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Unit information: Introduction to International Relations in 2013/14

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Unit name Introduction to International Relations
Unit code SPAI10001
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Herring
Open unit status Open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit provides an introduction to world politics. Part one - issues in world politics - focuses on Britain and the arms trade; economic sanctions; humanitarian intervention; the United States in world politics; and poverty, inequality and the environment. Part two - perspectives in world politics - consider realist, liberal, historical materialist and constructivist perspectives. Part three is an overview session. In discussing world politics as a field of study, it considers the politics of what is included and excluded from study, and discusses the relationships between the field and the practices of world politics. The coverage of perspectives emphasises that the categories used are organising devices for broad sets of ideas which often overlap, which are internally diverse, and which could be divided up differently.


  • To provide a scholarly introduction to issues and perspectives in world politics.
  • To explore those issues and perspectives by means of lectures, essays and seminar discussion and presentations.
  • To develop the students' generic skills in group discussion, in presenting to groups and in essay writing.

Intended learning outcomes

Upon completing the unit, the student will have demonstrated achievement of the following learning outcomes:

  1. knowledge at an introductory level about world politics;
  2. an ability to synthesise, interpret and apply critical thinking to

information and ideas about world politics;

  1. an ability to present an argument about world politics clearly in written form; and
  2. an ability to reference written material in a scholarly manner.

Teaching details

2 hours of lectures and 1 hour seminar

Assessment Details

40% for the first essay of 1,500-2,000 words.

60% for the second essay of 1,500-2,000 words.

Both essays are summative. The first essay will also play a formative role in the unit. Both essays will assess all four learning outcomes specified . Guidance will be provided to students in relation to each the assessments so that they are clear about how to perform well in them. The student will receive a feedback sheet for each of these assessments which will indicate the extent to which they have demonstrated achievement of the four learning outcomes, suggest ways in which they can improve their achievements in relation to them and where necessary direct them to the School study skills adviser for specific assistance.

Reading and References

  • Tim Dunne, Milja Kurki and Steve Smith (eds), International Relations Theories: Discipline and Diversity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).
  • John Baylis, Steve Smith and Patricia (eds), The Globalization of World Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007) 4th edition.
  • Steve Smith, Amelia Hadfield and Tim Dunne (eds), Foreign Policy: Theories, Actors, Cases (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).
  • Peter Calvocoressi, World Politics 1945-2000 (Harlow: Longman, 2000) 8th edition.
  • David Harvey, A Short History of Neoliberalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).
  • Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Understanding International Conflicts (London: Pearson Longman, 2008), 7th edition.