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The University of Southampton

PAIR2020 Realism and Idealism in International Relations

Module Overview

The subfields of international relations and political theory have a long history of cross-fertilization. Scholars in one field have often developed the ideas and debates that emerge in the other field in interesting ways. Despite this cross-fertilization, scholars in both fields often talk past each other. International Relations scholars have long decried the naïve idealism of political theorists, and political theorists have often challenged the (misinterpretations of significant political theorists (such as Thucydides, Machiavelli, Hobbes, etc.) by IR scholars. My aim in this class is to recast the dialogue by reading texts from the western tradition of international legal and political thought. This will be a survey class that considers the texts and major theoretical ideas of international political theory from Thucydides through the writings of classical political economists in the 19th century.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Understanding of classical theories of international politics
  • Ability to critically analyse texts
  • Ability to express ideas of international political theory in writing
  • Ability to synthesize abstract concepts through writing long essays


This course surveys classical and early modern theories of international politics. It will cover the following topics and authors. 1. What is International Political Theory? 2. Thucydides, the Peloponnesian War, and political realism 3. Just War Theory 4. Machiavelli and Raison d’Etat 5. The Salamanca School, Natural Law, and the European Conquest of the Americas 6. Hugo Grotius and the rise of International Law 7. Thomas Hobbes, Sovereignty and Westphalianism 8. Emerich de Vattel and International Republicanism 9. Kant and Perpetual Peace 10. Karl Marx and International Political Economy

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

2 hours of lectures per week. All will be recorded and posted on Blackboard. Lectures will be delivered either face to face or online only depending upon University and Public Health England Guidance at the time. Total of 24 hours of lectures (2 hours per week X 12 weeks) per module. Weekly student participation in online discussion boards. 1 hour per week delivered asynchronously. (1 hour X 12 weeks)

Independent Study114
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Chris Brown, Terry Nardin and Nicholas Rengger. International Relations in Political Thought: Textsfrom the Ancient Greeks to the First World War. 

Thucydides and M.I. Finley. The History of the Peloponnesian War: Revised Edition. 

Peter Bondanella and Mark Musa. The Portable Machiavelli. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Discussion board activity 25%
Research project 50%
Research proposal 25%


MethodPercentage contribution
Analytical essay  (4000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

Brown, Nardin and Rengger, International Relations in Political Thought £33.00 Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War $7.69 Bondanella and Musa, The Portable Machiavelli £11.90 Total for module: £52.59 Other readings will be available online and through the library.

Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase reading texts as appropriate.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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