HST6076: International Order in the Twentieth Century

HST6076 Image - Djiboutian Contingent deploy more troops 15

15 credits (Semester 2018-19: Spring | Semester 2019-20: Autumn)

Module Leader: Dr Simon Stevens

Module Summary

'At a time of immense confusion about the purpose and durability of our international institutions, a better understanding of how we came to this point may help us... The history of the evolving idea of governing the world may not provide definitive answers to [our] questions, but it can offer signposts.' Professor Mark Mazower

How should international relations be organised? This was a central question in the international history of the twentieth century. This module explores the ideas of international organisation that emerged, and how they were realised in practice in bodies like the League of Nations and the United Nations, as well as subaltern internationalist projects like the Afro-Asian and Non-Aligned movements. Why did governments and non-governmental actors create and participate in international organisations? What was the significance and impact of those organisations? And why should historians study these past internationalist projects today? Much of the most exciting recent work by international and global historians has grappled with these questions.

Module aims

This module aims to:

  1. Introduce students to the history of international order in the twentieth century through case-studies of major international organisations and internationalist projects;
  2. Analyse the significance of the history of internationalism and international organisations for understanding contemporary world politics;
  3. Explore and critically evaluate the historiography of internationalism and international organisations in the twentieth century.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, you should be able to:

  1. Explain the origins and significance – and the relationships between – major international organisations and internationalist projects in the twentieth century (Aims 1, 2); 
  2. Demonstrate a critical awareness of the historiography on internationalism and international organisations in the twentieth century (A3);
  3. Demonstrate confidence in expressing ideas verbally, both in individual seminar contribution and group work (A1, 2, 3);
  4. Advance interpretations and supporting evidence in clear and persuasive prose (A1, 2, 3).


Learning hours
Seminar hours Tutorial hours Independent Learning
10 1 139

The module will be taught in five, two-hour classes. The first seminar will provide an overview of the history (Learning outcome 1) and historiography (LO2) of international order in the twentieth century. Subsequent seminars will involve individual and group work on four case studies of international organisation (LO1, 2, 3). You will have the chance in seminars to discuss progress and gain formative feedback on their final essay. You will, in addition, have individual tutorial contact with the module leader in order to discuss your written work for the module (LO4).



Assessment methods
Assessment % of final mark Length
Coursework 100% 3000 words

Students will prepare a 3,000-word essay (LO4) on a topic agreed with the tutor (LO1, 3). The paper will be expected to draw critically on relevant secondary sources in exploring a historiographical debate or a new area of historical inquiry (LO2), and, if appropriate, will also involve scholarly analysis of primary sources.


Selected reading

  • Cemil Aydin, The Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia: Visions of World Order in Pan-Islamic and Pan-Asian Thought (New York, 2007)
  • Manu Bhagavan, India and the Quest for One World: The Peacemakers (Basingstoke, 2013)
  • Jeffrey James Byrne, Mecca of Revolution: Algeria, Decolonization and the Third World Order (New York, 2016),
  • Elizabeth Borgwardt, A New Deal for the World: America’s Vision for Human Rights (Cambridge, MA, 2012)
  • Patricia Clavin, Securing the World Economy: The Reinvention of the League of Nations, 1920-1946 (Oxford, 2013)
  • Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro, The Internationalists: How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World (New York, 2017)
  • Akira Iriye, Global Community: The Role of International Organizations in the Making of the Contemporary World (Berkeley, 2002)
  • Ryan Irwin, Gordian Knot: Apartheid and the Unmaking of the Liberal World Order (Oxford, 2012)
  • G.H. Jansen, Afro-Asia and Non-Alignment (London, 1966)
  • Susan Pedersen, The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire (Oxford, 2015)
  • Mark Mazower, Governing the World: The History of an Idea (London, 2012)
  • Mark Mazower, No Enchanted Palace: The End of Empire and the Ideological Origins of the United Nations (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009)
  • Vijay Prashad, The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (New York, 2007)
  • Vijay Prashad, The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (London, 2012),
  • Or Rosenboim, The Emergence of Globalism: Visions of World Order in Britain and the United States, 1939-1950 (Princeton, 2017)
  • Quinn Slobodian, Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism (Cambridge, MA, 2018)
  • Glenda Sluga, Internationalism in the Age of Nationalism (Philadelphia, 2013)
  • Glenda Sluga and Patricia Clavin (eds), Internationalisms: A Twentieth Century History (Cambridge, 2017)



*The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.