Revolutions and World Politics

  • Summer schools
  • Department of International Relations
  • Application code SS-IR206
  • Starting TBC
  • Short course: Closed
  • Location: Houghton Street, London

Please note: This course has not yet been confirmed for 2021.

Revolutions have played a central role in the making of the modern world. From the revolutions in France, America and Haiti in the late 18th century to those in North Africa and the Middle East in 2011, revolutions have been central to debates about war and peace, justice and order, intervention and sovereignty, and more.

This course explores both the theory and practice of revolutions, teasing out their effects and examining the prospects for revolutionary change in the contemporary world.

During the course, students will learn how to make informed judgments about how revolutions have impacted on core features of the international system. Key questions we will discuss include:

  • How much do revolutions change the societies in which they take place – and the wider world?
  • Are revolutions best understood through the perspective of participants on the ground or through the broader symbolic, economic, and political fields in which they take place?
  • What are the prospects for revolution in the contemporary world?


Session: TBC
Dates: TBC
Lecturer: Dr George Lawson


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 course is divided into three parts. In part 1, we establish the main themes involved in studying revolutions, distinguishing them from other forms of social change and paying particular attention to their international components. In part 2, the course examines a series of revolutions, from those that underpinned the ‘Age of Revolutions’ in the late 18thand early 19th centuries to those that ended the Cold War in 1989. This historical survey provides the foundations for the final part of the course, which examines contemporary revolutionary movements, from ISIS to Occupy. Do these movements represent a reimagining of revolution? Or does the ‘age of revolutions’ belong to the past?

Part 1: Thinking about revolutions

  • What are revolutions?
  • Key themes in the study of revolutions
  • Revolutions and world politics

Part 2: The historical experience of revolution

  • The Atlantic ‘age of revolutions’: America, Haiti and France
  • Socialist revolutions: Russia
  • ‘Third World’ revolutions: Cuba
  • The ‘last great revolution’: Iran
  • ‘Colour’ revolutions: Czechoslovakia and Ukraine

Part 3: Revolutions today

  • The 2011 Arab uprisings
  • Revolutionary Islam: al-Qaida and ISIS
  • Revolution in the West: Occupy and Podemos
  • Rethinking revolution

Course outcomes

  • Differentiate between various types of radical change, including rebellions, revolts, coup d’états, democratic transitions, and revolutions
  • Discuss and write knowledgeably about the ways in which revolutions have helped to engender core strands of modern international order
  • Assess the prospects for revolutionary change in the contemporary world


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

Arendt, Hannah (1963) On Revolution (London: Penguin): Chapter 1.

Goldstone, Jack (2014) Revolutions: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Halliday, Fred (2008) ‘Revolutionary Internationalism and its Perils’, in: John Foran et al eds., Revolution in the Making of the Modern World (London: Routledge): 65-80.

Lawson, George (2015) ‘Revolutions and the International’, Theory and Society 44(4) 2015: 299-319.

Skocpol, Theda (1979) States and Social Revolutions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press): Chapter 1. 

*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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