40+ Best International Relations Research Topics: Global Dynamics Unveiled

International Relations Research Topics

  • Post author By admin
  • November 11, 2023

Explore the complex landscape of global affairs with our curated list of International Relations Research Topics. Delve into pressing issues, emerging trends, and fresh perspectives that shape the world stage.

Uncover the latest insights and navigate the intricacies of international diplomacy through innovative research avenues.

Embarking on the captivating odyssey of “International Relations Research Topics” is akin to donning the explorer’s hat in a vast, interconnected world.

As our globe tightens its bonds, the study of international relations becomes not just relevant but essential. In this article, we embark on a journey that doesn’t merely skim the surface; it delves deep into the beating heart of themes that intrigue scholars and mold the very narrative of our shared global drama.

Imagine traversing the echoes of historical events, resonating through the grand halls of diplomacy. Picture grappling with the contemporary puzzles that carve the geopolitical landscape, and unraveling the theoretical frameworks that scaffold our comprehension of international relations.

From the intricate dance of negotiation to the mosaic of global governance complexities, we’re set to embark on a thrilling adventure, spanning disciplines, cultures, and the sands of time.

So, fasten your seatbelts as we navigate the twists and turns of international relations research. Join us in dissecting real-world challenges through illuminating case studies and peering into the crystal ball of future trends that will shape the diplomatic stage.

The realm of international relations research isn’t just a scholarly pursuit; it’s a journey into the heart of human interaction on the international stage, a quest that promises both revelations and solutions.

Get ready for an expedition that transcends borders and plunges into the pulse of our shared global destiny.

Together, let’s unravel the dynamic and ever-evolving world of international relations research—a journey that promises not just academic enlightenment but a deeper understanding of the threads that weave our world together.

Table of Contents

International Relations Research Topics

Check out international relations research topics:-

Theories of International Relations

Power Dynamics Unveiled : Investigate the role of power in international relations and how realist perspectives shape foreign policy.

The Promise of Cooperation : Explore the principles of liberalism and how they influence diplomatic collaboration and international organizations.


Beyond Structures : Delve into the impact of ideas, norms, and identities on international relations, challenging traditional structural perspectives.

Critical Theories

Deconstructing Narratives : Examine critical approaches to IR, questioning established norms and advocating for social justice in global relations.

Foreign Policy

The united states’ foreign policy.

Evolution and Trends : Analyze the historical shifts and current trends in U.S. foreign policy, exploring its global implications.

China’s Foreign Policy

Rising Dragon : Investigate China’s geopolitical strategy, economic diplomacy, and its role in shaping international relations.

Russia’s Foreign Policy

Eurasian Ambitions : Explore Russia’s geopolitical objectives, alliances, and its impact on regional and global stability.

The European Union’s Foreign Policy

Unity in Diversity : Assess the coherence and challenges of the EU’s foreign policy, considering its unique supranational structure.

The Foreign Policy of the Middle East

Navigating Complexity : Examine the intricate foreign policies of Middle Eastern nations, addressing regional conflicts and global interactions.

International Law

The role of international law in the international system.

Legal Frameworks : Investigate the impact and effectiveness of international legal systems in governing state behavior.

The Sources of International Law

Foundations Unveiled : Explore the historical and contemporary sources influencing the development of international legal principles.

The Enforcement of International Law

Legal Realities : Assess the mechanisms and challenges in enforcing international law, addressing issues of compliance and accountability.

The Development of International Law

Evolutionary Trajectories : Trace the historical evolution of international law, analyzing its adaptive nature in response to global changes.

The Future of International Law

Innovations and Challenges : Speculate on the future directions and innovations in international law amidst evolving global dynamics.

International Organizations

The united nations.

Global Governance : Examine the role, challenges, and effectiveness of the United Nations in addressing global issues and conflicts.

The World Trade Organization

Trade Diplomacy : Assess the impact of the WTO on global trade dynamics, exploring its role in shaping economic relations.

The International Monetary Fund

Economic Stabilization : Investigate the IMF’s influence on global financial stability, economic development, and its role in financial crises.

The World Bank

Development Finance : Examine the World Bank’s role in funding development projects and its impact on global economic disparities.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

Collective Security : Analyze NATO’s evolving role in ensuring collective defense and maintaining regional and global security.

International Security

Nuclear weapons.

Arms Control Dilemmas : Explore the challenges of nuclear disarmament, arms control agreements, and the geopolitical implications of nuclear arsenals.

Global Threats : Investigate the causes, dynamics, and counterterrorism strategies in response to global terrorist threats.


Virtual Battlefields : Examine the evolving landscape of cyber threats, state-sponsored cyber operations, and diplomatic responses.

Climate Change

Security Implications : Assess the security challenges posed by climate change, including resource scarcity, migration, and conflict risks.

Global Health Security : Explore the intersection of international relations and global health, focusing on pandemic preparedness and response.

International Development

The causes of poverty.

Structural Analysis : Investigate the root causes of poverty globally, examining the role of economic, social, and political factors.

The Impact of Globalization

Global Dynamics : Analyze the effects of globalization on economic, social, and political dimensions, considering both positive and negative impacts.

The Role of Aid

Humanitarian Assistance : Examine the effectiveness of international aid in promoting development, addressing crises, and reducing poverty.

The Role of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

Civil Society Actors : Assess the contributions and challenges of NGOs in international development and diplomacy.

The Future of International Development

Sustainable Goals : Speculate on the future trajectories of international development, considering global challenges and innovative solutions.

International Political Economy

The global economy.

Economic Governance : Evaluate the structures and governance of the global economy, addressing issues of economic inequality and trade imbalances.

Trade Diplomacy Trends : Investigate emerging trends in global trade diplomacy, trade agreements, and their impact on national economies.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) : Examine the role of FDI in shaping international economic relations, focusing on its impact on host and home countries.

Financial Governance : Assess the role of international financial institutions and governance mechanisms in maintaining global financial stability.


Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) : Explore the progress and challenges in achieving the SDGs, considering their impact on global economic relations.

International Environmental Politics

Global Responses : Evaluate international efforts to address climate change, analyzing agreements, policies, and the role of state and non-state actors.


Conservation Challenges : Examine global initiatives and challenges in preserving biodiversity, considering the impact on ecosystems and human societies.

Cross-Border Impacts : Analyze international frameworks and strategies for addressing transboundary pollution, emphasizing cooperative solutions.

Water Resources

Hydro-Diplomacy : Investigate the geopolitical dimensions of water scarcity, transboundary water management, and the potential for conflict or cooperation.

Global Energy Security : Assess the geopolitics of energy resources, exploring the impact on international relations and national security.

International Human Rights

The universal declaration of human rights.

70 Years On : Reflect on the achievements and challenges in upholding the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Role of Human Rights Organizations

Advocacy and Impact : Assess the contributions and limitations of human rights organizations in promoting and protecting human rights globally.

The Challenges of Human Rights Protection

Contemporary Dilemmas : Examine current challenges and dilemmas in the protection of human rights, considering cultural, political, and legal perspectives.

The Future of Human Rights

Emerging Harmonies : Identify and analyze emerging human rights issues globally and explore diplomatic strategies for advancing human rights advocacy worldwide.

Future Trends

Check out the future trends:-

Diplomacy in the Digital Age

Cybersecurity Adventures: In an era of technological leaps, the specter of cyber threats looms large. Future international relations will be in the trenches, figuring out the playbook for norms, treaties, and group huddles to fend off cyber villains and safeguard our digital fortresses.

Guardians of Global Wellness

Pandemic Odyssey: The seismic impact of COVID-19 sounded the alarm for robust global health governance.

Imagine this: a future where nations join hands in a symphony of collaboration, fine-tuning pandemic preparedness, orchestrating vaccine ballets, and addressing health inequalities on the grand stage of global solidarity.

Environmental Diplomacy

Climate Crusaders: Brace yourself for a climate showdown! As the world heats up, international relations will groove to the beat of urgent climate action.

Imagine a dance floor where negotiations, agreements, and collaborations bust moves to mitigate environmental threats and jive with the rhythm of a changing climate.

Regional Power Play

Shapeshifting Dynamics: A plot twist is brewing as regional powers in Asia and Africa steal the spotlight, reshaping the global stage.

The future of international relations will be a blockbuster, navigating the rise of these regional superheroes alongside the traditional titans of global influence.

Tech-Driven Humanitarianism

Aid’s Tech Symphony: When humanitarian crises strike, enter the tech virtuosos! Drones, artificial intelligence, and other tech marvels take center stage, orchestrating a symphony of innovation to respond to crises and deliver assistance with superhero efficiency.

Cosmic Diplomacy

Space Odyssey Unleashed: As we soar into the cosmos, international relations will boldly go where no treaties have gone before.

Picture diplomatic efforts navigating the vast expanse of space, establishing norms, agreements, and governance frameworks for our cosmic endeavors.

Economic Resilience Revolution:

Economic Tango Redefined: The aftermath of global economic shocks reshapes the dance floor of economic alliances and trade relationships.

Future international relations will spin into action, crafting moves to enhance economic resilience and foster cooperation in an ever-changing economic landscape.

Digital Frontier Governance:

Regulating the Digital Wild West: Get ready for a showdown in the digital saloon! The digital realm takes the spotlight in international relations, where future trends include crafting international regulations, treaties, and norms to tame the digital frontier, ensuring data privacy and the ethical use of emerging technologies.

Migration Marvels:

Demographic Jigsaw: Demographic changes and migration challenges become key players in the international relations saga.

Nations collaborate on an epic script, developing comprehensive policies that address the impacts of migration on societies, economies, and the geopolitics stage.

Multilateral Makeover

Global Governance Remix: The future sees multilateral institutions donning a new look to tackle contemporary challenges.

Efforts to reform and adapt global governance structures take center stage, promising an international relations blockbuster that shapes the world’s destiny.

What are good topics for research in international relations?

Check out some of good topics for research in international relations:-

Digital Battlegrounds: Navigating Cybersecurity Challenges in Global Diplomacy

Unraveling the influence of cyber threats on shaping diplomatic relations and the imperative for a united front in the realm of cybersecurity.

China’s Global Odyssey: Decoding the Belt and Road Initiative

Embarking on an exploration of the economic, political, and geopolitical ripple effects stemming from China’s grand infrastructure and development venture.

Angels in Conflict: Humanitarian Interventions Unveiled

Delving into the intricacies of international humanitarian interventions, weighing their effectiveness against the ethical backdrop in conflict-ridden territories.

Climate Avengers: Global Governance Confronts Climate Change

Surveying the battlefield of climate change, evaluating the triumphs and tribulations of international agreements and organizations in fostering sustainability.

Beyond Borders: The Dance of Non-State Actors in Global Affairs

Spotlighting the silent influencers – NGOs, multinational corporations, and other non-state actors – and deciphering their impact on the world stage.

Refugee Realities: An International Collaboration Saga

Unmasking the challenges and collaborative opportunities on the global stage as nations grapple with the escalating refugee crisis .

Energy Chess: Geopolitics in Resource Distribution

Tracing the geopolitical moves dictated by the control and distribution of energy resources, a chess game shaping international relations.

Populism’s Echo: Global Diplomacy in the Age of Charismatic Leaders

Analyzing the crescendo of populist movements and leaders, exploring their influence on international relations, alliances, and diplomatic dynamics.

Nuclear Shadows: Proliferation Puzzles and Global Security

Assessing the shadow cast by nuclear weapons proliferation and unraveling strategies for global disarmament.

Multilateralism Unveiled: Charting the Future Course

Lifting the curtain on the role and relevance of multilateral institutions in the ever-evolving landscape of international relations, envisioning potential reforms.

Regional Harmony: Dynamics of Integration Explored

Unlocking the impact of regional organizations, like the European Union or ASEAN, on stability, economic collaboration, and political cohesion.

Soft Whispers: Cultural Influence in Global Affairs

Deciphering the art of soft power, cultural sway, and the dance of public diplomacy on the grand stage of international relations.

Trade Winds of Change: Global Commerce Post-Pandemic

Navigating the reshaped tides of global trade and supply chains in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rights Under Fire: Human Rights Amidst Conflict

Assessing the safeguarding of human rights in the tumult of conflict zones, and exploring avenues for accountability and justice.

AI on the Frontlines: Warfare in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Probing the ethical, legal, and strategic battlegrounds of integrating artificial intelligence into military operations and the face of warfare.

These topics now come alive with a touch of intrigue and exploration!

What topics do international relations students study?

Embarking on the adventure of international relations studies is like diving into a treasure trove of global complexities. A

s students navigate this dynamic field, they encounter a fascinating array of subjects that mirror the intricate dance of nations.

Here’s a sneak peek into the captivating topics that typically grace the desks of international relations students:

Global Political Economy

Unraveling the intricate threads of international trade, finance, and economic jamborees, exploring the rollercoaster ride of globalization, development dramas, and economic sagas.

Delving into the legal labyrinths that regulate the cosmic ballet between states, organizations, and individuals on the world stage—think treaties, human rights, and diplomatic choreography.

Security Studies

Analyzing the kaleidoscope of global security, from military acrobatics and conflict resolution gymnastics to the starring role of international organizations in the grand spectacle of peacekeeping.

Comparative Politics

Comparing political systems worldwide, a bit like political Tinder, but for countries—swipe left for autocracy, swipe right for democracy.

Diplomacy and Negotiation

Mastering the art and strategy of diplomacy—picture a chessboard where countries make their moves with diplomatic finesse, negotiating checkmates and stalemates.

Foreign Policy Analysis

Playing detective in the realm of global decision-making—think Sherlock Holmes meets geopolitics, dissecting the motives and influences behind a nation’s foreign policy.

Touring the bureaucratic wonders of global organizations like the United Nations, where policies are debated, resolutions are passed, and diplomatic handshakes abound.

Human Rights and Global Governance

Championing the cause of human rights on the world stage, a bit like the Avengers, but for justice, with discussions on global governance challenges thrown in.

Crisis Management

Learning the ABCs of handling international crises—from humanitarian dramas to political cliffhangers, because sometimes the world feels like a suspenseful blockbuster.

Area Studies

Taking a deep dive into the soul of specific regions or countries, unraveling their histories, cultures, political intrigues, and international relations soap operas.

These are just a few teasers from the thrilling curriculum that shapes international relations students into global aficionados, ready to decode the world’s greatest mysteries and challenges.

What are the main issues of international relations?

Embarking on the labyrinthine journey of international relations is like diving headfirst into a riveting saga filled with complex challenges and diplomatic intricacies. Here’s a closer look at the pulse-quickening issues that keep the global stage buzzing with anticipation:

Global Security and Conflict

Imagine the ongoing chess game of maintaining global peace, tackling conflicts, and deftly sidestepping the landmines of potential new hostilities.

Economic Inequality and Globalization

Imagine a high-stakes tightrope walk, balancing the pursuit of economic growth with the tightrope of fair wealth distribution in our interconnected, globalized world.

Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability

Feel the urgency of a call to arms against climate change, championing environmental protection, and orchestrating a symphony of international cooperation for sustainable development.

Human Rights Violations

Enter the battlefield of justice, where the quest to protect and champion human rights clashes with discrimination, persecution, and the shadows of injustice.

Global Health Challenges

Witness the epic quest against pandemics, the noble pursuit of equal healthcare, and the captivating dance where global health meets the intricate steps of international relations.

Nuclear Proliferation

Imagine delicate diplomatic waltz around the possession and potential use of nuclear weapons, involving disarming maneuvers, non-proliferation treaties, and diplomatic pirouettes.

Terrorism and Transnational Crime

Navigate the thrilling world of international intrigue where the threat of terrorism and cybercrime lurk, challenging the boundaries of nations.

Migration and Displacement

Step into the multifaceted dance of human migration, refugees seeking a new rhythm, and the drama of how these moves impact host countries and global stability.

Nationalism and Populism

Experience the resurgence of nationalist and populist movements, an unfolding drama influencing both domestic and international political stages.

Technological Advancements and Governance

Dive into the riveting tale of rapid technological advances, where cybersecurity challenges and the regulation of emerging technologies take center stage.

Public Health Crises

Respond to the urgent call of global health crises, epitomized by the dramatic plot twists of events like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Diplomatic Tensions and Alliances

Feel the diplomatic tension in the air, where alliances are forged and strained, as the geopolitical script continually rewrites itself.

These are not just global issues; they’re the characters and plotlines that make the grand narrative of international relations a thrilling and ever-evolving spectacle. Get ready for the next episode!

What are the topics of the International Relations Journal?

The International Relations Journal is like a treasure trove, unlocking the secrets of the ever-evolving world of international relations.

It’s a captivating journey through a kaleidoscope of topics, where the academic spotlight shines on:

Dive into the drama of war, the chessboard of nuclear politics, and the backstage workings of global peacekeepers.

Get tangled in the web of globalization’s impact on world economies, the intricate dance of international trade, and the role of financial bigwigs.

Embark on a legal odyssey, exploring the origins and applications of international law, dissecting treaties, and scrutinizing institutions like the International Court of Justice.

Take a cross-cultural road trip, comparing political systems, dissecting the birth and demise of democracies and autocracies, and peeking into the political economy and social policies across the globe.

International Relations Theory

Dip your toes into the sea of theories, from the hard-hitters like realism and liberalism to the avant-garde worlds of constructivism, critical theory, and postmodernism.

International History

Time-travel through historical sagas of diplomacy, the rollercoaster of war, the rise and fall of empires, and the game-changers like the Cold War, 9/11, and the transformative waves of the Arab Spring.

This isn’t just a journal; it’s a vibrant marketplace of ideas, where scholars and enthusiasts alike gather to decipher the complex symphony that is international relations.

In the captivating realm of international relations research, these topics serve as portals into the heart of our global narrative, inviting curious minds to embark on a journey through the complexities that define our interconnected world.

From the intriguing dance of technological diplomacy to the pressing challenges posed by climate change, each research avenue beckons exploration and deeper understanding.

As we navigate this intellectual landscape, the rise of artificial intelligence’s impact on global affairs, China’s ascendancy reshaping geopolitical dynamics, and the imperative for collective action on climate-related issues emerge as pivotal subjects.

These aren’t just topics; they are doorways into a world where every inquiry contributes to the ever-evolving story of our shared human experience.

The future of democracy faces crossroads, and the ethical dimensions of technology on human rights challenge us to contemplate the intersection of progress and ethical responsibility.

The multifaceted facets of international security weave a narrative that transcends borders, reminding us of our interconnected destinies.

As scholars and enthusiasts delve into these topics, the journal of international relations becomes not just a source of knowledge but a compass, guiding us through the intricate and dynamic terrain of our global society.

The landscape of international relations research is an open invitation to unravel, question, and actively participate in the ongoing dialogue that shapes our world. It’s a vibrant tapestry waiting to be explored by those curious enough to seek, understand, and contribute to the rich mosaic of our interconnected reality.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key theoretical frameworks in international relations research.

International relations research draws on various theoretical frameworks, including realism, liberalism, and constructivism. Each offers unique perspectives on global affairs.

How does cultural diplomacy impact international relations?

Cultural diplomacy plays a crucial role in shaping international perceptions. It fosters understanding between nations and influences public opinion, contributing to soft power dynamics.

What are the pressing contemporary issues in international relations research?

Contemporary issues include geopolitical tensions, global health crises, and environmental challenges. Researchers delve into these topics to offer insights and solutions.

How does global governance contribute to international stability?

Global governance, facilitated by international organizations, contributes to stability by providing mechanisms for collaboration, conflict resolution, and the pursuit of common goals.

What role do case studies play in international relations research?

Case studies provide a practical application of theoretical frameworks to real-world scenarios. They offer nuanced insights into diplomatic challenges and successes.

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Best History Research Paper Topics

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Dive into the world of historical scholarship with our comprehensive guide to the best history research paper topics . Primarily designed for students tasked with writing history research papers, this guide presents a curated list of 100 exceptional topics, divided into 10 distinct categories, each with a unique historical focus. The guide offers clear and practical advice on how to choose the most compelling history research paper topics, and provides 10 handy tips on crafting an outstanding research paper. In addition to academic guidance, the guide introduces the superior writing services of iResearchNet, a reliable option for students needing customized history research papers.

Comprehensive List of Best History Research Paper Topics

The following comprehensive list of the best history research paper topics is crafted to stimulate your curiosity and ignite your passion for historical study. These topics cover a range of historical periods and geographical locations to cater to the diverse interests of history students.

