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Empire, War & Law - POL00065I

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  • Department: Politics
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Sara Van Goozen
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module summary

States, Empires and religious communities are not isolated but have engaged with each other through war, trade, colonialism, international cooperation and migration. This module uncovers the various ways in which international norms, responsibilities and rights have been theorised.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2023-24

Module aims

This module examines how theorists have made sense of the global encounters between city-states, Empires and nations and raised questions that are still pertinent in the present day. Can a war be just? Is colonial conquest defensible? Does trade lead to conflict or peace? How can international law protect stateless people?

We will attempt to construct genealogies of international relations, international law, and the history of international thought, uncovering the various languages in which international political actors and their actions are discussed in the western tradition and alternative strands of international thought, including Islamic traditions. In doing so, we will achieve a better and more nuanced understanding of important concepts in international relations such as (just) war, sovereignty, civilization, imperialism, and (international) law.

The module takes up questions around whether war or conquest can ever be just and how and if international peace can be achieved. It subsequently addresses imperialism and decolonisation, and the emergence and limitations of international law with reference to a range of western and non-western thinkers, such as Rosa Luxemburg, Adam Smith, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Frantz Fanon, W.E.B. DuBois, and Hannah Arendt.

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.


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

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 25 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.