Foundations of the Contemporary International System, 1815 – 1920

Course Description: 

I.R scholars in recent years have increasingly turned to both existing and developing debates in the fields of history and historiography to gain new perspectives on the field and to engage the discipline in new and innovative ways. This course will do just that, examining the historical foundations of the contemporary international system to provide a new vantage point from which to evaluate present-day international relations. Specifically, the course will examine the roots of contemporary international politics in the “Global Transformation” – to use Buzan and Lawson’s term – of the nineteenth-century that witnessed nothing less than a fundamental shift in the nature of international politics and the international order. 

Learning Outcomes: 

• to develop a nuanced understanding of how historical and historiographical debates can and do shape our understanding of International Relations both as field of study and as a discipline. 

• to be able to identify the processes that have led—and indeed still lead—to certain ways of thinking about power and politics. 

• to gain new perspectives on many of the basic assumptions prevalent in the discipline of International Relations 

• to apply this knowledge to the development of academic research projects.


Attendance and Participation                                                                15%

Presentations                                                                                          15%

Bullet Point Questions                                                                           20%

Project Proposal and Annotated Bibliography                                   20%      (2x 1,000 words, Due Monday, February 26 @ 23.59)

Final Paper                                                                                                 30%     (5,000 words, Due Friday, April 6 @ 23.59)