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  • Print publication year: 2017
  • Online publication date: June 2018

Preface and acknowledgements



This textbook is designed specifically for students studying introductory international relations (IR) courses. Like any good textbook, it aims to introduce students to the study of IR by laying out its chief theories, main actors and institutions, and leading issues in a manner that both excites interest and lucidly explains topics for students with no previous background in IR. Carving up the topics of a complex, dynamic, growing discipline like IR is no easy task. Decisions inevitably must be made about which topics to include and which to exclude. The topics chosen no doubt reflect but one particular perspective of the discipline's present make-up – one account of what is important for students to learn and what is not. Since there is no single correct way to present the material to undergraduate students, there is always a degree of arbitrariness involved in topic selection, and we do not pretend otherwise. However, we believe that the structure adopted here, developed and adapted over many combined years of teaching undergraduate introductory IR courses, offers one useful way into the wide range of fascinating topics that fall under the heading ‘international relations’.

Once again we have revised and updated chapters from the previous edition, but we have also added new chapters and a new part. The textbook is now divided into four parts: Part I on theories of IR; Part II on international history; Part III on what we term the ‘traditional agenda’ of IR, which focuses on states, war and law; and Part IV on the ‘new agenda’, which focuses on globalisation and global governance. These are explicated in more detail in the Introduction, but it is worth emphasising that the new agenda does not succeed the traditional agenda in either time or intellectual resourcefulness. The distinction between traditional and new agendas is a heuristic device meant to remind students that the discipline has evolved and changed, and to encourage reflection on the discipline's historical character. Quite often, textbooks imply that our present conception of the discipline represents something like the end-point in the discipline's ineluctable progression from primitive origins to full development. This conceit is easy to succumb to in the absence of historical-mindedness.

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