International Relations in Disciplinary Perspective

An overview of different disciplinary approaches to International Relations


Students enrolled in this course have taken classes in history, economics, sociology, and political science that introduce the basic theories, methods, and epistemologies of these disciplines. These introductory courses rarely explore the relevance of disciplinary perspectives to important questions in international relations. This course, therefore, has three main goals. It seeks to give students: (1) a better understanding of the similarities and differences in how historians, economists, sociologists, and political scientists approach the study of international relations; (2) an appreciation for the analytical benefits and limitations of integrating the four perspectives; and (3) the tools to decide how they want to focus their coursework and research going forward.

How does the course accomplish these goals? We do so in two ways. First, students will spend the first half of the semester discussing four big questions about scholarship across these disciplines. These questions are: Is theory useful for explaining event? What counts as knowledge in the respective disciplines? How do scholars determine causation? And should scholarly research be policy relevant and for whom? The class will then examine the obstacles and benefits to disciplinary synthesis in international relations analysis. Finally, we will spend the bulk of the second half of the semester instilling an appreciation for multidisciplinary analysis and gaining greater knowledge in history and the social sciences through hands-on analysis. Students will write one case memo. The memo will use the perspectives of economics, history, sociology, and political science to explain one of the cases assigned.


I co-taught this course (on Zoom) in the Fall of 2020, with Amy Quark, a professor of Sociology at William & Mary.

Syllabus here.