International Politics: Building Democracies from Conflict

  • Summer schools
  • Department of Government
  • Application code SS-IR210
  • Starting 2019
  • Short course: Open
  • Location: London

How can we design, build and sustain 'democracies' in places that have been engaged in sustained conflict? 

We will explore societies torn apart by political violence and ethnic conflict.  The main purpose is to diagnose the central problems, and examine what political responses are most appropriate.

Session: Two
Dates: 8 July – 26 July 2019
Lecturer: Dr Paul Mitchell


Programme details

Key facts

Level: 200 level. Read more information on levels in our FAQs

Fees:  Please see Fees and payments

Lectures: 36 hours 

Classes: 18 hours

Assessment*: One examination and one essay

Typical credit**: 3-4 credits (US) 7.5 ECTS points (EU)

*Assessment is optional

**You will need to check with your home institution

For more information on exams and credit, read Teaching and assessment


At least one introductory course in either social science (e.g. political science, international relations, sociology, economics), history or law.

Programme structure

The first part of the course mostly looks at the problems. We begin with an examination of Iraq (Case Study 1: Iraq) as an example of armed intervention and regime change. Themes include the politics of intervention, mass violence, constitution building and power-sharing, and the rise (and fall?) of Islamic State. More generally we will examine the micro foundations of nationalism, grievances and conflict. Since the end of the cold war, almost all wars are ‘civil wars’ so we will consider what causes civil wars, what sustains them, why some last much longer than others, and how do they end? We will examine civil wars both in a comparative manner and also by means of Case Study 2: Multiple Civil Wars in Sudan and South Sudan. There will also be a focus on the strategies of terrorism and suicide terrorism.

The second part of the course shifts the focus of attention to ‘solutions’ and policy responses to divided societies and failing states. Informed responses might include: intervention, mediation and peace agreements; power-sharing and constitutional design (including Case Study 3; Northern Ireland); territorial management of conflict; and transitional justice (including Case Study 4: South Africa and East Timor).

We look at which are the most appropriate electoral systems for divided places (and which should be avoided). The timing of ‘first elections’ after civil war might also be important because they are risky: should they be held early to legitimize the peace, or delayed until state institutions have been rebuilt? We also examine the growth in electoral and competitive authoritarianism: more and more regimes hold semi-competitive elections that are not truly democratic. Why do they do this? 

We end the course by analyzing the ‘Arab Springs’ and the resilience of authoritarianism in the Middle East (including Case Study 5: compare Egypt and Tunisia).

Course outcomes

Students will explore societies torn apart by political violence and ethnic conflict. The aim is to diagnose the central problems, and examine what political responses are most appropriate. Informed responses might include: intervention, mediation and peace agreements; power-sharing and constitutional design; territorial management of conflict; elections, party systems and institutions for governing divided societies.


LSE’s Department of Government is home to some of the most internationally respected experts in politics and government, producing influential research that has a global impact on policy. The Department has always been able to take advantage of its prominent position within the London School of Economics and Political Science, the largest and most important European institution specialising solely in the social sciences. The Department has a strongly cosmopolitan character and alumni can be found in the world's leading political science departments, as well as in journalism, commerce, central and local government, and non-governmental organisations globally.

The 2014 Research Assessment Exercise ranked the LSE Government and International Relations Departments' joint submission first in the UK for the percentage of its research graded world leading or internationally excellent (88%). LSE also came top in the Politics and International Studies REF panel in terms of the most research publications graded “world leading” (4*); the absolute number of top-rated research outputs. LSE’s Department of Government ranked 5th in the world in the 2018 QS World University ranking for Politics and International Studies.

On this three-week intensive programme, you will engage with and learn from full-time lecturers from the LSE’s government faculty.

Reading materials

There is no set text for this course. Course materials will be distributed in the first lecture

*A more detailed reading list will be supplied prior to the start of the programme

**Course content, faculty and dates may be subject to change without prior notice

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