1. Introduction and set-up session

This class is an introduction to the course and not a lecture properly speaking.  We’ll briefly go through the reading list and talk about …

  • course requirements.
  • use of the web pages.
  • grading and assignments.

International relations is usually discussed as the history of the so called ”Westphalian” system. This is the international system established in Europe in the wake of the Treaty of Westphalia, 1648. The Westphalian system is based on state sovereignty, on anarchical relations between states, and on constant threats of war. From this perspective the history of international relations is the story of how the European way of organizing relations between states gradually expanded to take over the whole world. Today we all live in one great Westphalian system.

And yet, historically speaking, there have been several other international systems that were not based in Europe, and which are not best characterized by sovereignty, anarchy and war. This course focuses on the most prominent of these alternatives: the East Asian international system, the Mongols khanates, the Muslim caliphates, India, Africa and the Americas. By discussing the logic and nature of these alternatives, the course provides a history of international relations from a non-European point of view. In a world which isn’t West-centric and fixated on European history, this course would not be required.  In a better world you would have learned all this at a far younger age.

Study hard, have fun.

Erik