The History of International Relations

History 280U

Fall 2017
3205 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
W 12-2
Class Number: 

World politics are different. What distinguishes international relations from other arenas of politics is the predicament of anarchy. In the absence of constituted, central authority—a world-state, that is—nation-states and non-state actors alike must define the terms of their interactions. It does not follow, however, that the basic predicament of international politics always and invariably produces a brutal struggle for advantage and even survival. Under some historical circumstances, international actors have fabricated systems of order—rules and institutions—to govern their interactions, achieving a modicum of order. This seminar will introduce students to international relations from a historical perspective. When did international relations originate? How have the scope, nature, and functioning of the international system changed over time? How has the international system been reordered as a result of great power transition and systemic war? What, reasoning from history, might we adjudge to be the prospects for international order in our times. These are the core questions that students will be asked to interrogate. Insofar as this is a reading seminar, students should expect a significant week-to-week reading load but will not be expected to produce an original research paper.