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Ancient History Topics

  • The Causes and Effects of the Fall of the Roman Empire
  • Daily Life in Ancient Egypt
  • The Influence of Alexander the Great’s Conquests on the Hellenistic World
  • The Role of Women in Spartan Society
  • The Construction and Significance of the Great Wall of China
  • The Impact of Confucianism on Ancient Chinese Society
  • Trade Routes and their Role in the Expansion of Ancient Civilizations
  • The Cultural and Political Influence of the Phoenician Civilization
  • Comparing Democracy in Ancient Greece to Modern Democracy
  • The Religious Practices and Beliefs of the Mayans

Medieval History Topics

  • The Role of the Catholic Church in Medieval Europe
  • The Impact of the Black Death on Medieval Society
  • The Cultural Significance of the Knights Templar
  • Gender Roles and Family Structure in Medieval Japan
  • The Causes and Consequences of the Hundred Years War
  • The Political Structure of the Byzantine Empire
  • The Influence of the Carolingian Renaissance on Europe
  • The Role of Vikings in European Trade and Exploration
  • The Crusades: Causes, Events, and Consequences
  • The Architecture and Symbolism of Gothic Cathedrals

Early Modern History Topics

  • The Causes and Effects of the Protestant Reformation
  • The Role of the Enlightenment in the French Revolution
  • The Impact of the Scientific Revolution on European Society
  • The Socioeconomic Consequences of the Industrial Revolution
  • The Influence of the Ottoman Empire on Southeast Europe
  • The Role of Slavery in the Colonial Economies
  • The Politics and Culture of the Renaissance in Italy
  • European Imperialism in Africa and Asia
  • The Cultural and Political Impacts of the Mughal Empire
  • The American Revolution: Causes, Events, and Legacy

Modern History Topics

  • The Causes and Global Consequences of World War I
  • The Great Depression: Causes and Effects
  • The Role of Propaganda in World War II
  • The Impact of the Cold War on International Relations
  • The Civil Rights Movement in the United States
  • The Fall of the Berlin Wall and the End of the Cold War
  • The Effects of Decolonization in the 20th Century
  • The Role of Women in the World Wars
  • The Formation and Impact of the European Union
  • The Causes and Consequences of the Arab Spring

Asian History Topics

  • The Cultural Impact of the Silk Road in Asia
  • The Effects of Colonial Rule in India
  • The Legacy of the Mongol Empire in Asia
  • The Cultural and Political Changes in China’s Cultural Revolution
  • The Korean War: Causes, Events, and Consequences
  • The Role of Samurai in Feudal Japan
  • The Impact of the Opium Wars on China
  • The Influence of Buddhism on Asian Cultures
  • The Cambodian Genocide under the Khmer Rouge
  • The Role of Gandhi in India’s Independence

American History Topics

  • The Impact of the New Deal on the American Economy
  • The Vietnam War: Causes, Events, and Legacy
  • The Influence of the Beat Generation on American Culture
  • The Role of Manifest Destiny in Westward Expansion
  • The Cuban Missile Crisis and Its Effects on the Cold War
  • The Women’s Suffrage Movement in the United States
  • The Native American Civil Rights Movement
  • The Role of the Transcontinental Railroad in American Expansion
  • The Civil War: Causes, Events, and Aftermath
  • The Immigration Wave at Ellis Island: Causes and Effects

European History Topics

  • The Impacts of the Russian Revolution
  • The Influence of Martin Luther’s Theses on Europe
  • The British Empire: Rise, Dominance, and Fall
  • The Role of Art in the French Revolution
  • The Impact of the Spanish Inquisition on Spain and its Colonies
  • The Rise and Influence of Fascism in Europe
  • The Role of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages
  • The Consequences of the Treaty of Versailles
  • The Formation and Impact of NATO
  • The Role of the Media in the Fall of the Berlin Wall

African History Topics

  • The Effects of Apartheid in South Africa
  • The Influence of the Trans-Saharan Trade on West African Societies
  • The Role of Nelson Mandela in Ending Apartheid
  • The Scramble for Africa and its Effects on the Continent
  • The Impact of the Atlantic Slave Trade on West Africa
  • The Rwandan Genocide: Causes and Consequences
  • The Role of the African Union in Continental Politics
  • The Impact of Islam on North Africa
  • The Decolonization of Africa in the 20th Century
  • The Role of Women in Pre-Colonial African Societies

Military History Topics

  • The Influence of Technological Innovations on Warfare
  • The Role of the French Foreign Legion in Global Conflicts
  • The Impact of the Manhattan Project on World War II and Beyond
  • The Role of the Spartans in Ancient Greek Warfare
  • The Impact of Drones on Modern Warfare
  • The Influence of the English Longbow on Medieval Warfare
  • The Role of the Maginot Line in World War II
  • The Impact of Naval Power on the British Empire
  • The Influence of Nuclear Weapons on International Politics
  • The Role of Propaganda in World War I

This expansive list of best history research paper topics offers a comprehensive exploration of the past, crossing different eras, regions, and themes. They form a rich tapestry of human experience and a foundation for understanding our present and future. Choose a topic that piques your interest, ignites your curiosity, and promises a journey of intellectual discovery. Remember that the exploration of history is a journey into the roots of our shared humanity and an exploration of the forces that shape our world.

History and What Range of Best Research Paper Topics it Offers

As a subject of study, history is more than a chronological list of events, dates, and prominent figures. History is the exploration of human experiences, societal changes, political upheavals, cultural transformations, economic shifts, and technological advancements across different periods and regions. This exploration allows us to understand how the past has shaped our present and how it can potentially shape our future. It teaches us to appreciate the complexities and nuances of human nature and society, making history a rich field for research paper topics.

History is an interdisciplinary field, interweaving elements from various areas of study, including politics, sociology, economics, anthropology, geography, and literature. This interdisciplinary nature provides a wide array of best history research paper topics. Moreover, the global scope of history further broadens the pool of topics, as it encompasses every region of the world and every period from the dawn of human civilization to the present day.

Exploring Different Periods

Historical research often focuses on specific periods, each offering unique topics for exploration. For instance, Ancient History provides topics related to ancient civilizations like Rome, Greece, Egypt, China, and India, and key events such as Alexander the Great’s conquests or the fall of the Roman Empire.

The Medieval Period offers topics related to the socio-political structure of societies, the influence of religion, the impact of plagues, and the role of significant historical figures. Researching the Renaissance can focus on cultural, artistic, and scientific revolutions that have shaped the modern world.

The Modern History category contains topics related to significant events and transformations, such as world wars, the Great Depression, the Cold War, decolonization, and various national and international movements.

Geographical Perspectives

Geographical focus is another common approach in historical research. Asian history encompasses topics ranging from the influence of Confucianism in China to the impact of colonial rule in India. European history explores events such as the Enlightenment, the French and Russian revolutions, and the formation of the European Union. American history topics can cover everything from Manifest Destiny to the Civil Rights Movement. African history can delve into the effects of the Atlantic Slave Trade, the apartheid era, and decolonization.

Thematic Approaches

In addition to period- and region-based topics, history offers an extensive range of thematic topics. These themes often intersect with other disciplines, leading to exciting interdisciplinary research opportunities.

Social and cultural history, for instance, covers diverse topics such as the influence of the Harlem Renaissance on African American culture, the counterculture movement of the 1960s, the role of film and television in shaping societies, or the impacts of the Internet on global culture.

Military history provides a wide range of topics related to warfare, strategy, technological developments, and the influence of military conflicts on societies and politics. From the use of the English longbow in medieval warfare to the impact of drones on modern warfare, this field offers a variety of fascinating topics.

Making the Right Choice

The choice of a research paper topic in history should ideally be guided by your interest, the available resources, and the requirements of your assignment. With such a wide range of topics, it can be challenging to make a choice. But remember, a good history research paper topic is not just about the past; it should also engage with the present and potentially shed light on the future. The best research paper topics are those that not only delve deep into the annals of history but also resonate with current issues and debates.

The study of history is a gateway into the vast narrative of human civilization. With an extensive range of periods, regions, and themes to choose from, history offers a rich reservoir of research paper topics. As we delve into the past, we discover the forces that have shaped our world, gain insights into the human experience, and glean lessons for our future. This journey of exploration makes history an incredibly exciting field for research papers.

How to Choose Best History Research Paper Topics

Choosing the best history research paper topic can be the first step towards a rewarding intellectual journey. It’s not just about meeting academic requirements; it’s about uncovering facets of the past that intrigue you and may potentially contribute to the broader understanding of history. Here are twenty in-depth tips that will guide you through the process and help you select the best topic for your history research paper.

  • Understand the Assignment: Understanding your assignment’s requirements is the primary and most critical step in selecting a topic. Take time to carefully read the guidelines given by your instructor. Are there any specific historical periods, geographical regions, or themes you are required to focus on? Do the instructions indicate the scope or complexity level of the topic? Comprehending the parameters set by your instructor will significantly narrow down your options.
  • Choose a Time Period: One way to approach the topic selection is by focusing on a particular time period that sparks your interest. It could be anything from the Bronze Age, to the Renaissance, to World War II. The more interested you are in the chosen time period, the more engaged you will be in the research process.
  • Pick a Region: Similar to choosing a time period, selecting a particular region or country can also help narrow down potential topics. Are you fascinated by the history of East Asia, intrigued by ancient Egypt, or drawn to the socio-political history of Europe? Starting with a geographic focus can provide a strong foundation for your research.
  • Identify a Theme: In addition to or instead of a time period or region, you might want to choose a theme that you wish to explore. Themes can range from political history, cultural history, history of science and technology, to gender history, among others. A thematic approach can offer a unique perspective and can even allow you to cross over different time periods or regions.
  • Conduct Preliminary Research: Even before you have a firm topic in hand, engage in some preliminary research. This could involve reviewing textbooks, scholarly articles, or reputable online resources related to your chosen period, region, or theme. Preliminary research can give you a general sense of the historical context and inspire potential topics.
  • Seek Inspiration from Existing Works: As part of your preliminary research, look at other research papers, theses, or dissertations in your area of interest. This can give you a good idea of what has been done, what gaps exist in the research, and where your research could potentially fit in.
  • Scope Your Topic: The scope of your topic should be proportionate to the length and depth of your paper. If your paper is relatively short, a narrow, focused topic would be more suitable. For a longer and more complex paper, a broader topic that explores multiple facets or perspectives would be more appropriate.
  • Consider the Relevance: Another aspect to consider when selecting a topic is its relevance. Does the topic have any relation to the course you are undertaking? Does it reflect on current historical or social debates? A topic that connects your historical research to broader academic or social issues can make your paper more impactful and engaging.
  • Look for Unique Angles: While not every research paper can revolutionize the field, striving for some degree of originality in your work is always a good practice. Look for unique angles, underexplored areas, or new perspectives on a well-trodden topic. Presenting a fresh approach can make your paper more interesting for both you and your readers.
  • Assess the Availability of Sources: Your research paper is only as good as your sources. Before finalizing your topic, make sure there are enough primary and secondary sources available to you. This could be in the form of books, academic articles, documentary films, archives, databases, or digital resources.
  • Evaluate the Feasibility: Beyond the availability of sources, consider other practical aspects of your chosen topic. Is it feasible to conduct the research within the given time frame? Is the topic too complex or too simplistic for your current academic level? A realistic evaluation of these factors at an early stage can save you a lot of time and effort down the line.
  • Reflect on Your Interests: Above all, select a topic that genuinely piques your curiosity. A research paper is a significant undertaking, and your interest in the topic will sustain you through potential challenges. If you are passionate about the topic, it will reflect in your writing and make your paper more compelling.
  • Solicit Feedback: Seek advice from your instructor, classmates, or any other knowledgeable individuals. They may be able to provide valuable feedback, point out potential pitfalls, or suggest different perspectives that can enrich your research.
  • Be Flexible: Be prepared to tweak, adjust, or even overhaul your topic as you delve deeper into the research process. New information or insights may emerge that shift your focus or challenge your initial assumptions.
  • Bridge the Past and Present: Try to find topics that allow you to connect historical events or phenomena with contemporary issues. This can provide additional depth to your paper and may also appeal to a broader audience.
  • Consult Specialized Encyclopedias and Guides: These can provide overviews of various topics and can often suggest areas for research. They also offer bibliographies which can serve as a starting point for your research.
  • Draft a Preliminary Thesis Statement: Once you have a potential topic, try drafting a preliminary thesis statement. This can help you focus your ideas and give you a clear direction for your research.
  • Ensure Your Topic Meets the Assignment Goals: Check back with your assignment guidelines to make sure your chosen topic meets all the requirements. It’s a good idea to do this before you start your in-depth research.
  • Be Ready to Invest Time and Effort: Choose a topic that you are ready to spend time on. Remember, you will be working on this topic for an extended period, so choose something that you find interesting and engaging.
  • Enjoy the Process: Finally, remember that the process of researching and writing a history paper can be a source of enjoyment and intellectual satisfaction. Choose a topic that not only meets academic requirements but also gives you a sense of accomplishment and discovery.

Choosing the best history research paper topic is not merely about fulfilling an academic requirement. It’s about setting the stage for a journey into the past, an exploration of humanity’s collective memory. The right topic will not only make this journey enjoyable but also deeply enlightening. By considering these tips, you can select a topic that resonates with you and holds the potential for a meaningful scholarly contribution.

How to Write a Best History Research Paper

Writing a history research paper can be a rewarding experience, providing an opportunity to delve into the past and explore the events, ideas, and personalities that have shaped our world. However, crafting a high-quality paper requires more than just an interest in the subject matter. It involves thorough research, analytical thinking, and clear, persuasive writing. Here are twenty comprehensive tips on how to write a best history research paper.

  • Understand the Assignment: Begin by thoroughly understanding the assignment. Ensure you grasp the requirements, the scope of the paper, the format, and the deadline. Clear any doubts with your professor or peers before you start.
  • Select a Suitable Topic: As discussed earlier, choosing an appropriate topic is crucial. It should be engaging, manageable, and meet the assignment’s requirements. Consider your interests, the available resources, and the paper’s scope when choosing the topic.
  • Conduct In-Depth Research: Once the topic is decided, embark on thorough research. Use a variety of sources, such as books, academic journals, credible online sources, primary sources, and documentaries. Remember to take notes and record the sources for citation purposes.
  • Formulate a Thesis Statement: The thesis statement is the central argument or point of your paper. It should be clear, concise, and debatable, providing a roadmap for your entire paper. The thesis statement should guide your research and each main point you make in your paper should support this central idea.
  • Create an Outline: An outline helps organize your thoughts and arguments. Typically, it should include an introduction (with the thesis statement), body paragraphs (with topic sentences), and a conclusion. Each point in your outline should be a reflection of your thesis statement.
  • Start with a Strong Introduction: The introduction should be engaging, provide some background on the topic, and include the thesis statement. It sets the tone for the rest of your paper, so make it compelling and informative.
  • Develop Body Paragraphs: Each body paragraph should focus on one main idea that supports your thesis. Begin with a topic sentence, provide evidence or arguments, and then conclude the paragraph by linking it back to your thesis. Be clear and concise in your arguments.
  • Use Evidence Effectively: Support your arguments with evidence from your research. This could include quotations, statistics, or primary source materials. Remember to interpret the evidence and explain its relevance to your argument.
  • Maintain a Logical Flow: The ideas in your paper should flow logically from one point to the next. Use transitional words and phrases to maintain continuity and help guide your reader through your paper.
  • Write a Compelling Conclusion: Your conclusion should sum up your main points, restate the thesis in light of the evidence provided, and possibly offer areas for further research or a concluding insight. It should leave the reader with something to think about.
  • Cite Your Sources: Always cite your sources properly. This not only gives credit where it’s due but also strengthens your argument by indicating the breadth of your research. Ensure you follow the required citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.).
  • Revise for Clarity and Coherence: After finishing your initial draft, revise your work. Check for clarity, coherence, and consistency of argument. Ensure each paragraph has a clear focus, and that the paragraphs flow smoothly from one idea to the next.
  • Proofread: Proofread your paper for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. Such errors can distract from the content and undermine your credibility as a writer. Reading your paper aloud or having someone else read it can help catch errors you might have missed.
  • Seek Feedback: Before finalizing your paper, consider seeking feedback from your professor, peers, or a writing center tutor. They can provide valuable perspectives and suggestions for improvement that you might not have considered.
  • Write in a Formal Academic Style: Your paper should be written in a formal academic style. Avoid slang, colloquialisms, and overly complex language. Be clear, concise, and precise in your expression.
  • Avoid Plagiarism: Plagiarism is a serious academic offense. Ensure that all ideas and words that are not your own are properly cited. When in doubt, it’s better to over-cite than to under-cite.
  • Stay Objective: A good history paper is objective and does not include personal opinions or biases. It relies on facts and evidence, and presents balanced arguments. Stick to the evidence and avoid emotional language.
  • Be Original: Strive for originality in your argument and interpretation. While your topic might not be entirely new, your perspective on it can be. Don’t be afraid to challenge established interpretations if you have evidence to support your argument.
  • Use Primary Sources Wisely: Primary sources are invaluable in historical research. However, remember that they should be used to support your argument, not to construct it. Your analysis and interpretation of the sources are what matters.
  • Enjoy the Process: Finally, remember to enjoy the process. Writing a research paper is not just an academic exercise, but a journey into the past. It’s a chance to learn, explore, and contribute to our understanding of history.

In conclusion, writing a best history research paper requires careful planning, thorough research, clear writing, and detailed revision. However, the process can be highly rewarding, leading to new insights and a deeper understanding of history. These tips provide a comprehensive guide to help you craft a top-notch history research paper. Remember, history is a continually evolving dialogue, and your paper is your chance to join the conversation.

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research topics for history and international studies

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Research programme

History and International Studies 1900-Present

Research in the History and International Studies 1900-Present specialisation addresses the interconnectedness and interdependence of contemporary global political, economic and cultural developments from a multidisciplinary perspective which is rooted in the humanities.

research topics for history and international studies

Our research is grounded in historical and regional contexts, and viewed through a broad range of theories and concepts drawn from many disciplines. Our time frame is flexible, but we mostly focus on the contemporary, post-World War II era. We value regional and linguistic expertise. Our researchers investigate issues and topics by synthesising contributions from different disciplines, particularly history, area studies, and international studies broadly defined. By so doing we give a historical dimension to international and area studies research and an explicitly comparative, trans-national and international dimension to historical research.

Three main realms

The group's interests cover three specific themes. Firstly, researchers investigate the process and history of European integration. We study this topic from a variety of disciplinary approaches (history, law, politics, and international relations) and at various administrative levels (the national state, the European polity, and the wider regional and global perspective). Secondly, researchers are particularly interested in the ideational aspects of global political and international relations. We study ideas and conceptual beliefs (sovereignty, legitimacy, nationalism, justice, equality) and how they influence international relations and global politics. Thirdly, researchers study specific aspects of international history and relations such as diplomacy, security, culture and political economy. Our research into diplomacy, conflict and security is marked by a focus on a variety of regions and actors, particularly non-state actors. An appreciation of non-Western perspectives and actors figures prominently in our research.

Beyond traditional borders

Researchers in this specialization are aware of the diverging traditions and approaches of history and international studies and strive to cross boundaries so that these disciplines may learn from one another. Global politics is shaped by an often unpredictable, contingent combination of actors and circumstances which need to be understood in their wider historical context. Our researchers study historical paradigms, challenge dominant historiography, and identify and interrogate hypotheses that shape understandings of the past and how historical experiences may be harnessed to inform today’s global political developments.

Within the Leiden University Institute for History

The research specialization History and International Studies 1900-present can be distinguished from other specializations in the Institute for History by its multi-disciplinary nature, its focus on international studies and global politics rather than on the connection between domestic politics and culture, and its focus on the contemporary.

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Article contents

International relations and the study of history.

  • Constantinos Koliopoulos Constantinos Koliopoulos Department of International, European and Area Studies, Panteion University
  • https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190846626.013.242
  • Published in print: 01 March 2010
  • Published online: 22 December 2017
  • This version: 25 January 2019
  • Previous version

International relations and history are inextricably linked, and with good reason. This link is centuries old: Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War , one of the very earliest and one of the very greatest historical works of all time, is widely regarded as the founding textbook of international relations. Still, those two disciplines are legitimately separate. A somewhat clear boundary between them can probably be drawn around three lines of demarcation: (1) past versus present, (2) idiographic versus nomothetic, and (3) description versus analysis.

The utility of history for the analysis of international affairs has been taken for granted since time immemorial. History is said to offer three things to international relations scholars: (1) a ready source of examples, (2) an opportunity to sharpen their theoretical insights, and (3) historical consciousness, that is, an understanding of the historical context of human existence and a corresponding ability to form intelligent judgment about human affairs. This tradition continued well after international relations firmly established itself as a recognized separate discipline some time after World War II, and would remain virtually unchallenged until the 1960s.

Since the 1960s, attitudes toward history have diverged within the international relations community. Some approaches, most notably the English school and the world system analysis, have almost by definition thriven on history. History plays a fundamental role in the critical-constructivist approach, while realist scholars continue to draw regularly on history. History is far less popular, though not absent from works belonging to the liberal-idealist approach. Postmodernism is the one approach that is almost completely antithetical to the analytical use of history. Postmodernists have characterized history as merely another form of fiction and question the existence of objective truth and transhistorical knowledge. One cannot exclude the possibility that postmodernism is correct in this respect; however, it is highly unlikely that uncountable generations of people have been victims of mass deception or mass psychosis regarding the utility of history, not least in the analysis of international relations.

