module specification

GI7007 - The Evolution of the Modern Inter-State System  (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title The Evolution of the Modern Inter-State System 
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 20
School School of Social Sciences
Total study hours 172
136 hours Guided independent study
36 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 75%   Essay 3000 worlds
Seminar 25%   Seminar Assessment
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester North Monday Evening

Module summary

This module explores the development of the modern inter-state system from the end of the 19th century to the present. It will focus on the dramatic transformations and continuities in the structure of the international system in this period and consider the determinants of both continuity and change. In the course of the module, the decline and rise of ‘great powers’, the source of their power and the dynamics of their interaction will be examined.

Module aims

This module aims to explore and explain the complex and dramatic changes in the structure of the inter-state system that have taken place since the end of the 19th century. In particular, it seeks to identify the principle factors that saw Europe retreat from global dominance, the rise of the USA and the rapid rise and equally rapid decline of the Soviet Union. In the course of this predominantly historical analysis, it will address more conceptual debates concerning the causes of war and the structural features that are more conducive to stability and instability in the inter-state system. Finally, it will identify the nature and implications of emerging ‘great power’ rivalries in Asia and Europe for the inter-state system.


- European Great Powers and the Global System at the end of the 19th century
- WWI and System Transformation
- The new ‘great power’: the rise of a hegemonic USA
- International Political Economy: the creation of the western system
- The United Nations and the Rise of the Independent South
- The Rise and Fall of the Soviet bloc
- The Continuing Search for a new Post-Cold war order
- The Rise of China
- Europe and the re-emergence of ‘great power’ rivalry

Learning and teaching

This module will be taught through a mixture of lectures and seminars. It will also exploit weblearn to deliver materials (reading, seminar materials, video material, feedback) which can support seminar work and the independent learning of students.

Students will be required to present to and participate in seminar discussions and debates that will focus on both on conceptual debate and the examination of specific policy problems and initiatives.

Learning outcomes

At the end of this module students will:

  1. Gain an understanding of nature and extent of the transformation of the inter-state system since the end of the 19th century
  2. Gain an appreciation of the means through which states acquire, institutionalise and seek to perpetuate power within the inter-state system
  3. Understand debates concerning the sources of stability and instability in the international system
  4. Appreciate the complex nature of new emerging rivalries in the international system, particularly in Asia.

Assessment strategy

There will then be two forms of summative assessment on this module:

3000 word essay. This will constitute 75% of the overall assessment. Titles to be provided by tutor

Seminar participation. 25% of marks will be awarded seminar participation. This part of the assessment will be based on two broad components. Firstly, marks will be awarded for general participation in class discussion from week to week. Secondly, students will be required to make a presentation to the class on an agreed topic.


Adam Watson, The Evolution of International Society, re-issued 2009.  (ebook)
John Mearsheimer: The Tragedy of Great Power Politics’, Norton, 2014 edition.
Bryan Mabee, Understanding American Foreign Policy, 2013
Barry Eichengreen, Globalising Capital: A History of the international Monetary System, 2008
Andrew Gamble, Crisis without end? The Unravelling of Western Prosperity, 2013
Edward Luttwak, The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy, 2012
Jae Ho Chung, Assessing China's Power, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015

Electronic: Foreign Affairs journal