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History of the International System (Module)

Module description


Examining important events in the historical development of today’s international system, and generalizations that have been drawn from them, this module seeks to provide students with a basic knowledge of international history over approximately the past 350 years (1648-2001).  In particular, we will examine the forces—political, military, economic, and cultural—that have given shape to the modern world.  This is not a comprehensive course in international history that covers all regions of the world, but one that focuses primarily on the interactions between the great powers of a given era.  As a result, it is largely—though not exclusively—Eurocentric in focus.  This course will entail considerable reading of history, though elements of theory are included.  Our purpose is not to memorize dates and battles, but to understand the interplay of major forces, as well as the theories that attempt to explain these events.

  • Examine the key events, issues and debates in International History, from the period before the treaty of Westphalia to September 11th, 2001
  • Develop an understanding of the historical origins and evolution of the international system and global power structures
  • Understand the multiplicity of forces (states, international organisations, transnational actors, norms, social movements, technology, geography, etc.) driving International History and why it changes over time
  • Recognise that the writing of International History reflects the environment in which it was written, the objects of the historian, and International History itself


  • To develop a broad understanding of the historiographical issues, terminology and ongoing debates in the study of International History
  • To be able to judge the reliability of historical data using predefined techniques and/or criteria, and in the process, demonstrate awareness of the ethical issues inherent to the study of International History, and relate these to personal beliefs and values
  • To enable students to use data drawn from the large resources available to form their own interpretations of the main issues and themes of this period and to refine the skill of thinking rigorously and critically for themselves

*Please note that module information is indicative and may change from year to year.

Staff information

Dr. Walter C. Ladwig III *

Teaching pattern

Typically, 1 credit equates to 10 hours of work. For a Full Year 30-credit module, this will equate to 40 hours of teaching time (2 hours per week) with 260 hours of self study.

Module assessment - more information

Coursework & Exam*

Key information

Module code 4SSW1007

Credit level 4

Assessment coursework written examination/s

Credit value 30

Semester Full-year

Study abroad module No