  • international relations
  • interdisciplinarity
  • English school
  • critical-constructivist approach
  • world system analysis
  • liberal-idealist approach
  • postmodernism

Updated in this version

Summary and keywords updated. Expanded discussion of Contemporary English school and realism. References updated and expanded.


This article consists of two parts: one section deals with the relation between history and international relations as approached in the relevant literature; the remaining sections survey the ways in which history (referring both to the historical record and to the insights of historians) has been used in the study of international relations, from Thucydides to contemporary scholarship. Given the sheer magnitude of the international relations literature, a comprehensive presentation of the subject is out of the question. Instead, the focus will be on presenting the main strands of thought and particular salient points.

International Relations and History: The Elusive Boundary

Setting the boundary.

International relations used to be a mere branch of diplomatic history—actually, it was indistinguishable from diplomatic history. International relations began to emerge as a separate discipline in the aftermath of World War I with the creation of the chair of International Politics at the University of Aberystwyth, UK, and firmly secured its independence sometime after the end of World War II (Olson, 1972 ). It thus stands to reason that at the beginnings of the institutional life of the new discipline its proponents were keen on establishing its self-identity, although they duly recognized its dependence on the older discipline (Marchant, 1961 :19; McClelland, 1961 ). So, somehow there had to be a boundary between international relations and history. But where to set that boundary?

Setting it is not easy, especially when it comes to what Johan Galtung ( 1969 :266–270) has called “nomothetic, diachronic research.” To get an idea of the difficulties involved, one may consider the works of Thucydides ( 1972 ), Arnold Toynbee ( 1934–1961 ), and Paul Kennedy ( 1987 ). Although all three authors are primarily classified as historians, these works constitute borderline cases between history and international relations. It is not always fortunate to be a borderline case. Both historians and international relations scholars are generally happy to consider Thucydides as one of their own; Paul Kennedy is recognized as a leading historian and has also earned an important place in international relations literature; but in contrast to the dual citizenship of Thucydides and Kennedy, Toynbee ended up stranded in no-man’s land, disavowed by historians and not adopted by international relations scholars.

Most of the practitioners of history and international relations believe that the differences between the disciplines are real and important enough (Elman & Elman, 2001 ; Jervis, 2001 ; Schroeder, 2001 ). On the other hand, there is no absolute consensus as to what exactly these differences are. Opinions seem to cluster around three possible lines of demarcation: (1) past versus present, (2) idiographic versus nomothetic, and (3) description versus analysis. These lines are better viewed as continua rather than rigid categories, given that both history and international relations are quite heterogeneous (Levy, 2001 :40, 42–45); thus, although some historians have explicitly rejected the aforementioned lines and offered convincing counterexamples (Ingram, 1997 :53–54; Schroeder, 1997 :65–67, 2001 :405–406), it does seem that this demarcation captures the difference between international relations and history.

The past versus present continuum is arguably the most obvious difference between the two disciplines. Strictly speaking, “a non-experimental observational basis for a science is, in a certain sense, always ‘historical’ in character” (Popper, 1986 :38; see also Wright, 1965 :25). However, if the term “historical” is to have any meaning, it must be somehow synonymous with “past” (say, 20 years back), notwithstanding the existence of “contemporary history.” In this vein, history deals with the past and international relations deals with the present; even in the numerous instances when international relations deals with historical cases, it does so with an eye to the present, whereas history tends to deal with the past for its own sake (Ingram, 1997 :54; Elman & Elman, 2001 :7–8; Lebow, 2001 :111). In the same vein, international relations often aims consciously at policy relevance, a tendency relatively absent from history. It is no accident that the historian John Burrow ( 2008 :79, 271) classified as “political science” the explicitly policy-relevant historical works of Polybius and Machiavelli, while it has been pointed out that “some people undoubtedly choose to become political scientists rather than historians precisely because they want to influence policy” (Levy, 2001 :62).

Nevertheless, the past–present distinction is not as neat as one might think. To start with, the present is not so self-intelligible: historical context may matter a lot, and past influences may persist for long (Wright, 1965 :18; Bloch, 1992 :29–39). Moreover, historians often do have an eye for the present, or even for the future (Gaddis, 2004 :10); indeed, they use the pejorative term “antiquarian” for those among them who are considered bound to the past (Fischer, 1970 :140–142; Burrow, 2008 :468). Finally, salient past events still command widespread interest for their own sake, and international relations scholars who analyze them in the course of their theoretical quests cannot help improving the general understanding of those particular events (King, Keohane, & Verba, 1994 :35).

The idiographic versus nomothetic distinction is arguably the most important difference between international relations and history, subsuming most of the other differences (Galtung, 1969 :251–253; Levy, 1997 ; Elman & Elman, 2001 :13–16; Levy, 2001 ). This distinction is spelled out by Aristotle ( Poetics , ix, quoted in Finley, 1990 :11) in his powerful indictment against history: “Poetry is more philosophical and more weighty than history, for poetry speaks rather of the universal, history of the particular. By the universal I mean that such or such a kind of man will say or do such or such things from probability or necessity; that is the aim of poetry, adding proper names to the characters. By the particular I mean what Alcibiades did and what he suffered.”

Substituting international relations for poetry, this accounts for a fundamental difference between international relations and history. International relations scholars explicitly aim to arrive at general propositions of wider applicability (Hoffmann, 1961 :430; Kaplan, 1961 :8–10, 14; Wright, 1965 :16, 26, 438–439; Waltz, 1979 :1–17). On the contrary, although there are a few historians that, after Carl Hempel, search for “covering laws” in history (see Trachtenberg, 2006 :1–4), historians can be happy with pure idiography (Samuel Eliot Morison, quoted in McClelland, 1961 :34; cf. Lebow, 1981 :ix–x) or at least be reluctant to generalize from particular cases, because they place a high value on contingency (Hoffmann, 1961 :430–431; Wright, 1965 :16, 26, 438–439; Elman & Elman, 2001 :16–18; Jervis, 2001 :393–399; Gaddis, 2004 :12–15, 53–69; Burrow, 2008 :47–49, 79, 260, 270–271, 447).

The extreme forms of the idiographic tendency have received sharp criticism; among others it has been pointed out that the pure idiographers, in order to remain true to their convictions, should neither use census data nor even count the members of their own family (Galtung, 1969 :252–253; see also Fischer, 1970 :94–97). In turn, the historians have staged a two-pronged counterattack. To begin with, they have accused international relations scholars (and political scientists in general) of distorting reality in the process of generalization and of unduly neglecting contingency and path dependency (Schroeder, 1994 ; Ingram, 1997 ; Gaddis, 2004 :53–69, 71–89; Strachan, 2008 :36). This has fatal consequences for theory: “what [political scientists] don’t realize is that if they get the facts a little wrong, they don’t get the results a little wrong, they get them all wrong” (Jon Sumida, quoted in Lynn, 2001 :366). The second prong of the historians’ counterattack is of fairly recent vintage: instead of defending idiography, a number of historians have claimed that they, too, engage in generalizations: for instance, E. H. Carr ( 1990 :63, 64) has stated that “the historian is not really interested in the unique, but in what is general in the unique” and that “history thrives on generalizations.” Moreover, even historians who castigate political scientists/international relations scholars for their own brand of generalizations declare that historians “generalize for particular purposes; hence [they] practice particular generalization ” (Gaddis, 2004 :62, emphasis in text; see also Wright, 1965 :26, 438–439).

The first of these points is absolutely valid; international relations scholars have sometimes mentioned the need to take contingency into account (Hoffmann, 1961 :431; Wright, 1965 :1357–1358), though it is doubtful whether they have heeded this advice very much. Still, theory always involves abstractions from reality (Kaplan, 1961 ; Waltz, 1979 :1–17), and historians themselves admit that they, too, represent/construct reality (Gaddis, 2004 :135–145). As to the second point, it must be said that sometimes historians make “insidious generalizations” (Fischer, 1970 :124–125): they may openly disavow generalizations, but then proceed to bootleg them into their works without recognizing their existence or controlling their content (see also Wohlforth, 2001 :355–356).

Largely due to the idiographic–nomothetic distinction between history and international relations, scholarly works read differently in each of the two disciplines, at least nowadays: normally in works of international relations the theoretical sections are neatly separated from the narrative, and the inclusion of diagrams, figures, etc., is likely, whereas in historical works the theories, if they exist at all, are imbedded in the narrative, and one is unlikely to encounter any sophisticated artwork in the text (Elman & Elman, 2001 :27; Levy, 2001 :76). In the same vein, scholarly works cater to different expectations within the two scholarly communities: arguably the worst that can be said about an international relations work is that it is “descriptive,” whereas the worst that can be said about a historical work is that it is “incorrect” (Levy, 2001 :48–50).

This brings us to the description versus analysis distinction between history and international relations (Aron, 1966 :2; Levy, 2001 :71–78; Wohlforth, 2001 :356; Trachtenberg, 2006 :37). This is a much more accurate distinction than the supposed distinction of narrative versus theory, because historians do use many a theoretical insight in their works (Levy, 1997 :27–29). Analysis and description can be conceived as ends of a continuum ranging from the pure analysis of game theory and formal modeling, through the sketchy and sparse illustrative examples of Kenneth Waltz ( 1979 ), all the way to the assertion of David Hackett Fischer ( 1970 :14–15, 131) that history should deal with what happened and how , leaving aside the question of why it happened—be purely descriptive, that is. Overall, historians have a greater taste for detail than IR scholars; in fact, the very use of the word detail is problematic, given that historians may argue that the so-called details are actually essential for highlighting the unique aspects of the case under examination. In the end, it all comes down to a different mix of what , how ( what often subsumes how ), and why .

As was pointed out, historians do use theories; in fact, some of them have protested their depiction as mere fact-mongers by political scientists/international relations scholars (Ingram, 1997 :53–54; Schroeder, 1997 :65–67, 2001 :405–406; Trachtenberg, 2006 :37). However, the problem is that more often than not their theories are unarticulated (Kaplan, 1961 :6; Elman & Elman, 2001 :7; Lebow, 2001 :112–113; Wohlforth, 2001 :355–356), hence difficult to put to test and check for internal consistency.

Two related issues are those of parsimony (Elman & Elman, 2001 :7–8; Jervis, 2001 :390–393; Lebow, 2001 :123–126; Levy, 2001 :54–59; Schroeder, 2001 :405–408) and morality (Elman & Elman, 2001 :25–27; Jervis, 2001 :399–400; Schroeder, 2001 :409–416). Parsimony is essential in theoretical analysis, but not necessarily so in description. Consequently, historians are relatively more tolerant than social scientists to over-determination. As to morality, although classical international relations scholars did devote attention to it (Carr, 1981 :135–155; Morgenthau, 2006 :235–269), the discipline (at least its realist paradigm) progressively distanced itself from questions of international morality. On the contrary, historians still struggle with the issue, taking various positions (Carr, 1990 :75–84; Bloch, 1992 :114–119; Gaddis, 2004 :122–128).

Bridging the Gap

Why bridge the gap between international relations and history? After all, the affinity between the two disciplines may be nothing more than an accident of birth; for instance, although Vitoria and Suárez, the founders of modern international law, were clergymen, bridging the gap between international law and theology is hardly a central issue nowadays. Is history useful to international relations (and vice versa), and if yes, what to do about it?

Much has been written about the general utility of history (see among others Thucydides, 1972 :I 22; Polybius, 1922–1927 :I 1, I 35; Ibn Khaldûn, 1967 :5, 11; Fischer, 1970 :314–318; Neustadt & May, 1986 ; Gaddis, 2004 :8–11; Guldi & Armitage, 2014 ) and about its specific utility to international relations scholars (Hoffmann, 1961 :430–431; Marchant, 1961 ; Hill, 1985 ; Trachtenberg, 2006 :39–50, 134–139). According to this literature, history offers three things to international relations scholars: first, a ready source of examples; second, an opportunity to sharpen their theoretical insights; after all, broadening one’s database is hopefully bound to broaden one’s vision as well; third, historical consciousness, that is, an understanding of the historical context of human existence and a corresponding ability to form intelligent judgment about human affairs.

This learning by vicarious experience that history offers is often put to use by explicit or implicit historical analogies (Polybius, 1922–1927 :III 32, XII 25b). In order to acknowledge the utility of historical analogies, one need not resort to platitudes about history repeating itself or people doomed to relive their past. As the historian John Lewis Gaddis ( 2004 :2) has put it, “science, history, and art [. . .] all depend on metaphor, on the recognition of patterns, on the realization that something is ‘like’ something else.” At the same time, the relevant literature does contain its fair share of warnings and suggestions regarding the use of historical analogies (Fischer, 1970 :243–259; Neustadt & May, 1986 ; Carr, 1990 :62). Of course, reliance on historical analogies presupposes at least some elements of continuity through history. Thucydides ( 1972 :I 22) believed he had found the perennial element of continuity in the unchangeable human nature (but see Fischer, 1970 :203–207); modern realists (Waltz, 1979 ; Gilpin, 1981 :211–230; Mearsheimer, 2001 ) and English school theorists (Bull, 1977 ; Wight, 1978 ) point out the durable macro-influence of international anarchy. Although the historically minded international relations scholars ought to keep their eyes wide open to changes and breaks with the past, it is equally true to say that rumors about the end of history were greatly exaggerated and that contemporary international relations does retain manifold and important elements of continuity from earlier historical periods.

Several analysts have taken this strand of the literature to its logical conclusion; they regard the academic distinction between history and the social sciences as accidental, artificial, and detrimental (Toynbee, 1956 :5; Wright, 1965 :1363–1364), and hail the supposed emergence of a “super social science” (Galtung, 1969 :280–285). These are probably extreme views; as the subsection “ Setting the Boundary ” demonstrated, the boundary between international relations and history exists not only due to institutional caprice, but due to good substantive reasons as well. Robert Jervis ( 2001 :387) soberly concluded that although a redrawing or even an abolition of disciplinary lines might perhaps look attractive, of course it cannot be done and the respective disciplines are bound to retain their specific mores and incentives. So, bridging the gap is just about the best that can be expected.

Various ways have been suggested for doing this (Elman & Elman, 2001 :28–35). Well-meaning historians (Renouvin & Duroselle, 1967 ) have argued in favor of pursuing international relations analysis through a purely inductive approach to the historical record, but this is nowadays regarded as unfeasible or even unnecessary (Fischer, 1970 :4–8). More to the point seems the call of Quincy Wright ( 1965 :701–715, 1355–1364) and E. H. Carr ( 1990 :66) for an interdisciplinary approach between history and the social sciences. The practitioners of the latter ought to develop greater historical understanding and, in the particular case of international relations scholars, they may need to delve deeper into historiography in the course of their research (Schroeder, 1997 :71; Larson, 2001 ). On the other hand, historians may have much to gain by incorporating the theoretical insights of the social sciences—indeed, if historians intend to write analytical history, as opposed to purely descriptive history, it is reasonable to ask how they purport to analyze past political events, domestic and international, without recourse to the findings of political science. Quite a few scholars have explicitly heeded this call to interdisciplinarity (e.g., Trachtenberg, 2006 ), although it seems to have been easier for international relations scholars to accept historians in their midst and accord them leading-scholar status than the other way around. In this interdisciplinary vein, Alexander George’s advocacy of collaborative teaching by historians and international relations scholars merits serious attention (George, 1997 :46).

However, the story does not necessarily have an interdisciplinary happy end. To start with, it has been pointed out (Fischer, 1970 :37) that an interdisciplinary approach must be handled with care lest it ends up combining the worst vices of historians (“stupidity”) and social scientists (“ignorance”). Furthermore, interdisciplinarity may well prove impractical or unfeasible: scholars, even if they have the inclination, may not have the time or the necessary background for drawing appropriately from another discipline (Lawson, 2008 :25–26). Interdisciplinarity may even be insidious, that is, aiming at the colonization of the turf of one discipline by another (Lawson, 2008 :26). Finally, it has been argued (Wohlforth, 2001 :352–353) that, in the final analysis, international relations and history are competitive ventures: both try to explain the same phenomena, each in its own way, which is considered better than the other’s.

Before the Discipline: From Thucydides to World War I

As mentioned, Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War is both a seminal historical work and the founding text of international relations. Thucydides’ celebrated explanation of the cause of the Peloponnesian War is that “what made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear which this caused in Sparta” ( 1972 :I 23). This emphasis on power distribution and uneven development was a quantum leap in the study of international relations. A mere generation earlier Herodotus had been content to explain the Greek–Persian conflict solely on the basis of mythical incidents and human passions, but Thucydides marks the transition from mythology and crude psychology to international relations theory.

Stanley Hoffmann (quoted in Levy, 1997 :30) has claimed that Thucydides’ text contains neither explicit generalizations of an “if [. . .] then” nature, nor analytic categories. This is only partly true: although Thucydides did not use clearly defined analytic categories, he did offer quite a few general propositions; one need not go further than Book I of the History in order to encounter an explicit proposition on the dangers of appeasement: “If you give in, you will immediately be confronted with some greater demand, since they will think that you only gave way on this point through fear. But if you take a firm stand you will make it clear to them that they have to treat you properly as equals” (Thucydides, 1972 :I 140; see also I 76, IV 59, V 89). This combination of narrative and generalization accounts for the dual citizenship of Thucydides in the realms of history and international relations.

Polybius, who lived two-and-a-half centuries after Thucydides, operated on similar premises but on a far larger scale. The theme of Polybius’s History ( 1922–1927 ) is the rise of Rome to “universal” dominance within little more than a century ( 264–146 bce ). The chief contribution of Polybius to international relations was his “world systemic” approach. Echoing modern calls for systemic as opposed to “reductionist” approaches to international relations, he insisted that only universal history was meaningful history; local histories were bound to distort the picture by unduly magnifying relatively minor factors and events. To be sure, the Roman state did not cover the whole known world or even the whole civilized known world (to the east of the Roman domains the Parthians remained independent), but in Polybius’s time the Mediterranean basin was basically a self-contained international system. Polybius consciously aimed at providing political guidance to his readership. Among others, he set out to demonstrate the dynamics of security dilemma and imperialism, that is, how the Romans’ quest for security insensibly led them on the path to empire. In addition, Polybius ( 1922–1927 :VI) delved into the domestic structures of Rome and pointed out their profound impact on its international relations. Anyone interested in the subject of imperialism and empire-building may fruitfully read Polybius (admittedly a difficult work to read in its entirety), especially because facile analogies with the Roman Empire are much in vogue nowadays.

After Polybius, modern international relations scholars have to make a great time leap in order to find anything comparably useful among historical works; but when they find it, they will be amply rewarded with the work of the 14th-century Arab historian and statesman Ibn Khaldûn ( 1967 ). Ibn Khaldûn wrote a history centered on the Arab and Berber dynasties, mentioning also the non-Arab states of the Mediterranean basin and the Middle East. This was the laboratory that enabled him to work out a pattern of what many centuries later would be called “power transition” (Organski, 1968 :338–376). According to this pattern, a powerful state emerges when group solidarity is strong and the arts, crafts, and industries of civilization are well cultivated. However, the resultant wealth and the ruling dynasty’s striving after it weaken group solidarity and enervate both rulers and ruled, eventually leaving them prey to outsider groups with greater solidarity. This account of the rise and decline of states under the influence of their domestic structures still retains its intellectual power.

Machiavelli is of course the founder of modern political science. As a result, the best-known books of Machiavelli ( 2003 , 2008 ) read differently from the works of the earlier authors considered so far: instead of being historical works sprinkled with political maxims, they are political science works full of historical illustrations—the preferred structure of historically minded political science texts ever since. His historical examples come overwhelmingly, but not exclusively, from ancient Roman history. The focus in the Discourses is understandably different from that of The Prince : in the former, Machiavelli draws from republican Rome in an attempt to cultivate the civic spirit in his native Florence, whereas in the latter he draws from imperial Rome with a view to providing the Medici ruler of Florence with suitable rules of conduct.

Machiavelli’s younger contemporary Francesco Guicciardini demonstrates the difference between diplomatic history and international relations. The focus of his History of Italy (Guicciardini, 1984 ) is on international politics, its central theme being the subordination of Italy to powerful foreign states. Moreover, Guicciardini explicitly uses the concept of the balance of power in his work. Still, Guicciardini’s History has a rather strong idiographic bent, in clear contrast to Machiavelli’s attempt to formulate propositions of general applicability.

The concepts of the European state system and the balance of power played a prominent role in the works of several 19th-century political historians. Among them, Arnold Heeren ( 1834 ) elaborated on the idea that the European states constituted an international system; however, he insisted on excluding the Ottoman Empire from that system. The works of Leopold von Ranke, the exemplar of the 19th-century political historian, are also permeated by the concepts of great powers and the balance of power (Von Laue, 1950 ; Gilbert, 1990 :26, 29–30). Ranke found it natural to focus on the great powers, because great powers are the most influential international actors; in this focus, Ranke echoes many a present-day political realist (e.g., Waltz, 1979 ; Mearsheimer, 2001 ).

