This course aims to provide students with the historical background necessary to understand contemporary issues in international relations from the 19th century to the present day. International relations will be analysed from the point of view of the main events and their military, political, economic and cultural factors. It complements and augments the primarily theoretical approaches to international relations by providing a broad knowledge of major historical developments.

The skills acquired are the ability to synthesise, the ability to conduct a complex analysis based on a plurality of explanatory factors, flexibility and consolidation of the World’s history, abilty to analyse different documents as well as a solid historical knowledge in military, political, economic and cultural fields. It is open to all students, whether or not they already have a knowledge of the history of international relations. It is particularly suitable for students intending to work in private or public international relations, in certain NGOs, in teaching and research in history or in international law.

The first semester will be devoted to the foundations of contemporary international relations and will focus on the period 1815-1945. The second semester will cover the period from 1945 to the present. The two semesters can be taken independently of each other.

The documents used in the course, with the summary of the main aspects and the maps, will be accessible to the students. through the pedagogic plateform (

Assessment will be based on an oral or a one-hour written examination. The final assessment will be based on the ability to present in a synthetic way the issues and mechanisms of a particular issue in the history of international relations. Students will have the choice of several questions.

Programme of the 1st semester :

  • Presentation and introduction. European supremacy and new powers at the beginning of the 20th century.
  • On the path to the First World War. The mechanisms of competition in Europe
  • The First World War and the decline of the old Empires
  • What peace for a revolutionary world? (1919-1925)
  • The Middle East and extra-European worlds between the Two World Wars (1919-1931)
  • An uncertain balance of powers (1922-1935)
  • The World economic system and the Great Depression (1918-1939)
  • Totalitarism, authoritarian regimes and Fascism in Europe (1922-1945)
  • Towards the Second World War (1931-1939)
  • The Second World War and the recomposition of the World's balance of powers


2nd semester:

  • From the Second World War to the Cold War (1945-1948): building a new World order.

  • The first decolonization and the emergence of the Third World

  • The affirmation of the Third World

  • From confrontation to the “Peaceful Coexistence” and “Détente” (1948-1960s)

  • The Middle East issue since 1948

  • European Community and European Union: the failure of a “third force”?

  •  Decolonization and new conflicts in Africa (1960-1990s)

  • Who won the Cold War? Soviet disintegration and US anxieties

  • A “lost decade” and a failure for the US dominance? (1989-2001)

  • Environmental issues and new challenges: an immediate history of the turmoil

Indicative bibliography:

For a first approach:

E. Graham; J. Newnham, Dictionnary of International Relations, London, Penguin, 1999.

E. Hobsbawm, Eric. The Age of the Extremes. A History of the World, 1914-1991, New York, Vintage Books, 1996.

M. Howards, R. Louis, Roger, The Oxford History of the 20th Century, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998.

International relations:

A. Best, J. M. Hanhimäki, J. A. Maiolo and K. E. Schulze, International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond (3rd Edition), Routledge, London and New York 2015.

J. B. Duroselle, Histoire diplomatique de 1919 à nos jours, Paris, Dalloz, 1993 (11e éd.).

J. D. Hughes, Environment and World History, Routledge, London and New York 2000.

W. Keylor, The Twentieth Century World and Beyond: An International History since 1900, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005.

W. Keylor, A World of Nations: The International Order Since 1945, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2003.

W. Keylor, The Twentieth Century World: An International History, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1984.

M.P. Leffler ; O.A. Westad (eds.) The Cambridge History of the Cold War, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2010.

W.C. McWilliams; H. Piotrowski. The World since 1945: A History of International Relations. Boulder (CO), Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2014 (8th éd.).

J.-L. Miège, Expansion européenne et décolonisation de 1870 à nos jours, Paris, PUF, 1986 (2e éd.).

D. J. Puchala, Theory and History in International Relations, Taylor & Francis Ltd, 2003

J. M. Roberts, The Penguin History of the 20th Century, London, Penguin Books, 1999.

J. W. Young; J. Kent, International Relations since 1945: A Global History, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004.

Many other books and handbooks can be used: make your own choice! Think also to consult the historical Atlas you can find in the libraries of the institute or the university.