Great Thinkers and Pivotal Leaders: Shaping the Global Order

  • Summer schools
  • Department of International Relations
  • Application code SS-IR100
  • Starting 2021
  • Short course: Closed
  • Location: Houghton Street, London

From the vote for Brexit to the election of Trump, 2016 was a reminder of the importance of ideas and pivotal leaders in shaping the global order. This course places these changes in a broader historical context, examining the evolution of the global order across the last several centuries. Focusing on some of the world's most influential thinkers and leaders--from Elizabeth I to Gandhi; from Keynes to Churchill; from Marx to Thatcher; and beyond--the course explores the new ideas that ascended, the leaders that defined these orders, and the interaction between the two.

A number of important questions will be examined and addressed, including;

  • What role do ideas play in international relations?
  • To what extent can individual leaders shape the global order?
  • Do circumstances determine which ideas and which leaders come to the fore? Or do men and women make their own history?
  • What does this history reveal that might help us to shape international politics today and in the future? 

This course considers international order from the standpoint of both international security and international political economy. It presumes no experience in either field or the social sciences more generally. As such, it is ideal for students who want a rigorous introduction to international politics. It will also appeal to students who want to delve deeper into the history and evolution of the international system.

Session: Three - Applications closed
Dates: 2 – 20 August 2021
Lecturer: Dr James Morrison


Programme details

Key facts

Level: 100 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



Programme structure

The course is divided into 12 modules, each with an accompanying pair of lectures:

1a. Introduction and Overview
- Introduction to the Summer School
- Course overview
- A Parable: Paris, 1919

1b. The 3 Big Questions
- Individuals versus events, structure versus agency
- Ideational versus material variables
- States versus markets
- Security versus wealth, power versus plenty

2a. The Birth of Liberalism: Adam Smith & the Free Trade Movement
- Liberalism over mercantilism: When & how?
- Conventional accounts of the 1780s
- My story: Smith & Shelburne

2b. The British Liberal Global Order
- The first great era of globalisation
- Rethinking the *Pax Britannica*
- Kipling and "The White Man's Burden"

3a. The Mercantilist Revival
- Constructing "mercantilism"
- Views of mercantilism: security; economic; developmental

3b. The Great War: Clash of Empires, Clash of Ideas
- Materialist explanations
- Militarism and military thinking
- Race theory
- Experience of the war

4a. The Crises of Liberalism
- The economic consequences of the war
- The political consequences of the economic consequences
- Restorationism
- Making a great depression

4b. The Transformation of Liberalism
- The silver bullet: leaving gold
- Explaining the great transformation
- The Great Depression and the demise of the gold standard system

5. Imperial War Museum Tour [or simulation]

6a. The Rise of Fascism
- The implosion of the West
- Japan: From isolation to empire
- The fascist vision of international order
- Explaining this Aggression

6b. Grappling with Fascism
- The difference with fascism
- The Nazis conspire

7a. The Generative World Wars
- Generation
- Human rights
- The new legal regime
- Redesigning the global order

7b. The Postwar Liberal International Economic Order
- Rethinking mercantilism
- Re-liberalising trade
- Fixing the global monetary order

8a. New Actors, New Perspectives
- Rethinking ability
- Varieties of resistance
- Women's advance

8b. Decolonisation
- Gandhi's revolutionary international order
- Churchill's challenge
- Independence
- Gandhi's legacies
- A new world order

9a. Marx to Marxism
- Marx's materialism
- Marx's historical materialism
- Lenin's intervention
- The Russian revolution
- Communism at home, abroad

9b. Beginnings of the Cold War
- Prewar relations
- Wartime relations
- The Soviet perspective
- The Western perspective

10a. The Several Cold Wars
- "Containment"
- China's Turn
- Mr McNamara's War
- Détente
- The Second Cold War

10b. Moving Past the Cold War
- The end of the Cold War
- Lessons from the Cold War
- The undead Cold War
- Analysing our trajectory today

11a. The Trajectory of Money
- Building blocks
- Global money
- The dollar
- The euro
- The renminbi

11b. The Trajectory of Trade
- The international regime complex
- The WTO is born
- Doha: Business as usual?

12a. The Wars on Terror and their Legacies
- 9/11 in Perspective
- Bush's War on Terror
- Towards a Pax Obama?
- Killing Bin Laden
- An Endless War?

12b. Conclusion: The Future of Global Order
- The challenges we face today
- Global order after \#2016
- Conceptualising the challenges of the future
- Telling better stories
- Pursuing solutions

While some familiarity with these figures and topics is valuable, the course assumes no prior expertise or training. Students, however, should appreciate that the course will challenge them to engage a variety of perspectives and materials--from articles and international agreements to poems and paintings--across a range of substantive issue areas.

Course outcomes

  • An understanding of several of the most significant shifts in international relations across the last several centuries
  • Familiarity with those intellectuals and political figures who are reputed to have shaped these shifts
  • Their own well-articulated and defensible view about the relationship between ideas and policy in international relations


With a vibrant research culture, the LSE Department of International Relations is one of the oldest and largest in the world, and remains a leading world centre for the development of the subject. Its reputation for international excellence was recognised in the 2014 Research Assessment Exercise, the LSE Government and International Relations Departments' joint submission was ranked 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 International Relations 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 international relations faculty.

Reading materials

Smith, Adam. The Wealth of Nations. Bk IV, Ch 2; and Selection on Free Trade.

Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto HX276 M39

Gandhi, Mohandas K. Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule. [1909] Read all but Chs 2-3, 9, 15, and appendices.

Churchill, Winston. “Our Duty in India.” Speech given at Albert Hall, March 18, 1931.

*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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