During the very long period that was briefly surveyed in this section, insights on international relations were, with the notable exception of Machiavelli, embedded in historical texts. Still, even within this older historical literature one may find variations along the lines depicted in the section “ International Relations and History: The Elusive Boundary ”—some of the works are closer to modern international relations than others. The soon-to-emerge discipline of international relations inherited the bulk of its intellectual baggage from this early historical literature.

The New Discipline and History: From the Interwar Years to the Late 1960s

The debt of the fledgling discipline of international relations to history was manifest from the very beginning and was reflected in the works of two of the founding fathers of modern international relations, namely E. H. Carr and Hans Morgenthau.

Carr was an accomplished historian in his own right. However, because in The Twenty Years’ Crisis (Carr, 1981 ) his chief aim was to attack the idealism that had dominated international relations after World War I, he concentrated on events of the period 1919–1939 and seldom ventured further back to the past. Be that as it may, Carr is the man who wrote What Is History? (Carr, 1990 )—another demonstration of the close relation between the two disciplines.

Morgenthau put his historical erudition on ample display in Politics Among Nations (Morgenthau, 2006 ). There were no detailed historical case studies in that book. However, to cite a few examples among very many, Morgenthau came up with a section on the Holy Alliance (an example of world government), a story about a sentry in the Russian imperial palace (demonstrating the Russian national character), and an account of a Spanish protest to the U.S. government for Spain’s not being treated as a great power after its defeat in the Spanish–American War of 1898 (highlighting the concept of prestige).

One of the true landmarks in the study of international relations is A Study of War by Quincy Wright ( 1965 ); the discipline was never the same after its publication. Wright was the quintessential interdisciplinarian; although he used insights from a variety of disciplines (international relations, history, psychology, economics, political science, anthropology, law, sociology), he stated very clearly that none of them could on its own deal satisfactorily with the phenomenon of war, hence the need for an interdisciplinary approach to the subject. History was the cornerstone of Wright’s monument, due to his belief that an understanding of the past forms and historical evolution of war was essential for its present understanding. The result was a 1,600-page behemoth that contained, among others, substantial sections on animal warfare and primitive warfare—because animal warfare was the predecessor of primitive warfare, which was the predecessor of historic warfare. The same method was applied to virtually every aspect of war (military strategy and tactics, war economics, war propaganda, legal treatment of war, etc.). Not least due to its solid historical foundations, A Study of War is still a very useful starting point for research on war and on many other aspects of international relations (e.g., international organization, state sovereignty, etc.).

An interesting if somewhat controversial case is that of Arnold Toynbee ( 1934–1961 ). His 12-volume magnum opus A Study of History regards the civilizations (e.g., Hindu and Western civilizations) as the only “intelligible fields of study,” far and above the level of “parochial states”; traces the evolution of civilizations throughout history; and comes up with an evolutionary pattern that is likely, though not certain, to be repeated. Toynbee’s main contribution is that he offered a truly universal outlook both in time and in space, covering virtually the whole world in a five-thousand-year time span. Although his proposed system is clearly untenable in its entirety, it may still offer intriguing insights that can be put to good use; he had an influence on both the English school of international relations and the world system approach, and Robert Gilpin ( 1981 :111, 161, 182–185, 203–204) successfully used some of his ideas.

Henry Kissinger ( 1957 ) exemplified the model of the historical case study in the analysis of international relations, occupying a middle ground between the old historical works containing political maxims and the new theoretical works using historical illustrations. Kissinger aimed explicitly at generalization from his case study. His analysis of the period 1812–1822 highlights the theme of revolutionary-imperialist policies versus conservative-status quo ones; Kissinger regarded this as a recurrent theme, and it was one that he undoubtedly found useful for explaining international politics after 1945 . At any rate, his work broke new methodological ground that would later be further cleared by specialized works on the technique of case studies (Eckstein, 1975 ; George, 1979 ; George & Bennett, 2005 ).

The 1950s and 1960s witnessed the increasing impact of the postwar behavioral revolution on international relations. The features of social science became more pronounced in the discipline, and scientific rigor was demanded from international relations scholars. New methods and techniques, such as game theory, formal modeling, and quantitative studies entered the field. Among these, one of the most important was the systemic approach. The analysis at the systemic level raised obvious questions about the evolution of international systems and invited comparisons among them; this was promptly done in the pioneering works of the systemic approach (Kaplan, 1957 ; Rosecrance, 1963 ), which tried to define the distinct characteristics and peculiar norms of various historical international systems (or even of hypothetical ones in Kaplan’s case).

The advent of those modern approaches met with a strong reaction (Bull, 1969 ) and caused the so-called Great Debate between traditionalists, who emphasized the importance of philosophy, history, and law in the study of international relations and argued in favor of a scientifically imperfect process of perception and intuition, in contrast to the modernists’ emphasis on deductive models, precision, and verification (Bull, 1969 ; Haas, 1969 ).

The objections of the traditionalists toward the scientific approach to international relations bear a certain resemblance to some objections of historians toward the work of international relations scholars, namely that the latter distort reality in their quest for scientific generalizations (see “ International Relations and History: The Elusive Boundary ”). For this article, much more important was the traditionalists’ accusation that the modernists were “cutting themselves off from history and philosophy” (Bull, 1969 :37). This accusation was not at all unfounded (Singer, 1969 :80): modernists were often ahistorical, especially in the rapidly developing subfield of strategic studies. Still, the accusation was only partly true. Many modernists studied history in the course of their works, and sometimes could rightfully claim that their scientific rigor enabled them to treat history better than traditionalists (Kaplan, 1969 :52, 56, 61).

Consider the case of quantitative techniques involving the use of historical databases. Many advocates of these techniques use history and care about it: why build and use these huge databases containing data going back to 1815 or earlier (Wright, 1965 ; Singer, 1979–1980 ; Correlates of War ), if one does not believe that these historical data are still relevant? There is of course a danger of distorting the data when sorting them into databases, but at least these databases are constructed after honest historical research (Singer, 1969 :68–71, 78–79; Haber, Kennedy, & Krasner, 1997 :36). Incidentally, Quincy Wright ( 1965 :15), the pioneer of quantitative international relations, has suggested that quantitative studies have to be juxtaposed with deep examination of particular cases; the former will come up with general propositions and the latter will check the validity of those propositions. In a similar vein, Nazli Choucri and Robert North ( 1975 ) used sophisticated quantitative methods for a systematic treatment of the historical data pertaining to World War I. The analysis pointed to a significant correlation between growth and international violence; this basically confirmed what had been known (or assumed) since Thucydides’ time, but it did lay the ground for further research on similar lines.

The advent of the new approaches and techniques did not bring an end to more traditional-style works. Power and the Pursuit of Peace by F. H. Hinsley ( 1963 ) was such a work. It drew heavily from the diplomatic history tradition, although Hinsley ( 1963 :277–279) readily used quantitative data supplied by Wright’s A Study of War . Hinsley argued that the plans for the elimination of war advocated since 1917 were merely reproductions or at best elaborations of earlier such plans. These earlier plans had been discarded in their day and had received devastating critiques during the 18th and 19th centuries . Consequently, Hinsley began with an examination of these early schemes and then made an inductive analysis of the modern international system from its beginnings to 1900 in order to establish the historical context in which these schemes were developed and failed to materialize. Finally, he subjected 20th-century international relations and international organizations to that same kind of analysis. The impact of international anarchy on the problem of war and peace is manifest throughout the book.

Peace and War by Raymond Aron ( 1966 ) is quite reminiscent of Morgenthau’s Politics Among Nations : lengthy expositions, plentiful insights, and ambitious theoretical aims that were not completely achieved. Aron’s book is steeped in history, although, somewhat curiously, the part of the book titled “History” deals explicitly with contemporary international politics. Peace and War was arguably the last great work in the classical realist tradition of international relations.

Modern Trends in an Old Relationship: Non-Realists, Realists, and History

The late 1960s and the 1970s witnessed the emergence (or reemergence) of a number of approaches that attempted, with varying degrees of success, to challenge the dominant realist paradigm of international relations. The present section will focus on the use of history by some of these novel approaches and by modern realism.

One of the first challenges to realism, namely the English school, initially did not look like a challenge at all—in fact, even today there are those who consider it a branch of realism, but this issue is outside the scope of this article. The British Committee on the Theory of International Politics convened for the first time in 1958 , and its focus was decidedly traditional and agreeable to classical realists. Thus, Diplomatic Investigations (Butterfield & Wight, 1966 ), the first book under the committee’s auspices, received a laudatory review from Hans Morgenthau ( 1967 ). Diplomatic Investigations set a pattern that would be followed by many classical English school texts (e.g., Wight, 1978 ), that is, selecting a number of important international relations concepts (diplomacy, law, collective security, etc.) and examining them from a historical angle.

The English school thrived on history, placing an explicit premium on the historical understanding of international politics and, at least during its first three decades, emphasizing the elements of continuity in international relations. On the other hand, this historical understanding laid bare the path dependency of many international developments and in this way introduced an element of change in the analysis.

Two central concepts in the English school were the international system and the international society (Butterfield & Wight, 1966 ; Bull, 1977 ; Wight, 1977 ; Bull & Watson, 1984 ; Watson, 1992 ). In both cases the English school theorists avoided unnecessary jargon and gave a historical (or even macro-historical) treatment to those subjects. Among others, they examined issues like the expansion of international society, the peculiar characteristics of various state systems – with Martin Wight ( 1977 :25) coming up with the highly interesting example of the Near Eastern system of the latter half of the 2nd millennium bce , a system composed of state systems rather than states, given that each of the units of the system headed a suzerain state system—or the oscillation of the international system between anarchy and empire.

Contemporary English school scholars consciously aim at engaging with the whole of human history. Buzan, Jones, and Little ( 1993 ) used the example of the expansion and contraction of the Roman Empire as a case study to illustrate system transformation. Apart from the highly important Roman case, their forays into ancient history led them to examine some unduly neglected cases like Carthage or the Hellenistic monarchies. This broad historical sweep coupled with systemic analysis continued into their later work as well (Buzan & Little, 2000 ). Taking this trend even further, Suzuki, Zhang, and Quirk ( 2014 ) examined a number of non-European international systems from the late 15th until the mid- 19th century , that is, before the onset of undisputed Western global dominance. In view of the current emergence, or rather reemergence of non-Western powers, their work provides a much-needed corrective to the Eurocentrism prevalent in international relations.

Ever since World War I, the liberal-idealist tradition in international relations has tended to emphasize change rather than continuity. Consequently, whenever its advocates employ historical analysis, they tend not to go too far back in time. For instance, Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye ( 1977 ), in what was a significant synthesis of liberalism and realism in matters of international political economy and international regimes, did not go further back than the 1920s in their discussion of the international money and ocean regimes, nor further back than 1918 in their discussion of U.S. relations with Canada and Australia. The pattern was repeated by Keohane ( 1984 ) in his discussion of the international political economy, where he focused on the post–World War II period and only rarely touched upon the Pax Britannica.

History plays a fundamental role in the critical-constructivist approach. This approach does not accept existing orders and institutions as given, but attempts to find out how they came about and consequently how they might change (Cox, 1986 ). It goes without saying that this emphasis on path dependency delights historians (Gaddis, 2004 :81), irrespective of whether they share the Marxist perspective of early critical theory. Later critical-constructivist works retained a historical focus but quite often leaned toward postmodernism. In this vein, Jens Bartelson ( 1995 ) used the Foucauldian concept of genealogy in order to examine the evolution of the concept of sovereignty from the Renaissance to the present. The critical-constructivist approach may offer highly original insights and highlight many situations. However, there is a potential pitfall that its advocates must be aware of. As Marc Bloch ( 1992 :26–29, 129–145, 154–156) has pointed out, the past meaning of words and institutions may well highlight their present meaning, but it may also prove irrelevant to it; and it is their present meaning that we are basically interested in—especially in international relations.

One of the most interesting approaches to contemporary international relations is world system analysis. History is a vital ingredient of world system analysis; in fact, it has been said that the very emergence of this kind of analysis during the early 1970s was an intellectual reaction to social science models that were then in vogue and were deemed excessively abstract and ahistorical (Dougherty & Pfaltzgraff, 1990 :164). World system analysis began with the pioneering work of Immanuel Wallerstein ( 2011 ). Wallerstein argued that from the 16th century onward the globe had been unified into one world system comprising the economically advanced and exploitative states at the systemic core, the economically backward and exploited states at the systemic periphery, and the Janus-looking states of the semi-periphery. Wallerstein demonstrated that the Marxist approach could be successfully transplanted from the domestic sphere of class relations to the global sphere of interstate relations. At the same time, he provided a breadth of historical sweep that had rarely been seen since Toynbee.

Another important practitioner of world system analysis is George Modelski ( 1986 ). Modelski takes his cues not from Marx but from Talcott Parsons. He argues that global wars tend to recur at hundred-year intervals (long cycles). As a result of these wars, the last five centuries have seen an equal number of world leaderships: Portuguese, Dutch, British (twice), and American. At a later stage of research, Modelski and William Thompson ( 1996 ) juxtaposed long cycles of global war and global leadership with the notorious Kondratieff waves in economy, and moved their analysis further back in time to begin with the Chinese Sung state in the 10th century ce . Actually, later works on world system analysis (Frank & Gills, 1993 ; Denemark, Friedman, Gills, & Modelski, 2000 ) featured an even broader historical sweep, namely five thousand years; Toynbee would have approved.

In the meantime, the realists had not been sitting idly by. Kenneth Waltz ( 1979 ) provided a powerful structural analysis proving that realism remained as strong as ever. Still, Waltzian neorealism drew increasing fire for being static and ahistorical. However, the resources of realism proved inexhaustible. Robert Gilpin ( 1981 ) came up with an analysis of international change at various levels (systems change, systemic change, and interaction change, focusing on the first two), built on the idea that as the relative power of international actors increases, they will seek to change the international environment accordingly. Gilpin’s systemic analysis is historically informed (drawing among others from Ibn Khaldûn and Toynbee) and to a great extent traces the origins of international change at the unit level. Gilpin’s work, coupled with the elaborated power transition theory (Organski & Kugler, 1980 ) and the argument of Paul Kennedy ( 1987 ) that the fall of great powers is often due to strategic overextension, offers a powerful blend of theory and history.

History features prominently in other strands of realism as well. The advocates of so-called neoclassical realism (states care primarily about power, security, etc., but perceptions and domestic structures do play an important role) have dealt extensively with matters such as the structure of the international system and the origins of World War II (Schweller, 1998 ). Stephen Krasner ( 1999 ) came up with a realist examination of the concept of sovereignty, arguing that what he dubbed organized hypocrisy (the presence of longstanding norms that are frequently violated) has been a permanent feature of international relations. John Mearsheimer ( 2001 ) demonstrated the applicability of offensive realism (states aim not merely at a balance of power but at power and security maximization) by a series of detailed case studies of great-power behavior during the 19th and 20th centuries . Finally, Henry Kissinger ( 2011 ) delved fairly deeply into Chinese history in order to demonstrate the conceptual way in which the Chinese approach international relations, in contrast to an arguably different way in which the Americans do so.

All this emphasis on history would not sit well with postmodernists—with the probable exception of the concept of genealogy. According to leading postmodernists Foucault and Baudrillard (both quoted in Trachtenberg, 2006 :12), reality and truth do not exist. Everything is discourse, shaped by perspectives and power relations; in fact, genealogy is a style of historical thought that exposes and registers the significance of these power–knowledge relations (Devetak, 1996 :184). In the same vein, history is just another form of fiction (White, 1973 ). At any rate, postmodernism doubts whether political practices and responses have any transhistorical validity (Devetak, 1996 :187).

The postmodernist views on truth and reality have received some powerful blows (Sokal, 2008 ; see also Fischer, 1970 :42–43; Gaddis, 2004 :143; Trachtenberg, 2006 :7–14, 29). As regards the relative character of all historical judgments, the inseparability of observers from things observed, or even the relation between power and knowledge (in the form of falsification of the historical record), all this has been known all along (Thucydides, 1972 :V 11; Ranke, quoted in Gilbert, 1990 :17; Carr, 1990 :7–55, 170–173; Gaddis, 2004 :9–10) without leading to sweeping negations of the existence of reality and of objective truth.

It is fitting for this article to close with tackling the postmodernist notion that no “transhistorical” knowledge exists. This runs counter to millennia of conventional wisdom, according to which historical knowledge can serve as a guide for the present and the future. Of course, postmodernists argue that their task is precisely to warn against and undermine such conventional wisdoms that are supposedly based on the power of dominant groups. However, it does smack of self-importance on the postmodernists’ part to claim that uncountable generations of people have been victims of mass deception or mass psychosis regarding the utility of history, not least in the analysis of international relations.

Links to Digital Materials

  • The Correlates of War Project . The mecca of quantitative data on the study of war.
  • Buzan, B. (2014). The English School: A Bibliography . An extensive bibliography that is bound to be of use to historically minded international relations scholars.
  • Aron, R. (1966). Peace and war: A theory of international relations ( R. Howard & A. B. Fox , Trans.). Malabar, FL: Krieger. (Originally published in 1962.)
  • Bartelson, J. (1995). A genealogy of sovereignty . Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Bloch, M. (1992). The historian’s craft ( P. Burke , Trans.). Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press. (Originally published in 1949.)
  • Bull, H. (1969). International theory: The case for a classical approach. In K. Knorr and J. N. Rosenau (Eds.), Contending approaches to international politics (pp. 20–38). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Bull, H. (1977). The anarchical society: A study of order in world politics . Houndmills, UK: Macmillan.
  • Bull, H. , & Watson, A. (1984). The expansion of international society . Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.
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Transnational, International, and Global History

The graduate program in Transnational, International, and Global History (TIG) offers the opportunity to study historical subjects that transcend politically or culturally bounded territories and connects various regions of the world to one another. Students in TIG can pursue studies on a range of topics that focus on the interconnectedness of states, organizations, and networks, as well as the international proliferation of ideas, beliefs, and practices. They can also pursue studies in multinational or multiethnic regions of the world, such as the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, Central Asia, the Pacific Rim, or the Atlantic World. In the initial stage of study, students in TIG complete coursework in the methods, challenges, and historiography of transnational history, as well as in at least two regional historical fields. In consultation with advisors, students will then develop, research, and write a dissertation.  

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research topics for history and international studies

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Mikael Wolfe

research topics for history and international studies

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The Oxford Handbook of International Relations

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30 Historical Methods

Joel Quirk is an RCUK Fellow, Department of Law and Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation, University of Hull.

  • Published: 02 September 2009
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Research into both international and intellectual history has flourished in recent times. This article highlights a number of recent contributions, paying particular attention to the relationship between history, theory, and method. The article is organized into five distinct sections. The first section offers a brief sketch of the vagaries of history as a field of study. The second section is concerned with the search for universal models, and the relationship between rationalist theories, radical simplification, and international history. The third section is concerned with critical responses to the historical limitations of radical simplification, and allied attempts to come to terms with questions of contingency and complexity. The fourth section explores more recent developments in rationalist theory. Using innovations in realist theory as an explicatory focal point, it examines a number of recent contributions that have placed rationalist approaches on a stronger historical footing. The main focus throughout this discussion is the origin and operation of the state system, which has long been a premier site for historical inquiry in international relations circles. The final section takes up the parallel field of intellectual history, exploring how recent works on the history of ideas have been shaped around contemporary agendas.

For most international relations scholars, historical inquiry is not simply (or even primarily) an end in itself, but also serves as an essential platform for the advancement of a range of theoretical goals. This self‐conscious orientation extends to the study of both international and intellectual history. It not only plays a decisive role when it comes to the methods adopted by scholars from various schools, but also helps to ensure that historical projects are routinely organized around the demands of modern theoretical arguments. In this intellectual environment, the importance attached to making a theoretical contribution can be both an asset and an obstacle. International relations scholars have marshaled an arsenal of valuable tools, techniques, and templates, offering important insights into many vital questions, but these contributions can also come at the price of historical depth, with complex, multicausal issues ending up as testing grounds for partisan efforts to corroborate abstract theoretical models.

