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Introduction to International Relations




Admission Requirements



This course introduces students to the main issues in contemporary international relations. The aim is to provide students with basic knowledge about the two dominant patterns of behaviour in international relations: conflict and cooperation. The course also provides an introductory overview of the major approaches and theories of international politics, such as realism, liberalism and social constructivism. Specific historical and contemporary issues are studied from these perspectives.

Course Objectives

In this course, students will learn valuable theoretical, methodological and analytical skills enabling them to interpret and understand key issues in the international politics. By the end of the course each student is expected to have acquired the following skills and knowledge:

Understanding of Contemporary International Politics

  • Critically identify and discuss key issues surrounding the history and development of contemporary international politics;

  • A critical awareness of the key debates concerning contemporary international politics;

  • Identify and critically evaluate key issues pertaining to contemporary international politics.

Knowledge of International Relations Theories- Demonstrate a basic understanding of International Relations Theory

  • Critically reflect upon key theories and concepts of International Relations Theory using a variety of case studies related to contemporary international politics;

  • Apply conceptual tools to analyse key events and processes in contemporary international politics.

Intellectual Skills- Demonstrate appropriate cognitive, communicative and transferable skills, develop the capacity for independent learning, critique major texts on contemporary international politics, and participate in class debates;

  • Display the confidence to present their arguments in relevant academic contexts (seminars, workshops, conferences) to other students of world politics.

Mode of Instruction

The course is taught through two-hour seminars. During the course of the seminar students are expected to take part in both large and small group discussions; participate in seminar discussions; present and defend their ideas within an academic setting; and take part in group projects. The role of the instructor is to ensure the efficient running of the discussion. Each seminar has a ‘required reading’ list that must be read in advance of each seminar. Students are also recommended to read some of the items listed under ‘suggested reading’ prior to each seminar and use the extended list as a starting point in their preparation for essay writing.




  • Baylis, John, Steve Smith, Patricia Owens (2010) The Globalization of World Politics: an Introduction to International Relations – 5th edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

  • Readings outside of the textbook will be provided electronically through blackboard.

Contact Information

Yih-Jye Hwang

Weekly Overview

Course Overview:
1. Introduction to the Course: Defining International Relations
Part I: The Historical Context
2. The Idea of ‘International Society’ and the Birth of the Contemporary International Society
3. The Expansion of International Society and Two World Wars
4. The Cold War between the Superpowers
5. Competing Visions of the Post-Cold War Order: ‘End of History’ vs. ‘Clash of Civilisations’
Part II: Theories of International Relations
6. Theorising International Politics – Liberal Internationalism and Its Realist Critics
7. Theorising International Politics – From Neo-Realism to Liberal Institutionalism
8. Theorising International Politics – The English School and Constructivism
9. Theorising International Politics – Post-positivist approaches to International Relations
Part III: Debates in International Issues
10. Terrorism: Can terrorism be Morally Justified?
11. The Rise of ‘Rest’: Confronting China vs. Engaging China
12. Democracy: Democratic Peace vs. The Dangers of Democratisation
13. Humanitarian Intervention: Humanitarian Intervention as a Moral Obligation vs. Humanitarian Intervention as a Threat to Order in the International System of States
14. Formal Exam

Preparation for first session