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School of Politics and International Relations

POL106 Introduction to International Relations

POL106 (POL106A – Autumn, POL106B – Spring) Introduction to International Relations

Credits: 30
Semester: 1 & 2


Module Convenor: Dr Richard Saull
Overlap: None
Prerequisite: None

This module provides an introduction to the study of international relations. The module is quite distinct amongst other similar introductory modules that students of international relations study in other universities – in the UK and elsewhere – and reflects the distinct perspective on the study of politics and international relations offered in the School. The module aims to familiarise students to the distinction between IR as an academic field of study and the multiple forms of the day-to-day reality that make up international relations (ir) between peoples, communities, states, and a many other international actors. It also aims to provide students with a knowledge of some of the most important aspects of contemporary international relations and a basic historical understanding of how the modern international system came to be established. The module starts off by looking at some of the most important contemporary international issues and problems that most of you will be familiar with through having followed the news, from the growing geopolitical tensions between China and the West to the environmental catastrophe. It then steps back – in time and perspective – and focuses on how the structure and workings of the modern international system were created through: (i) identifying what these key structures and institutions are; and (ii) providing a historical account of how they emerged and developed. In many respects this historical overview will provide students with a set of historical causes or framings of the current crises and problems that define our world today. The module ends by referring back to the distinction introduced at the start of the module – that between IR as an academic discipline and ‘ir’ as a set of ongoing day-to-day international relations – and introduces students to different ways of explaining what we should study as scholars of international relations (as this is a contested question among scholars) and why international relations reveals patterns of peace or conflict, inequality and hierarchy etc. This final part of the module also introduces students to some of the basic elements of IR theory that many of you will come to study in much more depth in your second year.

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Level: 4

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