Historical inquiry is often identified as a neglected area in international relations circles ( Teschke 2003, 14 ; Keene 2005, 1–3 ). This might have been true in the past, but it is no longer true today, as research into both international and intellectual history has flourished in recent times. Although silences and problem areas remain, especially when it comes to long‐standing Eurocentrism, there has nonetheless been tremendous growth over the last two decades. In this chapter I highlight a number of recent contributions, paying particular attention to the relationship between history, theory, and method. This project is organized into five distinct sections. The first section offers a brief sketch of the vagaries of history as a field of study. The second section is concerned with the search for universal models, and the relationship between rationalist theories, radical simplification, and international history. The third section is concerned with critical responses to the historical limitations of radical simplification, and allied attempts to come to terms with questions of contingency and complexity. The fourth section explores more recent developments in rationalist theory. Using innovations in realist theory as an explicatory focal point, I examine a number of recent contributions that have placed rationalist approaches on a stronger historical footing. The main focus throughout this discussion is the origin and operation of the state system, which has long been a premier site for historical inquiry in international relations circles. The final section of the chapter takes up the parallel field of intellectual history, exploring how recent works on the history of ideas have been shaped around contemporary agendas.

1 On History

In his famous work What is History ?, E. H. Carr (1962, 6) observes that “the belief in a hard core of historical facts existing objectively and independently of the interpretation of the historian is a preposterous fallacy, but one which it is very hard to eradicate.” It is not necessary to be a postmodernist to recognize the merits of this position. Many different forms of interpretation are involved in the complex relationship between historical events and their contemporary representation. The recollections of relevant participants will not always point in a single direction. Many competing factors, both proximate and long term, will necessarily be involved. Subsequent records are unlikely to be complete, and those that are available will inevitably reflect parochial orientations and preoccupations. Other key issues include the selection of events that become “history,” rather than falling by the wayside, and the level of importance that ends up being attached to any number of potentially relevant factors. It is also clear, moreover, that the vagaries of historical inquiry also extend to contemporary orientations and agendas, where it is not unusual for people to “study history less for what they might learn than for what they want to prove” ( Hinsley 1963, 13 ). The classical example here is the “Whig interpretation” of history, which refers to a long‐standing tendency among Anglo‐Saxon historians to “emphasise certain principles of progress in the past and to produce a story which is the ratification if not the glorification of the present” ( Butterfield 1965, v ). This represents the most well‐known manifestation of a much larger conundrum, as contemporary preoccupations can end up influencing how the historical record is represented in a variety of ways.

These considerations apply to all forms of historical inquiry. When we focus our attention upon international relations, a number of additional issues come to light, starting with differences between history and international relations (as a form of social or political science). This issue is complicated by internal variations within disciplines, which make it difficult to speak of anything more than general tendencies. There is widespread agreement, however, that the two disciplines ultimately favor different approaches. One synopsis comes from Jack Levy (1997, 32) , who maintains “that the distinctive difference between history and political science is that historians describe and explain the connections between a series of events, whereas political scientists formulate and test general theoretical propositions about relationships between variables or classes of events.” Another reading comes from John Gaddis (2002, 62–3) , who observes that all forms of social inquiry inevitably involve generalizations, but that historians tend to embed generalizations within narratives, while social scientists tend to embed narratives within generalizations. Academic international relations' attachment to general theoretical propositions has also ensured that international relations theorists are often heavily reliant upon the works of historians for information. This widespread dependence on secondary sources raises difficult methodological questions, which are rarely explicitly addressed. Historians may not always make their underlying assumptions explicit, but this does not mean that they simply compile historical data, detached from theoretical or methodological commitments ( Lustick 1996 ; Kratochwil 2006 ; Roberts 2006 ). This has led to a slightly odd situation where international relations theorists draw extensively upon the often painstaking research conducted by historians, yet regularly disconnect these contributions from the nuanced, case‐specific, and typically multicausal approach that most historians favor.

The main point at issue here is the close relationship between history, theory, and method. In order fully to understand the various ways in which the historical record has been conceptualized and discussed amongst international relations scholars one must first interrogate both the theoretical aspirations involved, and the methods utilized to advance these goals. This is particularly important when it comes to more recent works, as modern scholars typically end up structuring their arguments around the strengths and weaknesses of previous contributions. Many disciplines tackle “big picture,” macro‐historical projects, yet these projects tend to be organized on very different lines to equivalent projects in academic international relations. These projects may end up exploring similar historical topics, but they remain embedded within different academic discourses. In the case of international relations, this has both positive and negative dimensions. International relations scholars have offered valuable insights into many important questions, yet theorists can sometimes lose sight of history as a distinctive field of study, with its own methodological and interpretative challenges (see Pierson 2004 ; Trachtenberg 2006 ). Theory will always need history, since past events offer an indispensable platform against which various models come to be formulated and evaluated, but there will always be a danger of theory becoming an end in itself, rather than a valuable tool.

2 Rational Action, Materialism, and Functionalism

In any given sequence of international events, an extraordinary number of factors will be in play. These factors can be evaluated inductively, by taking into account a range of competing influences, but as more issues are taken into account it invariably becomes harder to move beyond case‐specific idiosyncrasies and thereby identify unambiguous causal patterns or universal models. Modern social scientists have sought to resolve this dilemma through various forms of radical simplification. This has chiefly been expressed in three overlapping strategies: rational action, materialism, and functionalism. Each of these strategies comes with considerable intellectual baggage. In this setting, I am primarily concerned with their theoretical dimensions and methodological rationale.

Rational action is designed to cut through the vagaries of human behavior by treating individuals as atomized utility maximizers. For some detractors, this constitutes “a caricature of the human condition” ( Jackson 2000, 47 ), yet this objection loses some of its force if we view rational action as a qualified methodological move, rather than a totalizing ontological stance. The key point at issue is not whether every actor operates according to a hyper‐rational calculus, but whether it is heuristically useful to structure theoretical inquiry around this universal behavioral model. Rational action is commonly coupled with various forms of materialism, building upon the underlying notion that the organization and distribution of material capabilities ultimately define the structural context within which political actors pursue their strategic interests. Material properties do not always exist in isolation, but often gain depth and definition through the ideational orientations that surround them, yet it can still be useful to operate as if material forces were entirely separate. The final component in this theoretical triad is functionalism, which often serves as a bridge between rational action and materialism, as the origin and operation of various institutional forms is explained by their strategic functions, or utilitarian purposes. Functionalism can operate on multiple levels. On the one hand, we have institutional arrangements between political communities, such as regimes or international organizations, which are said to reflect strategic interests in developing institutions that serve favorable political and economic functions. On the other, we have institutional arrangements within communities, as the genesis and subsequent development of various political and economic complexes can be traced to utilitarian responses to competition amongst powerful vested interests.

This triad has been central to an ongoing theoretical quest for universal models, clear causal connections, and definitive predictions. From this standpoint, it is difficult to imagine a more effective set of tools. Rational action cuts through the vagaries of human behavior, materialism delineates both interests and capabilities, and functionalism provides an explanation for the origin and operation of various institutional forms. The primary goal is not to blend together a range of considerations, but to specify a small number of key mechanisms that clearly account for variations across multiple cases. This has in turn given rise to two overlapping axes of theoretical contention. The first axis is defined by wide‐ranging disputes over the application of these overlapping strategies, as theorists of various persuasions share an underlying commitment (albeit with some modifications or additions) to rational action, materialism, and functionalism, yet disagree over their substantive ramifications. This dynamic has been central to debates amongst neorealists and neoliberal institutionalists. It also extends to differences among many exponents of rational choice theory, neoclassical realism, the new liberalism, and other theories that draw inspiration from economic models. Not all rationalist theories are universal in scope. Some theories become applicable only in particular circumstances, such as international negotiations, leading to sophisticated debates over the specific consequences of universal behavioral models operating within narrowly defined parameters. The second axis of contention revolves around a host of issues, actions, and idiosyncrasies that have frequently been marginalized as part of a methodological commitment to radical simplification. This dynamic is chiefly concerned with questions of identity, ideology, epistemology, and contingency. It is also especially relevant to the study of international history, as the search for enduring axioms has frequently overshadowed the distinctive qualities of less familiar historical settings.

In order to illustrate these themes, I turn to a familiar point of departure: Kenneth Waltz's outstanding Theory of International Politics   (1979) . The main features of Waltz's theory are well known, starting with the state‐centric character of the international system and the enduring effects of anarchy, both institutional (like‐units, functional adaptation) and behavioral (self‐help, rational action), and then extending to the structural dimensions of relative material capabilities, and more specific points regarding bipolarity and economic interdependence. In many ways, the path Waltz takes is more interesting than his ultimate destination. Rejecting the “inductivist route,” Waltz (1979, 4, 7) argues that “explanatory power … is gained by moving away from ‘reality’, not by staying close to it.” A theorist must cut through complexity by identifying a bounded realm of activity, within which generalizable patterns become explicable through the integration of a small number of heuristically powerful, ruthlessly simplified mechanisms. This means embracing a systemic approach that excludes domestic politics, or regime type, not because they are irrelevant, but because they can force us “back to the descriptive level,” unduly complicating our grasp of “big, important, and enduring patterns” stemming from international anarchy ( Waltz 1979, 65, 70 ). This ruthless strategy ends up “bracketing out” a tremendous range of issues. Of particular importance here is Waltz's static approach to international history, which is encapsulated in his claim that “the texture of international politics remains highly constant, patterns recur, and events repeat themselves endlessly. The relations that prevail internationally seldom shift rapidly in type or in quality” ( Waltz 1979, 66 ).

Waltz's theory has played a central role in numerous debates. His main contribution to the study of international history has been as a critical foil. In this context, his work has been regularly presented as an emblem of the more general historical shortcomings of “mainstream” approaches. This association may not be entirely fair, since Waltz is not necessarily the strongest example available, but it has nonetheless served as an important starting point for a range of historical projects. While these projects differ in many important respects, they can be loosely integrated around a shared critique of the historical limitations of radical simplification. From here, the theoretical quest for universal essences has given way to a more qualified focus upon contingent properties, as scholars have (re)turned to a range of issues previously marginalized on methodological grounds.

3 Historical Complexity and Contemporary Theory

for theorists like Waltz, the current status quo is best viewed as an unbroken extension of enduring axioms. This totalizing stance has provoked a sustained barrage of historically oriented critique. One of the main objections to this perspective is that it ends up incorrectly projecting recent innovations backward through time, thereby elevating contingent structures and orientations to the status of transhistorical essences. This line of argument is nicely summarized by John Hobson (2002) , who argues that international relations scholarship often suffers from two distinct modes of ahistoricism: chronofetishism and tempocentrism. The former is said to denote “a ‘sealing off’ of the present such that it appears as an autonomous, natural, spontaneous and immutable entity.” The latter refers to the extrapolation of this “naturalized” present “backwards through time such that discontinuous ruptures and differences between historical epochs and states systems are smoothed over and consequentially obscured” ( Hobson 2002, 9 ).

One of the key points at issue here is the relationship between theoretical parsimony and historical complexity. The main advantage of radical simplification is that it enables theorists to cut through complexity, making it possible to speak of definitive, universal causes that unite otherwise disparate cases, yet this source of strength can also be a source of weakness, as the search for transhistorical essences has also tended to “smooth over” both distinctive historical features and fundamental differences. This trade‐off is especially acute in the cases of neorealism and neoliberal institutionalism, which both played major roles within theoretical debates during the 1980s and 1990s, and thus regularly served as focal points for historical and theoretical critique. Among the many strategies that have been employed here, three main impulses can be identified: (1) a concerted effort to catalogue the historical shortcomings of rational action, materialism, and functionalism; (2) a concerted effort to interrogate the complexities and idiosyncrasies that have shaped particular historical milieux; and (3) a concerted effort to challenge aspects of contemporary life that might otherwise appear natural, or immutable.

From this vantage point, an important point of departure is provided by John Ruggie (1993) . Expressing profound frustration with a widespread inability to conceptualize meaningful challenges to the modern state system, Ruggie famously looks to the transition from medieval to modern forms of political rule for guidance. This transition poses severe problems for Waltz, who posits a sharp, consistent demarcation between domestic and international. This image is difficult to reconcile with medieval history, where political life was organized around a heteronomous order of cross‐cutting jurisdictions, both religious and secular, together with a significant level of functional differentiation (non‐like‐units). If political life has been organized on fundamentally different terms, how did the states system arise? For Ruggie (1993, 151) , modern statehood is defined by a commitment to “territoriality defined, fixed, and mutually exclusive enclaves of legitimate dominion.” This unique model is said to have emerged within a relatively short timeframe, with a range of cumulative factors paving the way for a decisive moment of radical disjuncture in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which Ruggie tentatively frames in terms of epochal change, or a form of punctuated equilibrium.

In making this argument, Ruggie (1993, 141) is explicit about the inherent limitations of his project, observing that much of his work is limited to searching “for a vocabulary and … research agenda by means of which we can start to ask systematic questions about the possibility of fundamental international transformation today.” His case is strongest when it comes to substantive differences between medieval and modern, but his explanation of the transformation from one order to the other remains fairly suggestive. On this point, a theoretically more rigorous argument has recently been advanced by Daniel Philpott. According to Philpott (2001, 4) , the constitutional structure of our current global order can be traced to two seminal revolutions in sovereignty, the Treaty of Westphalia and colonial independence, which in turn reflect “prior revolutions in ideas about justice and political authority.” To substantiate these claims, he identifies two distinct roles played by ideas in shaping these momentous events. The first role is concerned with identities, as ideas are said to persuade actors to take on new forms of identification through reason of reflection. The second role is concerned with social power, as ideas are said to “alter the costs and benefits facing those who are in a position to promote or hinder the policies that the ideas demand” ( Philpott 2001, 58 ). Ideas do not operate in isolation from other factors, but neither are they reducible to material structures or strategic calculations.

Philpott's argument is well suited to decolonization (see also Jackson 1990 ; Crawford 2002 ), but has proved to be more contentious when it comes to Westphalia. Like Ruggie, Philpott favors a decisive moment of radical disjunc‐ ture, but this formula has been challenged on several fronts. Some scholars accept Westphalia as a key turning point, but also identify a further transformation from absolutist sovereignty to sovereign nationhood ( Reus‐Smit 1998 ; Hall 1999 ). Others question its status as a decisive moment ( Osiander 2001 ). On this front, several neo‐Marxist scholars have developed an alternative methodological approach to historical transformation. In one pioneering contribution, Justin Rosenberg favors a quite different form of “structural discontinuity,” which separates pre‐capitalist orders from the modern capitalist system. This emerges from a strident critique of realism, as the widely held notion of an essential continuity in relations between states is discarded in favor of a comparative approach that connects variations in geopolitical behavior to underlying forms of political and economic organization. In this model, the distinctive qualities of the modern state system are said to correspond to the unique social structures of capitalist society ( Rosenberg 1994 ). This line of argument has recently been expanded and further refined by Benno Teschke (2003) , who charts a staggered progression through medieval, absolutist, and modern capitalist politics. In developing his argument, Teschke is careful to balance historical complexity and theoretical parsimony, giving due consideration to uneven development while nonetheless making a strong case for the role of property regimes in (re)structuring the identities of political communities. In this context, “the decisive shift towards modern international relations is not marked by the Peace of Westphalia, but comes with the rise of the first modern state: post‐revolutionary England” ( Teschke 2003, 249 ).

Interest in sovereignty and modernity has not been limited to international history, but also extends to intellectual history. A complex amalgam of these two related fields can be found in the work of Jens Bartelson. Focusing on the relationship between sovereignty and knowledge, Bartelson offers a genealogical history that spans the Renaissance, the “Classical Age,” and Modernity. The genealogical method has become increasingly popular in recent times. Commonly associated with Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Foucault, a genealogy “is strategically aimed at that which looks unproblematic and is held to be timeless; its task is to explain how these present traits, in all their vigour and truth, were formed out of the past” ( Bartelson 1995, 73 ). For Bartelson, this translates into an episodic narrative that builds upon a series of textual exemplars, as impromptu shifts in political discourse are traced to mutations in the epistemic and ontological foundations of intellectual inquiry. Another prominent exponent of a discursive approach to sovereignty is Cynthia Weber (1995) , who focuses upon changing boundaries between sovereignty and intervention. Instead of stabilizing the definition of sovereignty (or intervention), and evaluating substantive historical practices against an abstract standard, Weber contends that individual states are “written,” or constituted, according to logics of representation and simulation. To be sovereign, a state needs to “organize its affairs in such a way that its foundation of sovereign authority is authorized to speak for its particular domestic community in international affairs” ( Weber 1995, 124 ). Through a series of case studies, she connects ruptures in this symbolic relationship to a range of interventionary practices, demonstrating that claims about (true) sovereign authority are not always incompatible with intervention, but have also been invoked to validate incursions that transgress conventional notions of territorial demarcation.

The genesis, operation, and ongoing evolution of the state system is now firmly established as a premier focal point for historical research in international relations circles. It is here that tremendous progress has been made over the years, yet this heavy concentration upon one historical milieu, however important, also opens the door to charges of Eurocentrism. On this front, academic international relations remains shamefully weak, yet is slowly improving. Of particular significance here is the macro‐historical work of Barry Buzan, Charles Jones, and Richard Little. For these scholars, Waltz's theory remains a useful starting point, but is unnecessarily restrictive. Moving beyond a static association between anarchy and like‐units, they identify four possible combinations of political units and international structure: (1) hierarchy and like‐units, (2) anarchy and like‐units, (3) hierarchy and un‐like‐units, and (4) anarchy and un‐like‐units ( Buzan, Jones, and Little 1993, 37–47 ). These variations serve dramatically to undercut “the Westphalian Straightjacket” ( Buzan and Little 2001, 25 ), giving pride of place to different forms of organization, from empires and suzerain networks, to tribal orders and city states (see also Watson 1992 ; Buzan and Little 2000 ). This perspective also reflects a substantial debt to the expansive approach of prominent “English School” figures such as Martin Wight and Hedley Bull ( Wight 1977 ; Bull and Watson 1984 ). This debt is shared by many modern scholars, most notably when it comes to the theory and practice of international society. Historical discussion of international society usually begins with the premise that there are different kinds of society, which have evolved over time in response to various dynamics. This theoretical starting point has been successfully applied to a range of historical cases, proving to be especially valuable as a framework for evaluating relationships between European and non‐European peoples ( Keene 2002 ).

The approaches outlined above are loosely bound together by a shared rejection of radical simplification. Once we move beyond this common affinity we quickly encounter significant variations. This is partially a question of the specific strategies and orientations that particular approaches favor, and partially a question of the overarching goals to which they aspire. For many scholars, the main purpose of historical inquiry is to provide a more compelling explanation of particular events, and/or persuasive theoretical argument. This can translate into “thick description,” various forms of causal and constitutive analysis, or more traditional historical narratives. For other scholars, the primary purpose of historical inquiry is to shatter prevailing orthodoxies into both complicit and contestable fragments, paving the way for either modernist reform or postmodern resistance.

4 Renewing Rationalism

The various works considered in the previous section collectively pose a fundamental challenge to rationalist theories of international relations. In most cases, the main axis of contention is not metaphysical, but empirical, as critics have repeatedly documented the difficulties involved in reconciling various historical experiences with rational action, materialism, and/or functionalism. In response to this ongoing challenge, rationalist scholars from various schools have recently offered a range of innovative theoretical models and historical elaborations, while striving to uphold the overall tenor of the social scientific project. These works may not convince every critic, but they collectively go a considerable way in reinvigorating the historical credentials of rationalist approaches. In this context, Waltz once again occupies a key position. This has both negative and positive dimensions. In the case of the former, more nuanced works can end up being indirectly overshadowed, as Waltz's shortcomings are often held to epitomize rationalist shortcomings more generally. This is problematic, as other projects frequently have more to offer ( Gilpin 1981 ; Doyle 1986 ). Many forms of historical analysis, such as debates over the “democratic peace” or the obsolescence of major war, have chiefly taken place amongst rationalists of various stripes, with relatively limited external input. It is also clear, however, that Waltz continues to serve as a major historical and theoretical foil. This is particularly evident when it comes to realist theory, where more recent scholarship has cautiously returned to some of the key issues and developments that Waltz deliberately excluded.

In this context, two pioneering contributions have come from Stephen Walt (1987) , who highlights the role of intentions, and Jack Synder (1991) , who focuses on domestic politics. Walt offers a sophisticated, policy‐driven analysis of the formation of international alliances, both formal and informal. His primary empirical evidence comes from the diplomatic history of the Middle East between 1955 and 1979, where he identifies thirty‐six alliances, both bilateral and multilateral, which involve eighty‐six national decisions. This evidence is marshaled to evaluate a number of interlinked hypotheses, revolving around the prevalence of balancing and bandwagoning, the role of ideology, foreign aid, and transnational penetration. Walt's major contribution (1987, 172) emerges out of a compelling critique of traditional notions of the balance of power, where he concludes that “examining the impact of several distinct sources of threat can provide a more persuasive account of alliance formation than can solely focusing on the distribution of aggregate capabilities.” Balance‐of‐threat theory gives considerable weight to material resources, an essential component of Waltz's theory, but introduces an additional set of considerations, based upon the intentions of the actors involved. Another influential reformulation of realist theory comes from Synder (1991, 19) , who argues that “realism must be recaptured from those who look only at politics between societies, ignoring what goes on within societies.” This model is expressed in a case‐study driven analysis of imperial overexpansion. Building upon an analysis of the evolving policies of Germany, Japan, Britain, the USSR and the United States, Snyder argues that imprudent, counter‐productive expansionary policies can be chiefly traced to domestic coalition‐making and ideological mythmaking. While expansion may not be in the national interest, or the interests of the general population, logrolling domestic coalitions are held to have successfully mobilized various institutional and ideological resources to advance their parochial interests.

