cooper, Andrew F., Jorge Heine and Ramesh Thakur (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

Kerr, Pauline and Geoffrey Wiseman, Diplomacy in a Globalizing World: Theories and Practices (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017).

Nicolson, Harold G., Diplomacy (Washington: Georgetown University Press, 1998).


Essay (100%, 4000 words) in the LT.


Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

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