Crisis Decision-Making in War and Peace 1914-2003

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Svetozar Rajak SAR 3.15


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 the outbreak of the First World War in 1914; peace-making, 1919; 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; the collapse of the Soviet bloc and end of the Cold War; the Gulf War, 1990-91; and the road to the 2003 Iraq War.


20 hours of seminars in the AT. 1 hour of lectures and 20 hours of seminars in the WT.

There is a reading week in week 6 of the AT and the WT. There is a revision lecture at the end of the WT. 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 weekly 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 or listen to the 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 spring exam period.

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.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2022/23: 48

Average class size 2022/23: 12

Controlled access 2022/23: No

Value: One Unit

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Personal development skills

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