These works represent early examples of a larger trend, as realist theory has experienced a renaissance in the aftermath of the cold war. Echoing Walt and Synder, this new generation of realist scholarship has regularly ended up “sacrificing some of Waltz's parsimony” ( Schweller 1998, 10 ) in the pursuit of greater theoretical precision and historical sophistication. The best example here is arguably Dale Copeland (2000, 3) , whose theory of dynamic differentials seeks to explain the causes of major war, integrating “power differentials, polarity, and declining power trends into one cohesive logic.” This innovative synthesis is then tested against a series of empirically rich case studies from the twentieth century, followed by a more limited survey of earlier cases within Europe, as Copeland argues that declining yet still dominant great powers are most likely to initiate (or risk) major war. In this model, estimations of the inevitability and severity of decline are mediated by international polarity, sustaining enduring systemic pressures that tend to overshadow, but not entirely eliminate, unit‐level dynamics. This reformulation of systemic theory constitutes one of two main avenues of recent inquiry (see also Schweller 1998 ; Mearsheimer 2001 ). Other contributions have followed Snyder in taking up internal factors such as elite behavior and (mis)perceptions, or a combination of internal and international dynamics ( Wohlforth 1993 ; Van Evera 1999 ). Some of these moves have proved controversial ( Legro and Moravcsik 1999 ), but they have also enhanced the explanatory power of realism on multiple fronts. Historical inquiry has been an essential part of this equation, as theorists have sought to validate their preferred approach using detailed case studies, measures, and models. Rather than rejecting rational action, materialism, and functionalism, the underlying impulse has instead been to formulate strategies to place these models on a stronger historical footing.

In keeping with larger trends, these works have been primarily organized around debates within rationalist circles. Those involved are well versed with larger critiques, but have here concentrated their energies upon getting their own house in order. This does not mean, of course, that there have been no explicit rejoinders. Especially prominent here is Stephen Krasner's work on sovereignty, which is organized around the idea that logics of consequences, based upon strategic calculations, have consistently trumped logics of appropriateness, based upon rules and identities ( Krasner 1999, 5–6 ). The history of sovereignty, a premier site for rationalist critics, is framed in terms of “organized hypocrisy,” as states are said to have routinely deviated from prevailing norms, decoupling political behavior from institutional scripts. This argument finds expression in thematic studies of minority rights, human rights, sovereign lending, and state creation from the nineteenth century onwards. In this model, ideas are not entirely irrelevant, but material power and strategic interests remain the decisive arbiter.

The preceding discussion is by no means exhaustive. As other chapters in this volume can attest, realism is by no means the only theory available here. I would argue, however, that the trajectory of realist theory reveals a great deal about the evolving relationship between rationalist methods and historical research. From the 1950s onwards, academic international relations attached considerable importance to parsimonious, universal models, leading to various forms of radical simplification. This reached its most influential expression in the work of Waltz, who ruthlessly sacrificed historical detail in the pursuit of theoretical elegance, introducing a focal point for critique in which questions of historical contingency emerged as vital issues. In the face of this challenge, more recent scholarship has favored a higher degree of theoretical precision and empirical rigor, furnishing realism with a stronger historical foundation. It is also worth noting, however, that the various works identified above continue to assume, rather than explain, the existence of the state, thereby largely sidestepping Ruggie's concern with epochal change. It is not that rationalist theories have little to offer here (see Spruyt 1994 ), but when it comes to the ongoing search for universal models, this could very well be one major historical variable too many.

5 Intellectual History and Contemporary Theory

In each of the approaches outlined above, the content of historical inquiry is primarily structured around the requirements of modern conceptions of the nature and purpose of theoretical endeavor. A similar dynamic also applies to the closely related field of intellectual history, where various aspects of the history of ideas have been consistently called upon to validate a range of contemporary causes and theoretical positions. The relationship between intellectual history and international history is not always easy to pin down. There have recently been some innovative attempts to combine the two realms ( Johnston 1995 ; Hopf 2002 ), but it is also not unusual to see textual sources being presented as major influences, or historical exemplars, without direct verification of the impact of their often esoteric content on parallel historical developments. In this context, discussion of the history of ideas can end up as an unacknowledged substitute for detailed research into international history.

The main point at issue here, however, is the relationship between intellectual history and contemporary theory. Intellectual inquiry into international relations was not consistently differentiated from the study of law, philosophy, history, economics, and/or religion until the twentieth century. A key component in the development of this modern innovation has been a cumulative, retroactive effort to forge genealogical links with earlier intellectual endeavors, resulting in a range of mainly European scholars being recruited to a range of theoretical causes. This widespread practice raises several methodological issues, which have not always been explicitly addressed ( Schmidt 2002a, 6–7 ). Much like the study of international history, the study of intellectual history has flourished in recent times. Three main areas of inquiry can be identified here: (1) the composition of the realist tradition, (2) the integration of political and international theory, and (3) the early history of the international relations discipline.

The search for universal templates is not confined to international history, but also extends to intellectual history, where canonical figures have been routinely presented as exemplars of timeless ideas or eternal conversations. This approach has been comprehensively challenged in other disciplines, but remains popular within international relations circles, with the two most prominent exponents being the realist tradition ( Gilpin 1984 ) and Martin Wight's expansive differentiation (1991) between realism, rationalism, and revolutionism. Both schemes project modern categories backward through time, with the realist tradition placing luminaries such as Thucydides, Niccolò Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, and Jean‐Jacques Rousseau alongside more recent innovations. Modern realists have regularly invoked this pedigree to bolster various theoretical claims, provoking two main lines of critique. The first line of critique questions the attribution of a realist persona to various scholars, leading to charges that those involved should not be caricatured as realists ( George 1994, 70–4 ; Walker 1993, 26–47 ). The second (sometimes tentatively) accepts that these figures belong to an identifiable tradition, and instead uses their vaunted status to interrogate modern conceptions of realist theory ( Haslam 2002 ; Williams 2005 ). The best example of this approach arguably comes from Richard Lebow, who bases his work upon detailed, contextual case studies of Thucydides, Carl von Clausewitz, and Hans Morgenthau. This serves as a platform from which to re‐evaluate modern conceptions of realism, supporting Lebow's contention (2003, 58) that “the modern academy has introduced a false dichotomy between political and moral behavior and political and moral theorizing.”

This line of argument resonates with recent moves to integrate political and international thought. Early international relations scholarship presented political and international theory as discrete categories, with the scarcity of the latter being unfavorably contrasted with the bounty of the former ( Wight 1966 ). Recent scholarship has challenged this formulation, embracing an integrated framework under the rubric of international political theory. This forms part of the rapid growth of normative theorizing during the 1990s ( Schmidt 2002b ). In this context, the history of ideas has once again been called upon to bolster contemporary agendas, as scholars have sought out compelling antecedents for more recent endeavors. One influential approach comes from Chris Brown (1992) , who organizes the history of ideas into cosmopolitan and communitarian strands, with Immanuel Kant exemplifying the former and Georg Hegel exemplifying the latter. Another comes from David Boucher (1998) , who bases his expansive historical survey upon a tripartite division between empirical realism, universal moral order, and historical reason. In both of these frameworks dominant conceptions of value‐neutral explanation give way to an explicitly normative orientation. This also extends to recent works on “classical” theory ( Clark and Neumann 1996 ; Jahn 2006 ), which are similarly organized around tensions between past and present intellectual models (see also Jackson 2000 ). Some contributions have provided variations on the timeless ideas framework. Others have concentrated upon key differences between historical milieux. In the case of the latter, the goal is to “illuminate our contemporary intellectual situation by establishing contrasts rather than affinities with the past, to call attention to the fact that at different times thinkers have conceptualized international politics … in quite different ways” ( Keene 2005, 17 ). This line of argument shares many features in common with Hobson's indictment of academic international relations' widespread tendency to “smooth over” underlying historical differences.

The final focal point for recent research into intellectual history has been the early development of academic international relations, where there has been a concerted effort to move beyond perfunctory treatments of immature idealism ( Long and Wilson 1995 ; Long and Schmidt 2005 ). This has found expression in a stream of detailed critiques, as scholars have argued that conventional narratives offer a grossly distorted picture of the intellectual history of the early twentieth century, most notably when it comes to the story of a “first great debate” ( Wilson 1998 ; Quirk and Vigneswaran 2005 ). Many eminent figures from this period have also been subject to critical reappraisal, including realist icon Carr ( Jones 1998 ; Cox 2000 ). The best example from this now extensive literature arguably comes from Brian Schmidt, who contends that international relations scholars have routinely confused retroactive analytical constructs for authentic traditions, and thereby incorrectly elevated the historiographical (by)products of current agendas to the status of historical realities. Schmidt instead embraces an alternative methodological approach, which he describes as a critical internal discursive history, that strives to “reconstruct as accurately as possible the history of the conversation that has been constitutive of academic international relations” ( Schmidt 1998, 37 ).

The eclectic contributions outlined here can be loosely grouped together around two main impulses. On the one hand, we have a common desire to offer a distinctive account of the intellectual contribution of particular authors and/or eras. In many cases, this is primarily a question of offering a more detailed account than those currently available, and thereby deflating problematic representations. On the other hand, we have a common desire to utilize the history of ideas as an authoritative platform from which to speak to contemporary theoretical debates. In many cases, this translates into attempts to open space for different models of intellectual inquiry, as earlier authors and eras are held to have operated in quite different ways from current theoretical conventions. Beyond these overarching impulses we encounter considerable variation. While the timeless ideas framework remains popular, recent scholarship has continued a now long‐standing practice of looking outside academic international relations for inspiration, drawing upon scholars such as John Gunnell (1993) and Quentin Skinner (2002) .

6 Concluding Remarks

All forms of historical inquiry invariably have important normative and praxeological dimensions. For theorists who view history as a realm of recurrence and repetition, the key point at issue is effective management. By exploring cyclic historical patterns, they cautiously seek to identify ways of mitigating the worst effects of enduring structural forces. For theorists who view history as a realm of contingency and complexity, the key point at issue is fundamental change. By exploring historical ruptures and essential differences, they cautiously seek to identify nascent potentials within contemporary life that point to ways of reorienting international order. This perspective does not necessarily translate into historical determinism, since future cataclysms are always possible, but it does suggest that aspects of the current status quo that otherwise appear natural, or immutable, are best understood as contingent expressions of a long‐term process of historical contestation. Within both these perspectives we encounter further variation, as scholars regularly offer divergent accounts of the strategies and orientations that are required to promote and/or evaluate either effective management or fundamental change.

International relations theory has served as a common medium through which these differences have been conceptualized and discussed, helping to provide purpose and structure to an eclectic array of historical projects. On this front, the main axis of contention has been an ongoing search for universal models, clear causal connections, and definitive predictions. This has been chiefly expressed in various forms of radical simplification, based upon rational action, materialism, and functionalism. The most influential example of this approach has been the work of Kenneth Waltz. More recent contributions have introduced powerful modifications of Waltz's abstract vision, offering a higher degree of historical rigor and theoretical precision while remaining committed to social scientific ideals. These contributions have gone against the grain of recent trends in historical research within international relations circles, which have been heavily populated by critics of rationalist approaches. The search for transhistorical essences that operate across various time periods and regions will always be tremendously challenging. It is easy to be overly critical when scholars fall short in pursuing such a difficult theoretical task. The real sticking point, however, has less do with individual shortcomings than with the uncertain wisdom of the overall exercise. As we have seen, this has often translated into a referendum on the merits of radical simplification, and the relative importance of various issues and idiosyncrasies that have been marginalized in the pursuit of theoretical parsimony. Both international and intellectual history have been central to this often fractious debate, as scholars have highlighted historical developments and intellectual contributions that do not conform with prevailing models. This central relationship between history, theory, and method has ultimately ensured that historical research within academic international relations is not so much an end in itself as an expansive platform for the advancement of various contemporary goals.

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168 Current International Relations Research Topics For Any Level

international relations research topics

Are you a student looking for intriguing international relations research topics? Look no further! In this blog post, we have created a list of 168 unique and thought-provoking research topics in the field of international relations that should help students get an A+ on their next paper.

Whether you’re studying political science, international affairs or related disciplines, this comprehensive list covers a wide range of fascinating subjects. From global governance to security issues, diplomacy, human rights, and more, these topics are designed to inspire your research and help you delve deeper into the complexities of international relations. So, grab your notepad and get ready to explore these captivating research ideas!

A Word On International Relations Theses

International relations is the study of interactions between nations and global actors. It examines politics, economics, security, and culture, exploring how countries cooperate, conflict and shape global dynamics. If you’re about to start working on a thesis in international relations and you are wondering what to include in your paper, here is a short explanation of each of the mandatory chapters:

Introduction: The opening section that presents the research problem, objectives, and significance of the study. Literature Review: A comprehensive review of existing scholarly works related to the research topic, providing a context for the study. Methodology: Describes the research design, data collection methods, and analytical techniques used to address the research questions or hypotheses. Findings: Presents the empirical results or outcomes of the research, often supported by data, analysis, and interpretation. Discussion: Analyzes and interprets the findings in relation to the research objectives, drawing connections to existing literature and providing insights. Conclusion: Summarizes the main findings, highlights the contributions to the field, and suggests avenues for future research. References: Lists all the sources cited in the thesis following a specific citation style (e.g., APA, MLA).

Now, it’s time to deliver on our promise and give you the list of international relations research paper topics. Choose the one you like the most:

Easy International Relations Research Topics

Explore our list of easy international relations research topics that will help you understand global politics and analyze the dynamics of international relations with ease

  • The impact of globalization on state sovereignty and international relations
  • Analyzing the role of non-state actors in global governance structures
  • The influence of soft power in shaping international relations and diplomacy
  • Exploring the relationship between human rights and international relations
  • Examining the dynamics of economic interdependence in international relations
  • The role of international organizations in promoting peace and security
  • Assessing the impact of climate change on international relations and cooperation
  • Analyzing the role of regional integration in shaping global politics
  • The implications of cyber warfare for international relations and national security
  • Examining the challenges and opportunities of humanitarian intervention in international relations
  • Analyzing the role of ideology in shaping state behavior in international relations
  • Exploring the impact of migration and refugee crises on international relations
  • Assessing the role of international law in resolving conflicts and promoting peace
  • Investigating the role of intelligence agencies in shaping international relations

International Relations Thesis Topics

Our wide range of international relations thesis topics will guide you towards developing a strong research question, conducting in-depth analysis, and contributing to the field with your original research:

  • Power dynamics and the balance of power in international relations
  • Exploring the role of diplomacy in conflict resolution and peacebuilding
  • The impact of nuclear proliferation on international security and non-proliferation regimes
  • Analyzing the role of international institutions in managing global crises
  • The influence of nationalism on interstate relations and regional cooperation
  • Examining the role of international norms and human rights in shaping foreign policy
  • Assessing the impact of economic globalization on state sovereignty in international relations
  • The role of social media in shaping public opinion and international relations
  • Exploring the concept of hegemony and its implications for international relations
  • The role of gender in international relations and its impact on policy-making
  • Analyzing the role of intelligence agencies in shaping international relations
  • The implications of emerging technologies on international security and arms control
  • Examining the role of media and propaganda in international conflicts and public opinion
  • The impact of regional integration on state behavior and international cooperation

Advanced International Relations Topics For Research

Dive into complex issues, explore cutting-edge theories, and unravel the intricate dynamics of global affairs with our advanced international relations topics for research:

  • China’s global rise and its power dynamics
  • Non-traditional security threats in international relations
  • AI and warfare: Implications for international security
  • Climate change, conflict, and forced migration in international relations
  • Religion and politics in international relations
  • Populism’s impact on global governance and international relations
  • Social movements and civil society in shaping international relations
  • Pandemics and international cooperation: Implications for global governance
  • Cultural diplomacy and soft power in international relations
  • Information warfare and disinformation in international relations
  • Regional powers shaping global security dynamics
  • Responsibility to protect and humanitarian interventions in international relations
  • Resource scarcity and environmental degradation in international relations
  • Migration and refugee crises’ impact on global stability

International Relations Research Questions

Our carefully curated list of international relations research questions will inspire critical thinking and promote meaningful discussions:

  • How does power transition theory explain shifts in global power dynamics?
  • What are the implications of the rise of non-state actors on traditional state-centric international relations theories?
  • How do identity politics and nationalism shape interstate conflicts?
  • What are the factors influencing state compliance with international human rights norms?
  • How does globalization impact state sovereignty?
  • What are the challenges of multilateralism in addressing global issues?
  • How does public opinion influence state behavior in international relations?
  • What are the causes and consequences of failed states in international relations?
  • How does the distribution of power in international institutions affect their legitimacy?
  • What are the implications of emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, on international security?
  • How do regional conflicts and security dilemmas impact regional integration efforts?
  • What are the root causes of terrorism?
  • How does economic interdependence shape interstate relations and global governance structures?
  • What are the challenges of global environmental governance in addressing climate change?

International Relations Paper Topics

Choose one of our international relations paper topics that resonate with your interests and embark on an enriching research journey:

  • The role of ideology in shaping state behavior in international relations
  • Analyzing the impact of economic sanctions on diplomatic relations between countries
  • The role of media and propaganda in influencing public opinion in international conflicts
  • Exploring the relationship between globalization and cultural identity in international relations
  • The implications of cybersecurity threats on national security and international relations
  • Assessing the role of intelligence agencies in gathering and analyzing international intelligence
  • Analyzing the impact of regional organizations on regional conflicts and cooperation in international relations
  • The influence of international trade agreements on global economic and political relations
  • Exploring the dynamics of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in international relations
  • The role of international law in resolving territorial disputes and promoting peace
  • Non-state actors in international relations: Influence and challenges
  • Conflict resolution mechanisms: Negotiation, mediation, and peacebuilding approaches
  • Diplomatic immunity: Balancing immunity with accountability in international relations
  • The impact of global pandemics on international cooperation and security

Engaging Topic Ideas About International Relations

Are you seeking engaging and captivating topic ideas for your international relations research? Choose one of these engaging topic ideas about international relations:

  • Global governance and international organizations in addressing global challenges.
  • Nationalism’s impact on international relations and global cooperation.
  • Soft power in shaping international perceptions and relations.
  • Regional conflicts’ implications for global stability and security.
  • Cyber warfare: Assessing evolving cyber threats in international relations.
  • Media’s role in international relations: Influence, propaganda, and disinformation.
  • Economic interdependence: Opportunities and risks in global relations.
  • Diplomacy in the digital age: Challenges of virtual diplomacy.
  • Global migration and refugee crises: Humanitarian and political dimensions.
  • Human rights in international relations: Promoting universal rights.
  • Terrorism’s impact on global security and counterterrorism efforts.
  • Environmental diplomacy: Addressing global environmental challenges.
  • Religion’s role in international relations.
  • Regional power dynamics: Influence of major powers in different regions

international relations research topics

Interesting International Relations Research Paper Topics

Uncover fascinating research paper topics in international relations that will captivate your readers and showcase your analytical skills. Use one of these interesting international relations research paper topics:

  • Populism’s rise and its impact on international relations and global governance
  • Climate change’s geopolitical implications: Conflicts, migrations, and resource competition
  • Hybrid warfare: Analyzing blurred lines between conventional and unconventional threats
  • Technology’s impact on diplomacy and the future of diplomatic practices
  • Nuclear energy diplomacy: Balancing peaceful uses and proliferation concerns
  • Soft power and cultural industries’ influence in international relations
  • Politics of humanitarian aid: Challenges and ethical considerations
  • Media framing’s impact on public opinion in international conflicts
  • International cooperation in space exploration and its geopolitical implications
  • Diaspora communities’ role in shaping international relations and global politics
  • Migration policies and human rights: Balancing border control and human dignity
  • Global health governance: Cooperation, challenges, and pandemic responses
  • Environmental peacebuilding: Addressing conflicts over natural resources and degradation
  • Economic sanctions: Effectiveness and ethical implications in international relations

Political Science Dissertation Topics

Our list of political science dissertation topics will provide you with a solid foundation for developing a unique research proposal and making a significant contribution to the field:

  • The role of political ideologies in foreign policy and international relations.
  • National security strategies and state behavior in international relations.
  • Global governance and collective decision-making challenges in international institutions.
  • Public opinion’s influence on foreign policy and international relations.
  • Identity politics and intergroup relations in international contexts.
  • Humanitarian interventions and the responsibility to protect.
  • Geopolitics and resource conflicts: Strategic importance of natural resources.
  • International law’s role in shaping state behavior and resolving conflicts.
  • Comparative political systems in international relations.
  • Political leadership’s impact on diplomatic relations and cooperation.
  • International development assistance: Aid effectiveness and challenges.
  • Non-state actors in global politics: Influence, networks, power dynamics.
  • Intelligence agencies in international intelligence gathering and analysis.
  • Political parties and foreign policy shaping

