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Introduction to International Relations & Diplomacy


Admission requirements

Required course(s):



The purpose of this course is to provide students with fundamental knowledge about the two main modes of behaviour in international relations: conflict and cooperation. It has two components. On the one hand, we focus on the key concepts, history and theories of the origin and development of contemporary international relations. On the other hand we will apply this conceptual, historical and theoretical knowledge in the practical setting of role plays, in which we will concentrate on some of the major issues in contemporary world politics.

Part I: The Historical Context

  1. Introduction to the course
  2. The idea of ‘international society’ and the birth of the contemporary international society
  3. The expansion of international society and the two world wars
  4. The Cold War between the superpowers
  5. The world order after the Cold War: The ‘end of history’ and ‘clash of civilisations’

Part II: Theories of International Relations

  1. Theorising international politics – Liberal internationalism and its realist critics
  2. Theorising international politics – From neo-realism to liberal institutionalism
  3. Theorising international politics – Social constructivism

Part III: Debates in contemporary issues

  1. Role play – Territorial dispute in the South China Sea
  2. Role play – Syrian civil war
  3. Role play – Ukraine crisis
  4. Role play – North Korea’s nuclear issue
  5. Role play – Ebola outbreak crisis
  6. The global order after the pandemic and concluding remarks

Course Objectives

Students will learn fundamental theoretical, methodological and analytical skills enabling them to interpret and understand key issues in international relations. 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 regarding the history and development of contemporary international politics;

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

Knowledge of international relations theories:

  • demonstrate a basic understanding of international relations theory

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

Intellectual Skills:

  • demonstrate appropriate cognitive, communicative and transferable skill; develop the capacity for independent learning; critique major texts on contemporary international politics; and participate in class debates;

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


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2022-2023 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course is taught through two-hour seminars. 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 collaborate 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’ and to use the extended list as a starting point in their preparation for essay writing and role play.

Assessment Method

Four elements of coursework constitute the final grade:

  • Individual participation (15%)

  • Group participation (15%)

  • Group mid-term writing assignment (1 x 5,000-word role-play portfolio of documents) (35%)

  • Final exam (35%)

Reading list

  • John Baylis, Steve Smith and Patricia Owens (eds.) 2019: The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations, 8th edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press (or the 6th edition, 2014)


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,


Course convener:

  • Dr. Jay Huang

Course instructors:

  • Chiara Libiseller (Block 2, Block 3)

  • Jeffrey Hawkins (Block 3, Block 4)