Foreign Policy Analysis

Ian Shields


This course explores the link between the theories of International Relations – how academics believes the world works at the international level – and the decisions that statesmen make that effect the way the world really works. The international stage is increasingly crowded and the relations between states is no longer the sole preserve of politicians, diplomats and the United Nations: figures such as major charities and other non-Governmental organisations, and multi-national corporations have influence despite not being elected or necessarily representative organs.  Likewse, the media has an increasing role to play in reporting, if not influencing, the decision-making process, while the new social media, such as Facebook, is credited in some quarters as being the driving force in momentous events such as the Arab Spring.  How and why do these various actors on the international stage act, and to what extent do circumstances and politics, national and international, constrain or direct the outcomes?  This module will based on a theoretical understanding, will be international in its outlook, and will consider many of the most momentous acts in the last 100 years to identify trends and continuities.

This course is aimed at: anyone with an interest in the International Oder, and why and how disputes arise and settled. If you’re interested in this course, you might also like to consider taking International Law/War(fare), or Understanding World Politics: A Critical Overview of Core Issues and Theories

Pre-requisite knowledge required: no prior knowledge of International Relations is assumed or required; this course will give students an insight and understanding of decision-making at the level of the Nation State.

Transferable Knowledge and Skills: this course will develop critical analysis, an understanding of world affairs and the ability to capture this understanding and analysis both on paper and verbally.

Compulsory reading to be read before the beginning of the course)

  • Brown, C., Understanding International Relations, 3rd Edition (Basingstoke, Macmillan, 2005).
  • Hill, C., The Changing Politics of Foreign Policy (London, Palgrave Books, 2003).
  • Smith, S., Hadfield, A., and Dunne, T., (Eds), Foreign Policy Theories, Actors and Cases (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007).


  • 1 X Final Exam – 50%
  • 1 X Final Essay (2,500 to 3,000 words) – 50%

Lecture Hours: 12x 1hour 15minutes (total 15 hours)

Seminar Hours: 8x 1hour 15minutes (total 10 hours)