Current International Relations Topics For Research Paper

Stay up to date with the latest developments in global politics by exploring our selection of current international relations topics for research paper writing :

  • Emerging technologies’ impact on global security and power dynamics.
  • Transnational threats: Terrorism, crime, and cyber challenges in focus.
  • Regional integration in globalization: Achievements, limitations, and prospects.
  • Trade wars: Implications for global economy and cooperation.
  • Disinformation and fake news: Influence on international politics and public opinion.
  • Climate change negotiations: Progress and challenges in combating global warming
  • Cybersecurity and emerging threats in international relations.
  • Regional power dynamics in the Middle East: Implications for global security
  • Global responses to the COVID-19 pandemic: Cooperation and challenges
  • Climate change mitigation and adaptation in international policy
  • Rising nationalism and its impact on international cooperation
  • Humanitarian crisis in Yemen: International responses and challenges
  • Technology and the future of warfare: Implications for global security
  • The Belt and Road Initiative: Assessing its impact on international relations

Awesome Research Topics For International Relations

Our awesome research topics for international relations allow you to explore diverse areas of global politics and contribute to the field with your exceptional research:

  • NGOs’ role in shaping international policies and agendas
  • Humanitarian interventions and the responsibility to protect: Effectiveness and ethics
  • Cybersecurity challenges in international relations: Risks and responses
  • Global migration governance: Policies and implications
  • Globalization vs national sovereignty: Impacts on state behavior
  • China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Geopolitical influence and challenges
  • Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation: Effectiveness of treaties
  • Gender in international relations: Impact of norms and policies
  • Post-colonial perspectives in international relations: Power dynamics and legacies
  • Climate justice and international cooperation: Addressing climate change
  • Regional organizations in global governance and international relations
  • Politics of humanitarian intervention: Strategies and outcomes
  • Political economy of international trade: Impact of policies and agreements
  • Populism’s impact on democracy and international relations

Controversial International Relations Topics

Delve into the realm of controversy and discourse with our thought-provoking controversial international relations topics:

  • Drones in targeted killings: Legal and ethical implications
  • Nuclear energy and non-proliferation: Benefits and risks
  • Intervention in state sovereignty: Legitimacy and consequences
  • Ethics of economic sanctions: Effectiveness and impact on civilians
  • Cyber warfare and international norms: Regulating cyber conflicts
  • Climate change’s impact on national security and conflicts
  • Intelligence agencies in covert operations and international relations
  • Politics of humanitarian aid: Motivations and challenges
  • Ethics of military intervention: Justifications and consequences
  • Politics of regime change: Motivations and implications
  • Media bias’s impact on international perceptions and diplomacy
  • Private military companies: Challenges and accountability
  • Politics of disarmament and arms control: Progress and challenges
  • Corporate interests’ influence on foreign policy and relations

Best International Relations Topics For 2023

Stay ahead of the curve with our selection of the best international relations topics for 2023. These carefully curated topics reflect the current trends, emerging challenges and pressing issues:

  • COVID-19 pandemic’s implications on global politics and international relations
  • Rise of populism and its impact on democracy and international cooperation
  • Cybersecurity challenges in a hyper-connected world: Risks and responses
  • Future of international cooperation in addressing global challenges and conflicts
  • Climate change and security: Implications for international relations and stability
  • Evolving role of regional powers in shaping global politics and relations
  • Technological advancements’ impact on state power and international relations
  • Global governance reform: Restructuring international institutions
  • Social media’s role in shaping international perceptions and political movements
  • Challenges and prospects of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation
  • Intersection of artificial intelligence and international relations
  • Impact of trade wars on global economic relations and cooperation
  • Geopolitical tensions in the Arctic: Resource competition and influence
  • Future of multilateralism: Relevance and effectiveness in a changing world

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How do I choose a research topic in international relations?

Consider your interests, current events, and gaps in existing literature to identify an area of focus. Brainstorm potential topics and ensure they align with your research objectives.

What makes a strong international relations research paper?

A strong research paper includes a well-defined research question, solid theoretical framework, rigorous analysis, credible sources, and logical structure. It should also contribute to the existing body of knowledge.

How can I narrow down my international relations research topic?

Consider specific regions, actors, theories, or policy areas within international relations. Narrowing down your topic will allow for a more focused and manageable research paper.

Can I use case studies in my international relations research paper?

Yes, case studies can be valuable in providing empirical evidence and in-depth analysis. They help illustrate theoretical concepts and offer real-world examples to support your arguments.

History Research Paper Topics

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Boatwright Memorial Library

Global studies research guide: international topics.

  • IS Course Guide Archive
  • International News
  • Country Information
  • International Topics
  • Int'l Organizations
  • International Travel

Attitudes & Public Opinion

  • World Public Opinion.org Covers public opinion by region of the world and by topic.
  • Pew Research International Affairs Provides access to world-wide public opinion polls regarding important issues of the day.
  • World Values Survey Contains sets of surveys of people throughout the world capturing their beliefs and values.
  • Afrobarometer Provides reports and datasets of public opinion surveys of various African countries.
  • AmericasBarometer Insights Series - LAPOP Studies based on surveys in 23 countries of the Americas in 2008, including North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean.
  • Asian Barometer Access to public opinion surveys of people from Southeast Asian countries. more... less... Access the datasets requires submitting contact information and having the data sent to you through email.
  • Eurobarometer Provides reports of attitudes of European Union member countries' citizens.
  • Post-communist Countries Barometer Provides public opinion polls for Russia, Eastern Europe, South-Eastern Europe and Baltic Countries from the 1990s forward.


Open access database

Food & Hunger

  • World Food Programme UN organization focusing on distributing food to those in need during times of natural disasters and conflict.
  • Food & Agriculture Organization Provides information on eradicating hunger as well as agriculture, forestry & fishery development activities throughout the world.
  • International Organization for Migration (IOM) Focuses on migration trends throughout the world and supports humane treatment of migrants, includes information on countries, diasporas, policy issues, etc.
  • Forced Migration Review Covers involuntary migration issues throughout the world, including an introductory guide to the causes of forced migration as well as some journals focused on refugees and forced migration issues.
  • UN Refugees & Migrants Gathers the official statistics on international migration movements throughout the world.


  • Small Arms Survey Principal international source of public information on small arms and light weapons, including weapon use and government policies.
  • Correlates of War Provides datasets from researchers focusing on the actions and impacts of war and post-war events on countries and regions.
  • Crimes of War Project collaboration of journalists, lawyers and scholars dedicated to raising public awareness of the laws of war and their application to situations of conflict.


  • ElectionGuide Focuses on current elections, but includes previous elections back to 1998. Developed by a non-profit International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES), the world's premiere election assistance organization.
  • International Voter Turnout - IDEA Most comprehensive global collection of political participation statistics available, covers presidential & parliamentary elections, numbers of registered voters and information of false ballots.
  • Freedom House Provides scores, reports and statistics covering democracy and freedom across the world. There are reports on civil liberties, political rights, freedom of speech, freedom of press, and countries transitioning to democracy.
  • Fragile States Index - Fund for Peace Ranks the level of political stability in every country in the world.


  • Global Policy Forum - Globalization Section Provides information on globalization of economies, politics and culture.
  • International Monetary Fund (IMF) - Globalization Page Provides analysis on globalization and economic actions taken by the IMF affecting globalization.

National Security

  • Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) Website A non-profit, bipartisan group providing research and analysis on national and international security strategies.
  • Human Security Report Project Focuses on the impact of international involvement in wars, genocides and human rights abuses.
  • World Security Institute A non-profit group providing research and journalism relating to global affairs, including information by topic or region.
  • Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Website Organization of 56 participating countries in Europe, Asia & North America focusing on preventing conflict and helping areas develop national security strategies.

UR Libraries subscription

  • UNWomen Women and Gender Gateway to United Nations sources
  • Internet Women's History Sourcebook A subset of the Internet Ancient, Medieval and Modern Sourcebooks that focus on women.
  • World Bank Gender website Provides reports and publications regarding gender in developing countries and World Bank programs focusing on gender.

Corruption Indicators

  • Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) - Transparency International Ranking of the levels of corruption in 180 countries determined by experts and surveys.
  • Global Corruption Barometer - Transparency International Public opinion attitudes and experiences regarding corruption in dozens of countries.
  • Bribe Payers Index - Transparency International Measures the likelihood firms based in the developed world to pay bribes to operate.
  • Worldwide Governance Indicators Reports on indicators for 212 countries focusing on accountability, political stability, government effectiveness, rule of law and control of corruption.


  • International Energy Association International organization focused on reporting energy development and consumption throughout the world.
  • World Resources Institute Maps & Data Online collection of information regarding the environmental, social, and economic trends providing reports, statistics and graphics.
  • UN Environment Programme (UNEP) website Provides information and publications of the UNEP regarding the environment and climate change.

Health/Human Development

  • World Health Organization Website Provides reports on health and disease in countries and health care programs in the developing world.
  • Human Development Index Ranks countries on the level of human development, such as poverty levels, health, life expectancies, education, equality of genders, etc.
  • Global Health Council Non-profit group's website focused on improving health of people throughout the world through education and health programs, including publications.
  • UNAIDS Providing information on the UN's AIDS initiative to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS.


  • Population Reference Bureau (PBR) A non-profit organization providing statistics and publication on population trends throughout the world, focusing on the effects of population growth on economics, health and the environment.
  • World Population Trends - UN Provides information on population trends throughout the world including population growth, fertility, mortality, population policies, etc.
  • Census Bureau International Data Base Provides rankings of countries by population growth, growth estimates, demographic indicators and population pyramids.
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What You Need to Know About Becoming an International Studies Major

International studies majors explore ways of improving individual countries and the world.

Becoming an International Studies Major

Young Indian woman using digital tablet. The blue city of Jodhpur on the background. Jodhpur is known as the Blue City due to the vivid blue-painted houses around the Mehrangarh Fort.

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In some cases, a senior thesis may be based on coursework or research students complete while studying abroad.

An international studies major, sometimes called a global studies major, strives to understand globalization and how it affects a country’s culture and society. Unlike international relations majors, who focus on politics and the interactions between countries, international studies majors assess the anthropological, historical and religious aspects of countries.

What Is an International Studies Major?

An international studies major examines the connections between international and regional issues. Students concentrate on a language and an area of the world while learning how to analyze complex global affairs. Programs aim to expand students' understanding of different cultures and produce graduates interested in finding ways to respond to global challenges.

International studies major vs. international relations major: What’s the difference?

An international relations major is an area of study focused on understanding the global community and world politics. Students analyze behaviors and interactions between countries and international organizations, considering national and global contexts and perspectives. Undergraduate international relations coursework includes political science, globalization, world history, economics, social research methods, and topics like capitalism and democracy. An international studies degree differs from international relations because it considers the social and cultural aspects of nations when examining global issues.

Common Coursework International Studies Majors Can Expect

International studies majors can expect to take a range of classes, as many programs use a multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary curriculum. Students take courses in history, anthropology, economics, literature, politics and other social sciences. This approach aims to provide students with the broad knowledge and analytical skills to understand the world’s problems. Majors may also take classes on topics such as global health, terrorism, human rights and environmental emergencies.

An integral part of international studies coursework is advanced language classes. Many programs require students to concentrate on a foreign language and a region. Students can develop their language abilities and learn more about a country’s culture and history by studying abroad. Depending on the program, students may study abroad for a summer, a semester or a year. In many programs, students also have the opportunity to complete an internship.

International studies majors may need to complete a final thesis or capstone project. In some cases, the thesis may be based on coursework or research students complete while studying abroad.

How to Know if This Major Is the Right Fit for You

International studies majors should be interested in events happening in other countries and on the global stage. They should also enjoy learning about other cultures. Having a knack for learning foreign languages is useful for this degree, as some programs emphasize proficiency and coursework in a second language.

Students who enjoy creative problem-solving and are invested in tackling complex problems, such as economic inequality or human rights issues, should consider this major.

Pick the Perfect Major

Discover the perfect major for you based on your innate wiring. The Innate Assessment sets you up for success by pairing you with majors, colleges and careers that fit your unique skills and abilities.

research topics for history and international studies

What Can I Do With an International Studies Major?

International studies majors can work in a multitude of areas, including public policy, economics, education, journalism and diplomacy. The broadness of the coursework in this global studies major gives students an understanding of humanities and social sciences that enables them to work in many different areas. Graduates can find employment in entry-level roles including journalist, fundraiser, public relations specialist, and interpreter or translator.

International studies majors may pursue advanced degrees in law, medicine or business, and a graduate degree may be necessary for employment in higher-level positions. Some roles, like economist, political scientist and historian, need at least a master’s degree to enter the field, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Graduates who want to teach at the college level should earn a Ph.D. to work as a foreign language or literature teacher, for example. Becoming a researcher may also require an advanced degree to work on projects that inform policy development or educational programs, for example.

Graduates’ knowledge of international cultures and foreign languages can enable them to work in countries around the world. Students develop foreign language skills in their coursework and can learn additional languages post-graduation to enhance their resumes and broaden their career opportunities. Proficiency in multiple languages allows these professionals to communicate with colleagues around the world and apply their global studies knowledge to global trade and business with international partners.

International studies majors may be suited for work with nongovernmental organizations such as Doctors Without Borders; service or nonprofit organizations; or government organizations such as the Peace Corps. Those interested in foreign relations positions, like political affairs officer, can work with government agencies on matters of intelligence, diplomacy, policy and law.

Data is sourced from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics .

What International Studies Majors Say

“Being an international studies major is like being part history and political science major, mixed in with foreign language, sociology, and philosophy. You learn about wars, but also the history, culture, and organizations involved in those conflicts. You explore academic theories about international relations that you were unaware of during high school. You learn about economics and business. In international studies, you can learn in-depth about a specific conflict or issue. However, you are also able to learn about more than just a narrow subject, which is what happens with other majors … My advice is, if you are considering being an international studies major, ask yourself; would I enjoy studying this for the next 4 years? If the answer is yes, then you should be an international studies major.”

– Ian Brown , senior at Manhattan College, class of '24, international studies major.

“Being an international studies major builds knowledge and skills that enable a genuine understanding of complex worldwide issues, and simultaneously immerses students into a status of global citizenship through integrative course work and programs such as study abroad or Model United Nations … Advice I’d give to prospective students considering an international studies major is to: Enter with an open mind to allow a proper understanding of the material. Since there are many facets of international studies this would assist preparation for an interdisciplinary approach to knowledge and skill development.”

– Jimmy Guzman , senior at University of the Pacific, class of ‘24, international relations major.

"My international studies journey at the University of San Francisco has been a thrilling exploration of global affairs, international relations, and diverse cultures … For aspiring international studies majors, here is my advice: First, diversify your coursework by exploring a range of subjects within the field to foster a well-rounded perspective. Second, embrace foreign language proficiency, a vital skill for effective engagement in international contexts. Practical experience through internships or volunteering is invaluable for career development. Networking with professors, peers, and professionals in the field can open doors to various opportunities. Reading and writing are crucial to stay informed about current global events, and trends, and being in charge of your study goal. Early on, clearly define your career goals and tailor your education to align with them, no pressure because I know it takes time and life sometimes takes turns. Note that you must either complete an honor thesis or capstone project; choose something you are passionate about. The international studies field is dynamic, so be adaptable and open to new perspectives. Lastly, maintain a passionate drive to positively impact the world as your enthusiasm will be your greatest asset.”

– Shennel Henries , senior at University of San Francisco, class of ‘24, international studies major.

“As an international studies major at Manhattan College, I have enjoyed the interdisciplinary nature of the coursework which allows me to be able to explore my personal academic interests through classes in political science, history, religious studies, and women and gender studies. With a double major in history alongside international studies, I was able to make cross-temporal connections, drawing links between historical forces and contingencies and their consequences for contemporary issues globally. Because the coursework for International Studies classes is interdisciplinary, we have to develop foundational practices like strong analytical thinking, research strategies, and persuasive writing. This skillset is essential beyond the classroom – it prepared me for my professional role in a human-rights organization where I remain employed today facilitating workshops with NYC public school kids on responding to online hate with digital-media literacy and citizenship.”

– Marin Bultena , senior at Manhattan College, class of ‘23, international studies and history majors and minor in religious studies.

Schools Offering an International Studies Major

Check out some schools below that offer international studies majors and find the full list of schools here that you can filter and sort.

2024 Best Colleges

research topics for history and international studies

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INTL 2910: Topics in International and Global Studies: Global Intersectionalities: Primary Sources

  • Journal Articles
  • Primary Sources
  • Resources from Other Libraries
  • Evaluating Sources
  • MLA Citations

Primary Sources for History

Primary sources are materials that provide firsthand testimony to a subject under investigation. Researchers often use these firsthand accounts of specific events to understand events from the viewpoint of people living during that time period.

Primary sources include documents and artifacts from the time period under study, such as:

  • photographs
  • works of art

Primary sources also include writings and recordings  by witnesses who experienced the events or conditions being documented, such as:

  • oral histories
  • autobiographies
  • memoirs 

Primary Source Examples

When looking for primary sources online, it can be helpful to search for interviews and oral histories. Modern interviews and oral histories can often be found in news articles and videos.

  • Oral history interview with Faith Ringgold, 1972 Ringgold, Faith. Oral History Interview with Faith Ringgold, 1972 . 1972, https://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/interviews/oral-history-interview-faith-ringgold-11488. Smithsonian Archives of American Art.
  • Oral History: Bittersweet Memories Of A Cuban HIV Sanitarium Sananes, Rebecca. “Oral History: Bittersweet Memories Of A Cuban HIV Sanitarium.” WBUR , 22 Mar. 2016, https://www.wbur.org/news/2016/03/22/bittersweet-memories-cuban-hiv-sanitarium.
  • Morocco: Women's voices “Morocco: Women’s Voices.” Encore! , directed by Renaud Lefort and Brice Agier-Gregoire, France 24, 17 Mar. 2023. YouTube , https://youtu.be/9JVXrOKMGr0?si=D4bBH8y37zOSLFZV.

Primary Sources: Books at WPI

Sometimes collections of primary source documents are republished in books. To find books like these, search   WPI Library Search  for books about your topic and add keywords such as oral history, journals, papers, letters, documents, primary sources,  documentary history, or sourcebook  to your search terms.

You can also look for  memoirs  or  autobiographies  to find first-hand accounts of historical events. 

Here are some examples of books containing primary sources:

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research topics for history and international studies

New Project Research Topics in History and International Relations

research topics for history and international studies

Looking for interesting and new research topics in history and international relations for your academic project or dissertation?

We have compiled some refreshing research project topics in this field you can take on. Even better there are some excellent research projects and materials on these topics you can consult to aid your research.

Without much ado check the history and international relations project topics below;

  • The Impact of Globalization on Economic Growth: Nigeria as a Case Study : This is a 56 page research project investigating the impact of recent and ongoing globalisation on the economy of nations using Nigeria as a case study.
  • The Role of International Court of Justice in the Settlement of International Dispute (A Case Study of Bakassi Peninsula Conflict 1993 – 2002) : This work (84 pages) takes a look at dissecting the role of the ICJ with a case study of the conflict between Nigeria and Cameroon regarding the Bakassi Peninsula.
  • Boko Haram and Socio-Political Changes in the Northern Part of Nigeria : Boko Haram is a major dent in Nigeria’s socio-political landscape and will remain an interesting research area for political, history and international relations students. This project takes a look the terrorist organisation has had in the Northern part of Nigeria.
  • The Economic Importance of Cocoa in Nigeria Economy (1900 – 1970) : Cocoa played a great economic role in Nigeria’s economy for many years. This 64 page research project dissects the role this crop played in the Nigerian economy for the period 1900 – 1970.
  • The Socio-Economic History of Egbaland (2000 – 2010) : This work studies the history of the people of Egbaland in present day Abeokuta in Ogun State.
  • United States and the Gaza War of 2014 : The project looks at the role of the United States in the Gaza War in the Middle east.
  • The Implication of Human Trafficking on Nigeria’s Foreign Relation: A Case Study of Edo State : This research work examines the impact and implications of human and sex trafficking on Nigeria with focus on the Edo sex trade and human trafficking channels
  • The Origin And Growth Of Elu Ohafia In Present Day Abia State Since 1900

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111 International Studies Essay Topic Ideas & Examples

🏆 best international studies topic ideas & essay examples, ⭐ simple & easy international studies essay titles, 📝 good research topics about international studies, 🔍 interesting topics to write about international studies, ❓ research questions about international studies.

