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Introduction to International Relations & Diplomacy


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, the English School and social constructivism. Specific historical and contemporary issues are studied from these perspectives.


  • Session 1: Introduction to the Course: Defining International Relations

  • Session 2: The Idea of ‘International Society’ and the Birth of the Contemporary International Society

  • Session 3: The Expansion of International Society and Two World Wars

  • Session 4: The Cold War between the Superpowers

  • Session 5: Competing Visions of the Post-Cold War Order: ‘End of History’ vs. ‘Clash of Civilisations’


  • Session 6: Theorising International Politics – Liberal Internationalism and Its Realist Critics

  • Session 7: Theorising International Politics – From Neo-Realism to Liberal Institutionalism

  • Session 8: Theorising International Politics – The English School

  • Session 9: Theorising International Politics – Social Constructivism


  • Session 10: Terrorism: Can terrorism be Morally Justified?

  • Session 11: Nuclear Weapons

  • Session 12: The Rise of ‘Rest’: Confronting China vs. Engaging China

  • Session 13: Democracy: Democratic Peace vs. The Dangers of Democratisation

  • Session 14: The Global Order after the Pandemic and Concluding Remarks

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.


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

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.

Assessment Method

Four elements of coursework constitute the final mark for the course:

  • Participation 19%

  • Presentation 36%

  • Take-home exam 45%

Reading list

Baylis, Smith & Owens (2014) The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction of International Relations, 6th edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press)


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. Yih-Jye Hwang,