1. Introduction

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.

Course requirements

Much of the course uses my textbook, History of International Relations: A Non-European Perspective (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2019). You can download the pdf for free here. The textbook is also available online. It looks great on smartphones. Click here. In addition to the main text, we will go through a number of the “boxes” that discuss individual topics in greater detail. The web page for the book has a lot of related media. Make sure to listen, watch and click.

The final grade for the course will be determined by the mid-term exam (33%), the final exam (33%), your class participation (33%).