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Internationalism, Empire and the Cold War: 20th Century International Relations


Admission requirements

This course is part of the MA International Relations. Students of other MA-programmes interested in this course please contact the co-ordinator of studies.


This course presents an introduction to the history of international relations in the twentieth century. It will examine the major junctures in international affairs from WWI up to the NATO interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo with a view to presenting students with a vision of how the international order changed and evolved through the development of international relations during this period. This course will take an expansive view of events, tracing the emergence of the major powers during WWI and WWII, the development of a bi-polar world order and the successive generation of a multi-lateral system comprising hegemonic powers with clashing ideals. The locus for the course will be an examination of how the conduct of diplomacy changed between nations, and often the collision of their visions for world order, had an adverse effect on the stability of the international system. This will include episodes of international history that highlight the relations between not just the United States and Russia, but also with European powers, Asian and African nations, taking a global context.

Course Objectives

This course is focused on teaching students to think critically about events, and understand the complexities of seemingly simple concepts like ‘foreign policy’. The aim is less to transmit knowledge than develop critical analysis faculties, and to encourage students to assess a situation objectively, form a considered opinion, and defend a position. In addition, students should be able to appraise and analyse secondary literature and primary documents pertinent to each seminar topic from week to week and be able to think broadly about their position on the issue. The ability to critically examine and interpret secondary literature and primary source documents will also encourage the development of research skills through the full use of libraries and online electronic resources. Ideally students will learn how to put their own interpretations across, both orally in class and in written assignments.


The timetable is available on the website.

Mode of instruction

Lecture and seminar.

Course Load

  • 24 Hours of classes (attendance is compulsory)

  • 120 hours of reading and writing of reviews (5 hours per week over 12 weeks)

  • 60 hours to prepare and complete literature and document analyses

  • 30 hours to prepare presentation

  • 46 hours to complete the final essay

Total: 280 Hours

Assessment Method

This course assessment will take four different forms:

  • Class attendance and participation, 20%.

  • Literature and Document Analysis, 25%.

  • Seminar Presentation, 25%.

  • Final Essay 30%.


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


A resit for the final essay can be held if the orignal submission is insufficient.

inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Some reading material will be available on Blackboard.

Reading list

The core textbooks for the course will be:

  • John Lewis Gaddis, The Cold War (London: Penguin, 2005).

  • Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (New York: Random House, 1989).

  • William R. Keylor, The Twentieth Century World and Beyond: An International History since 1900, 4th revised edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).


Via uSis

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Contact information

Dr. D.M. Naterman