  • International Students Attitudes Towards Online Shopping The researcher strived to answer three key questions, which sought to find out students’ attitudes towards online shopping, the nationality of students who make the largest number of online purchases, and the barriers that prevent […]
  • International Student’s Experience in the United States I talked to one of my friends about the decision to go back to my homeland, but he convinced me to stay. We will write a custom essay specifically for you by our professional experts 808 writers online Learn More
  • Consumer Behavior of International Students Foreign students are likely to flood an outlet that is frequented by many locals because that way, they can be sure that they will buy items at the same price with the locals.
  • Cultural Assimilation of International Students The problem of assimilation is not new and can be linked to the first travels of folks and populations and their attempts to understand and live by the culture and established rules of the people […]
  • Homesickness in International Students Homesickness in international student is caused by culture shock and the failure to meet the high expectations that the international students have about their lives in the new country.
  • Fashion Impact on International Students in London The proposal looks at the personal experiences of a small group of international students living and studying in London, utilizing first-hand accounts of how they make sense of their university experiences abroad and integrate them […]
  • Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on International Students in Canada It is the responsibility of the relevant stakeholders to implement policies that support preventive mechanism and the welfare of the group due to the profound contribution to the socio-cultural and economic foundations of the nation.
  • International Student on Improving Performance in Educational Settings This unique approach to interacting with the learning environment stems from my view of the student learning environment from the outward-in, as opposed to the inwards-out method used by resident students.
  • Studying in Paris as an International Student If you choose to immerse in the culture deeper and study in French, it is easy to improve your level of knowledge in one of the language schools.
  • Improving the Experiences of International Students: Philippine and US One of the main differences between the state of education in the Philippine and within the U.S. is the fact that plagiarism is treated far more severely here.
  • Enhancing Voices of International Students in the UK Stemming from this background, the focus of the proposed study will be on enhancing the voices of international students to improve the quality of educational leadership in the UK.
  • Designing a Communication Campaign for Asian International Students In the future, it will be essential to widen the scope of research and analysis in order for a campaign to be fully explicit and factual.
  • Local and International Student’s Anxiety In addition to that, international students suffer from anxiety that is caused by the necessity to live in a new environment and culture.
  • International Students and Their Challenges in Australia According to the Victorian government statistics, the enrolment rate of international students has been on the rise since 2002 to present.
  • International Students Behaviour in KICL College So the main aim of this research was to establish an understanding of the factors that affect the consumption behaviour of the international students in KICL College.
  • International Students’ Attitude and Counseling Service For instance the students from Vietnam students are reluctant to seek counseling help due to the stigma associated with mental problems.
  • The Difficulties of Being an International Student in the USA According to the statistical data, the number of international students in the United States has significantly increased since the middle of the twentieth century.
  • International Studies: The Meaning of Appeasement To get to the root of the reasons that made the appeasement policy so popular in Britain and also making the then prime minister Chamberlain a hero, one must look deeply at the French and […]
  • Creating an Educational Agency to Recruit International Students From China Educational agencies serve the purpose of linking students with universities that would help them to achieve their personal and career goals.
  • Tourist Destination Role in International Students’ Choice of Academic Centre On the institution versus destination factors question the mainstay of the research the researchers established that the destination factors were superior to the university factors 4.
  • Challenges Faced by International Students at the University of Tampa The present research proposal explains the need for studying the challenges faced by international students at the University of Tampa and outlines the research objectives and methodology for the proposed study.
  • American Copyright Law Training for International Students However, they later come to discover that this is not so in the United States and that it is criminal not to pay attention to copyright law.
  • International Students Problems in Australian Universities These rules can also impact the behavior of female students who may be unwilling to use the services that can promote their sexual and reproductive health.
  • Plagiarism Among International Students: Omnibus Report In essence, therefore, the credibility of the whole report is built upon the concise details provided in the cover letter, and which include: identifying what plagiarism constitutes in the context of the United States; providing […]
  • Deakin University’s International Student Support The program is supported by the fact that the University operates on a student-focused culture and is a sector leader insofar as student satisfaction is concerned.
  • International Students’ Studying in the United States A majority of the students from the Middle East opt to study in the United States. The desire to advance my knowledge in art and design is what forced me to go to the United […]
  • International Students and Mobile Services in Australia At this point, we are going to advance a hypothesis that these customers pay most attention to such criteria as the price of international phone calls, the ease of use, the variety of mobile services, […]
  • International Students’ Guide for Living in the UK It will highlight some of the content in the magazine and will also address some of the queries that readers have.
  • Food’ Role in International Students Interaction One of the greatest challenges to international students is achieving a successful connection to the culture of the country where they are studying.
  • On Language Grounds: Discrimination of International Students The need to preserve one’s culture and position though language-based discrimination is likely to persist in the US to show that Americans are in control and foreign students must learn English to coexist with them.
  • International Students Discrimination in the USA International students lose their focus having to go through the process of adaptation to the new culture and new society, their lack of social and academic command of the English language is causing a lot […]
  • International Students Experience in English Environment Although combining studying and childrearing is especially hard for the students that are not the native speakers of English and, therefore, will have issues with understanding and learning the course material under the pressure of […]
  • Admission of International Students to the U.S. Universities All in all, to overcome all these problems a lot of social support, is required from both the lecturers and students themselves.
  • Benefits of Attending Churches for International Students This proposal includes several elements: the design of brochures and leaflets about the churches in California; distribution of these leaflets; evaluation of students’ experiences and attitude toward churches.
  • International Student Self-Identity and Self-Concept According to Baumeister, due to the continuous evolution of the identity theory, there is no definite concept attached to identity; but the concept can be well understood by dissecting it into three key characteristics which […]
  • International Student Recruitment Program The internationalization can significantly improve the practice of teaching and learning in both countries through the implementation of adaptive techniques to communicating with international students.
  • Learning Styles in Asian International Students It is important for universities in foreign countries to implement teaching and learning styles and a curriculum that addresses the predicament of such students to promote effective learning.
  • Open Ontario: International Students Difficulties in Canada A research on the problems likely to be encountered will assist the government in creating an effective online Ontario institute that addresses the emerging and existing problems of the students.
  • Why International Students Find It Hard to Make Friends On the other hand, in societies that promote a high power distance, less powerful individuals accept their position in the chain of command and acknowledge the strengths of their superiors in the hierarchy.
  • Coping Strategies for International Students with Language Barriers More importantly, there still exist gaps in knowledge on the most successful coping strategies that international students can adopt to overcome the challenge presented by the problem of language barrier in the pursuit of their […]
  • International Students Effective Participation in Host Cultures The theories describe the characteristics of newly formed groups, the search for purpose and position, the place of acting out the group’s purpose, and in some cases, the point where the group disintegrates.
  • Exempted From Paying Taxes: International Students Who Are Not Working According to Dwyer, 2009, international students refer to those individuals who are seeking education in other countries and they will stay in that country for the period they will be studying.
  • Academic Achievement Among International Students and Associated Issues These include economic conditions, the extent of the students’ success, and the effect of peer programs on International students in terms of their adjustment.
  • Trends in the Enrollment of International Students to US Institutions The second section of the research involves the analysis of readily available data and relevant literature to identify international enrollment trends in the US with regard to the countries of origin, target states, major education […]
  • International Students Participation in ELICOS Australia The main objective of the report is to examine the factors which can influence the fact of falling of the number of those students from Colombia and Saudi Arabia who attend ELICOS in 2011 and […]
  • Exploring the International Students as a Community These challenges are usually the origin of the international student as a community. International students’ community is also present in the social websites such as Facebook and tweeter.
  • Scholarship for International Study on Education
  • International Education Problem That Affects Chinese Students
  • Accounting for Public Expenditures on Education: An International Panel Study
  • Agency, Education and Networks: Gender and International Migration From Albania
  • International and National Determinants of Change in Education Policy Making
  • Private Providers Comparison With Public Providers of International Education
  • Business Cycles and Investment in Human Capital: International Evidence on Higher Education
  • Relations of Citizenship and International Development Education
  • Constitutional Rights and Education: An International Comparative Study
  • International Entrepreneurship Education: Issues and Newness
  • Demographic Change, International Migration, and Public Education
  • Cross-Country Models of Education, Industry and Fertility and International Comparisons
  • Economic Growth and Education: A New International Policy
  • Education and Health: Insights From International Comparisons
  • Enhancing Education for International Students
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  • European and International Dimensions of Education
  • Factors Influencing International Students’ Choice of an Education Destination
  • Higher Education Institutions: Satisfaction and Loyalty Among International Students
  • Ideal School for International Education
  • Income-Contingent Loans for Higher Education: International Reforms
  • International Education and Economic Cooperation in Asia and the Pacific
  • The Relationships Between International Students and Overseas Higher Education
  • International Students, Immigration, and Earnings Growth
  • Mass Education, International Travel, and Ideal Ages at Marriage
  • The Benefits and Drawbacks of International Education
  • The Challenges Facing International Students in Higher Education
  • The International Baccalaureate Program Education Overview
  • Myth About Universal Higher Education: Russia in the International Context
  • Who Chooses Which Private Education? Theory and International Evidence
  • Alcohol Consumption Among International Students
  • Analysing the Culture Shock for International Students
  • Challenges Affecting International Students in Australia
  • The Relative Job-Market Performance of Former International Students
  • Cross Cultural Integration: International Students and Higher Educational Institutions
  • Difficulty That International Students Encounter
  • Environmental Factors Influence International Students
  • English Language Requirements for International Students
  • Essential Life-Hacks for International Students
  • What Is the Meaning of International Studies?
  • What Are the Benefits of International Studies?
  • Where Can International Studies Work?
  • Which Country Is Difficult to Study?
  • What Are the Top Jobs That International Students Do?
  • How Does the International Society for Technology Manifest Itself in Education?
  • What Does the Ideal School for International Education Look Like?
  • How Can Education Be Improved for International Students?
  • Which Country Has the Easiest Study?
  • What Is the Relationship Between Citizenship and International Development of Education?
  • Which Country Is Best for International Study?
  • What Are the Focus of International Studies?
  • Why Is International Studies Important?
  • What Are the Approaches in Studying International Relations?
  • Which Are the Main Theories of International Studies?
  • What Are the Main Branches of International Relations?
  • What Are Business Cycles and Investment in Human Capital?
  • What Are the Levels of International Relations?
  • What Is the Importance of Good Relations Between Countries With Respect to the Economy?
  • Why Is the Problem of Deterrence Especially Important in International Relations?
  • What Are the Subjects in International Relations?
  • How Are Demographic Changes, International Migration and Public Education Interrelated?
  • What Is the Difference Between Economic Growth and Education in the New International Politics?
  • Which Theory in International Relations Provides the Most Compelling Account for World Politics?
  • What Resource Has a Significant Effect on International Relations?
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New Global Policy Horizons Lab Used to Research Conflict in Yemen

April 17, 2024

  • college of humanities and social sciences
  • webster groves campus
  • history politics and international relations

Professor Dani Belo and history student Samantha Ramay discuss her research project in the Global Policy Horizon Lab on the Webster Groves campus.

Samantha Ramay, a history major with a minor in international relations, is tackling a huge research project this year. She is analyzing how diplomatic, economic, military and humanitarian factors are colluding and colliding as part of the unfolding crisis in Yemen and the Red Sea. And she’s using the University’s new Global Policy Horizon Lab to aid her efforts.

“Webster has provided me with academic opportunities I didn't even know existed,” Ramay, a junior who will graduate in 2025, said. “I have been encouraged to pursue challenges outside my comfort zone thanks to the wonderful support I've received from faculty mentors. These interactions in the classroom and beyond have left me inspired and empowered to pursue new paths in my education.”

Her project is focusing on the recent Red Sea attacks being launched out of Yemen by Houthi rebels, allegedly in response to the war in Gaza. She is analyzing the complex web of history, ideology and policies in the Middle East that have contributed to the Yemen crisis. Her final study will be presented as a conflict assessment report that summarizes her findings and offers policy suggestions. Once completed, she will use other resources in the lab to submit the paper for evaluation and publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

“The lab has given me the incredible opportunity to engage in international relations research in the way a policy analyst would, and also be compensated for my research thanks to the Don Maland scholarship for Conflict Analysis and Resolution,” Ramay said. “I am incredibly thankful to be trusted with such a rewarding responsibility.”

The Global Policy Horizon Lab was created with students like Ramay in mind, said International Relations Professor Dani Belo.

“The lab is designed for students from all majors to explore national and international policies, with an emphasis on security,” Belo said. “By using the resources offered in the lab, we hope to equip students the practical knowledge and skills needed to pursue careers in the policy community.”

The lab was launched in the fall of 2023 in Room 104 of the H. Sam Priest Building. While the lab is physically located on Webster’s main campus in St. Louis, it is open to students at all of Webster’s locations around the world, Belo said. “Our resources are all digitally accessible online,” he said. Faculty also can use the lab’s resources, he added. 

Any student who wishes to participate in the Lab should contact Belo at [email protected] and by visiting the Lab website at https://www.webster.edu/humanities-social-sciences/hprr/global-policy-research-lab.php . 

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Samantha Ramay, a history major with a minor in international relations, is tackling a huge research project this year. She is analyzing how diplomatic,...

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Fogarty’s impact on display at CUGH 2024

March/april 2024 | volume 23 number 2.

In this photo, Acting Fogarty Director Peter Kilmarx (left), Acting Deputy Director Rachel Sturke (middle), and Communications Director Andrey Kuzmichev (right) site at a table and listen to questions from the audience during the Fogarty Listening Session at CUGH 2024.

The 15th annual Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH) conference was held March 7–10, 2024, in Los Angeles, California. The conference theme was "Global Health Without Borders: Acting for Impact." 

Fogarty’s first listening session 

Fogarty hosted its first-ever listening session at CUGH 2024, led by Acting Director Dr. Peter Kilmarx, Acting Deputy Director Dr. Rachel Sturke, and Communications Director Dr. Andrey Kuzmichev. The goal of the session was to gather thoughts and suggestions about global health at NIH going forward. It was also a chance to help Fogarty begin putting together a new strategic plan; the last one was written a decade ago.

Some important topics raised by the group included prioritizing research infrastructure for the health workforce, advocating for research partners in in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), and navigating research in conflict zones.

Creating equitable partnerships in global health

In a plenary session centered around how the global health community can work together to balance the playing field between higher- and lower-income countries in all aspects of research, Kilmarx alongside Dr. Patricia García , multiple Fogarty grant recipient and professor at the School of Public Health and Administration at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Peru, Dr. Bethany Hedt-Gauthier, associate professor of global health and social medicine at Harvard University and current Fogarty mHealth grant recipient, Dr. Biraj Karmacharya, director of public health/community programs and global engagement at Dhulikhel Hospital-Kathmandu University in Nepal, and Dr. Elsie Kiguli-Malwadde, president of the Fogarty-supported African Association for Health Professions Education and Research (AFREHealth) , discussed a broad range of topics including increasing the flow of financial resources to the Global South, restructuring research based on local priorities, elevating the needs of educational institutions in lower-income countries, and advocating for these changes among major global health donors.

In this photo the panelists from  the “Power, Resources, and Equitable Partnerships” plenary session at CUGH 2024 pose for a photo on a brightly lit stage with a dark blue curtain in the background.

García proposed the creation of networks of researchers in LMICs that work together, similar to medical societies in the U.S. and other high-income countries. Kiguli-Malwadde agreed with this idea stating, “Networks and consortiums would allow us to reach more people, and provide opportunity outside of the bigger, elite institutions in Africa”.

Working toward WHO cervical cancer screening goals

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) hosted a session on how to integrate the WHO initiative for cervical cancer control into broader global health programs. Dr. Karla Unger-Saldana of Mexico’s National Cancer Institute discussed barriers faced by women in Mexico accessing timely diagnosis and treatment for cervical cancer due to cultural norms prioritizing family needs over their own health. She also shared how indigenous women often feel disrespected within health care settings, hindering effective care delivery. Another presenter, Dr. Hyo Sook Bae of NCI, noted similar barriers in Korea during her presentation and stated, “Patients have the right to be treated properly, nothing should be preventing them from having proper treatment and living a happy life.”

Using AI to address maternal health in low-resource settings

Hedt-Gauthier moderated a session focused on how digital technology can be used to introduce low-cost, scalable solutions to improve the quality of care around childbirth. Her team presented on their Fogarty-funded mobile health (mHealth) project, which recently won an NIH Technology Accelerator Challenge (NTAC) award and was featured in Science . The session also showcased entrepreneurs in the mHealth space including Dr. Tobi Olatunji. His AI tool, Intron , is a speech-to-text technology which has been trained to understand more than 200 African accents and is used to create clinical documentation. Read more about Hedt-Gauthier’s project .

Studies in implementation science

Sturke also led a session about a Fogarty-supported collection of implementation science cases focused on global health and conducted in LMICs , spanning a range of regions and disease areas. Dr. Melisa Paolino of the Center for the Study of State and Society (CEDES) in Argentina, presented her assessment of the fidelity of HPV self-collection tests in low-income areas of that country. While her trial showed that screening and testing for HPV increased from 20 to 85 percent after the introduction of self-screening via community health workers, multiple changes in government administration have made it difficult to implement this strategy on a national level

LAUNCH in the spotlight

At every CUGH conference, current and former Fogarty Global Health Fellows and Scholars from the Launching Future Leaders in Global Health Research (LAUNCH) Training Program present their work to the global health community. A group of seven program trainees shared their research insights, training experiences, and career trajectories, from treating burn injuries in Nepal to working with cancer survivors in Malawi.

In addition to the annual LAUNCH session, the ACHIEVE consortium —part of the LAUNCH program based out of Washington University in St. Louis—held a separate session highlighting the results from three mental health studies based on dissemination and implementation frameworks led by ACHIEVE investigators.

Kilmarx commended the LAUNCH trainees, stating, “We’re so impressed by your commitment, creativity, and the diversity of the work that you're doing all over the world.”

More Information

  • Recordings of CUGH 2024 sessions

Updated April 15, 2024

To view Adobe PDF files, download current, free accessible plug-ins from Adobe's website .

Related Fogarty Programs

  • Global Health Fellows and Scholars/LAUNCH
  • Mobile Health (mHealth)

Related Global Health Research Topics

  • Implementation science
  • Maternal and child health
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA)

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Two years after the Supreme Court decision that required states to recognize same-sex marriages nationwide, support for allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally is at its highest point in over 20 years of Pew Research Center polling on the issue.

Public Has Criticisms of Both Parties, but Democrats Lead on Empathy for Middle Class

Both political parties’ favorability ratings are more negative than positive and fewer than half say either party has high ethical standards.

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Office of the Vice President for Research

Martín-estudillo named new director of obermann center for advanced studies.

Luis Martin-Estudillo

Luis Martín-Estudillo , professor and collegiate scholar in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will serve as the next director of the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies (OCAS). His appointment will begin July 1. 

“We are very excited that Professor Martín-Estudillo has agreed to lead the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies into its next chapter,” said Kristy Nabhan-Warren, associate vice president for research. “He brings a wealth of international connections, fresh ideas, and a proven track record of collaboration across units and disciplines here at Iowa and beyond. The search committee was deeply impressed with his vision for the center, and the campus feedback we solicited confirmed and amplified our excitement for new possibilities for OCAS.”

For more than four decades, the  OCAS has served as an interdisciplinary hub for artists, scholars, and researchers who bridge campus with the larger world. 

Situated on Church Street on the north end of campus, the center provides offices for six fellows-in-residence each semester, as well as funding for a major annual humanities conference, small group collaborations, and faculty book completion workshops, along with many other programs. The center is also a nexus for university-community activities, including lectures, workshops, and performances.

“I’m tremendously excited to lead a productive, inspiring center—one that is open to our whole community of researchers, scholars and artists at every stage of their studies and careers and attracts the presence of enriching national and international guests. I envision a global, interdisciplinary research center with a humanistic ethos,” said Martín-Estudillo.

Martín-Estudillo specializes in modern and contemporary Spanish cultural and intellectual history and criticism. He has also published broadly on early modern topics and visual culture. His scholarship has appeared in journals such as  Goya, Hispanic Review, Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies, Ínsula, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, Pasajes: Revista de Pensamiento Contemporáneo  and  Romance Quarterly . He is the Executive Editor of the Hispanic Issues  book series and of the journal Hispanic Issues Online .

A recipient of three awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Martín-Estudillo has also won several awards from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, including the Collegiate Teaching Award, the Dean's Scholar Award, the Collegiate Scholar Award. 

His recently authored and edited books include:  Filosofía y tiempo final  (2011),  The Rise of Euroskepticism: Europe and Its Critics in Spanish Culture  (2018)  Despertarse de Europa. Arte, literatura, euroescepticismo  (2019) and  Goya and the Mystery of Reading , for which he won the  2023 Goldberg Prize .

Martín-Estudillo will replace Teresa Mangum, professor in the Departments of Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies and English, who is retiring after serving as the OCAS director since 2010. 

The OCAS is a unit of the Office of the Vice President for Research. 


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