nl en

Foundational Texts in World Politics


Admission requirements

Students must have successfully completed at least one of the following 100-level courses: Introduction to International Relations & Diplomacy; Introduction to Globalization and Transnational Politics; or Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies.


What constitutes world politics? What are the most important discoveries we have made about how the world works? How can we make sense of the challenges arising from human relations across borders? Who benefits from these relations and who does not?

These are important questions for any student taking the World Politics major. Answering them requires a foray into the foundational texts that have defined World Politics as an intellectual endeavour. If you want to know what the discipline is about, you will need to read the big thinkers who made it what it is.

Foundational Texts in World Politics is intended for second-year students of the World Politics major with a solid background in international relations and political science. It engages students in an in-depth and deliberate reading of the great works that have defined various areas of the study of world politics. The selected texts have strongly conceptual and theoretical aims: they have furthered knowledge by contributing ‘big ideas’ and frameworks, sometimes launching major subdisciplines or areas of study. In keeping with its title, the course takes seriously perspectives outside of mainstream research programmes, incorporating where possible critical and non-Western perspectives.

Most courses at the LUC use short-form learning materials such as journal articles and emphasise breadth of knowledge. The result is a fast-paced learning experience and cursory engagement with scientific research. While students cover a comprehensive set of topics through their readings, such an approach offers little time for a deeper digestion of grander, more complex theories. This course offers a slower pace of analysis and a sharp focus on a small number of books. Students will not read less; they will read more deeply. This will be a challenging course for students willing to keep one eye on the conceptual details and internal logic of a book while keeping the other eye on the Big Questions it answers about the world.

Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:


  • Identify foundational theories of international relations and their originators;

  • Identify the relevance and applicability of foundational theories to contemporary global challenges


  • Summarise foundational theories for a non-expert audience in writing and in oral presentations

  • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of international relations theory


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2020-2021 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

Aside from the materials in the first two sessions, students will focus on one book each week. That means, students will spend a total of two seminar sessions on each text, usually studying several chapters from that volume at a time. The classes will be entirely composed of two-hour seminar sessions. The tutor will provide a brief introduction at the start of the session but, generally, the students will drive the learning process themselves through their informal engagement with the material as well as the formal assessments.

Assessment Method

19% In-class participation
31% critical reflection
50% final essay

Reading list

The reading list for this course includes foundational texts that will be read in their complete and original versions. The authors include Niccolò Machiavelli, E.H. Carr, Susan Strange, Frantz Fanon, amongst others.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Densua Mumford,


Before the start of the course, students are required to read Immanuel Kant’s Toward Perpetual Peace.