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Foundations of International Thought - POL00042I

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  • Department: Politics
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Sara Van Goozen
  • Credit value: 30 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2018-19

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2018-19 to Summer Term 2018-19

Module aims

  • To elucidate and contextualise the major theoretical approaches to the study of international politics.
  • To analyse and evaluate important texts in the history of international relations and international political thought.
  • To improve students’ understanding of the history, genealogy, and meaning of important concepts in (international) political thought and IR such as the state, sovereignty, empire, civilization, and law.

This module provides students with a comprehensive overview and detailed understanding of some key moments and texts in the history of international political thought. The fields of international relations and political theory have a long history of cross-fertilization. Scholars in one field have often developed the ideas and debates that emerge in the other field in interesting ways. Despite this cross-fertilization, scholars in both fields often talk past each other. International relations scholars have long decried the naïve idealism of political theorists, and political theorists have often challenged the (mis)interpretations of significant political and legal theorists (Thucydides, Grotius, and Hobbes to name only three) by IR scholars.

This module is attractive to both those interested in Political Theory and those interested in IR: we will read texts from the western tradition of international legal and political thought down to the present day but we will go beyond the authors you will standardly find in a History of Political Thought module, as well as looking at familiar authors from a different angle. In addition, through the texts covered in this module, we will attempt to construct genealogies of international relations, international law, and the history of international thought which uncover the various languages in which statecraft, sovereignty, and international political actors and action continue to be discussed in the western tradition. In doing so, we will achieve a better and more nuanced understanding of important concepts in international relations such as the state, empire, sovereignty, civilization, and (international) law. We will also explore some alternative traditions of international thought, including Islamic traditions.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate detailed knowledge of the origins and evolution of international political thought and international relations.
  • Apply theories, concepts, and methods to political problems and issues, using critical reasoning and the theoretical tools covered in this module.
  • Research independently using a range of primary and secondary sources, and explain the use of relevant theories and concepts; select and apply appropriate tools to gather and interpret sources; and justify conclusions.
  • Communicate according to established academic conventions in the discipline of Politics to present arguments using detailed ideas through appropriate media (essays, examination answers).


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 2500 words
N/A 60
University - closed examination
Foundations of International Thought
2 hours 40

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay 2500 words
N/A 60
University - closed examination
Foundations of International Thought
2 hours 40

Module feedback

Students will receive written timely feedback on their formative assessment. They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor’s feedback and guidance hours.

Students will receive written feedback on their summative assessment no later than 20 working days after submission; and the module tutor will hold a specific session to discuss feedback, which students can also opt to attend. They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor’s regular feedback and guidance hours.

Indicative reading

In this module, we will read a range of primary texts from some of the most famous writers on international political thought. Some good secondary books covering some or most of the authors discussed are:

  • David Armitage, Foundations of Modern International Political Thought, Cambridge University Press.
  • David Boucher, Political Theories of International Relations, Oxford University Press.
  • Chris Brown, Terry Nardin and Nicholas Rengger, (eds.), International Relations in Political Thought: Texts from the Ancient Greeks to the First World War, Cambridge University Press.
  • Edward Keene, International Political Thought: A Historical Introduction, Polity Press.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.