88044 - History Of International Relations (A-L)

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Responsible consumption and production Peace, justice and strong institutions Partnerships for the goals

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

History of International Relations is aimed at introducing students to  the historical evolution of the international scenario and its actors, in a long term perspective from the Congress of Vienna to the collapse of USSR. Main focus will be posed on diplomacy, its tools and activities, as main practice of international relations. By examining case studies as crisis, wars and international treaties, students will be able to apply diplomatic concepts and language, in order to develop historical thinking skills.

Course contents

The course is organized into two different sessions. The general part is made up of 13 frontal lectures (26 hours) and aims at introducing students to the core tenets of the discipline, as well as to its conceptual tools. Starting from November, seminars aim at providing occasions for in-depth discussions of class materials and exercises, while students are split into groups. In this session students' active participation is requested, in order to implement and develop specific cross skills, such as panel organization and presentation, debate. To pursue such a task, students will be divided into several online or on site groups, each of them following six lectures (12 hours). Depending on sanitary conditions, activities will be hopefully held in presence. Students unable to come to the classroom, can follow the lessons of the first session and actively take part in seminars online through Micrsoft Teams. In order to arrange the seminars, specific materials will be assigend, available on Virtuale platform at the beginning of the course.


General Part (26 hours)

I Introduction to History of International relations

Foreign Policy, War, Diplomacy

Evolution of diplomacy: secret diplomacy, open diplomacy, cultural diplomacy, multilateral diplomacy, public diplomacy, cyber-diplomacy.

Diplomats and consuls, treaties and diplomatic documents

II The Concert of Europe and the German rise to power

The post-Napoleonic World: Eurocentrism and Balance of Power

The Congress of Vienna, Holy Alliance and Quadruple Alliance, the Diplomacy by Conference

The Crimean War

Diplomatic Issues of Italian Unification: the Great Powers' intervention.

Bismarck: from German national unification to continental hegemony: The Three Emperors and the Triple Alliance.

III Imperialism and WW1

From the Bismarckian system to William II's Weltpolitik: break of the alliance with Russia and global challenge to Great Britain

Ascent of United States and Japan, Russo-Japanese War, the Chinese question: Open Door, Ishii-Lansing Agreement

The First World War: The Treaty of London, Sykes-Picot Agreement, Balfour Declaration.

Lenin and Benedict XV

Wilson's Fourteen Points

IV Birth and Failure of Collective Security

Paris Peace Conference: diplomatic clash between Old and New World

Peace treaties and the League of Nations

Russian and German Isolation: Cicerin-Rathenau Agreement

From "Mutilated Victory" to the Treaty of Rapallo.

Reparations and War Debts: Dawes and Young Plans

Treaties of Locarno, German entrance into the League of Nations, Briand-Kellog Pact

The Crisis of 1929, the Manchurian question, Hitler's seizure of power, German remilitarisation.

Mussolini and Hitler: Four-Power-Pact, Conference of Stresa, Anglo-German Gentlemen's Agreement, Ethiopian question, Spanish civil war, Antikomintern Pact, Axis Rome-Berlin


Anschluss and Munich Conference

Pact of Steel

Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement

WWII: German hegemony and Tripartite Pact, Atlantic Charter, United Nations Declaration, Casablanca, Tehran, Moscow, Yalta, Potsdam

V Bipolar Era and Cold War

The UN and multilateralism

Bretton Woods: new economic international order and American supremacy

The Cold War

People's democracies, Long Telegram, Containment, Marshall Plan, Berlin Blockade, Mao's China, Korean War, NSC 68, NATO

The foundation of Israel and the first Arab-Israeli War

Stalin and the Warsaw Pact

The Conference of Geneva and the spirit of détente

Bandung Conference, decolonisation, non-alignement

Suez crisis, Cold War and the Middle East, Kruscev and the Eisenhower Doctrine

Cold War and European Integration

Kennedy and the second Berlin crisis

Cuba and the missile crisis

The Break between USSR and PRC

Vietnam War


Nixon, Kissinger, Breznev and Détente: nuclear diplomacy, 1963 agreement, NPT, ABM, SALT, triangular diplomacy

Yom Kippur War and Oil revolution

Ostpolitik and Helsinki final Act

Second Cold War and the decline of the USSR: Carter, Euromissiles, Iranian revolution, Occupation of Afghanistan.

Reagan, INF Agreement

The collapse of the Soviet bloc and the end of the USSR

VI The post-bipolar World

German reunification, European restart

Bush sr., Clinton and Democratic Enlargement, 9/11 and American unilateralism

New China, multilateralism


Part II: Seminars (12 hours groups)

Introduction: How to plan a seminar?

Détente and European Integration

Cold War and the Middle East

Cypriot Crisis and Cold War

From Bipolarism to the American Unilateralism

Globalism and World Order

Success and Failures of Multilateralism

From USSR to Russia

The Emerging of China


All the following books and sources are mandatory for both attending and non-attending students


- as regards the span of time between the Post-Napoleon Era and the First World War, students have to study either the materials uploaded by the professor on Virtuale.unibo.it or, as an aternative, G. Formigoni, Storia della politica internazionale nell'eta' contemporanea, il Mulino, Bologna 2018 (chapters II, III, IV).

- for the rest of the programme, Antonio Varsori, Storia Internazionale. Dal 1919 a oggi, Il Mulino, Bologna 2020 (seconda edizione), also available on Pandoracampus (https://www.pandoracampus.it/pandora/booksheet/index/ean13/9788815284853)


One of the following readings, both attending and non attending students:


- H.A. Kissinger, L'arte della diplomazia, Sperling & Kupfer, Milano 2014;

- G. Lenzi, Diplomazia: passato, presente e futuro, Rubbettino, Soveria Mannelli 2020

- R. Milano, L'Italia e l'Iran di Khomeini (1979-1989), Le Monnier, Milano 2020

- L. Monzali, P. Soave (editors), Italy and the Middle East. Geopolitics, Dialogue and Power during the Cold War, Tauris, London 2021

- L. Monzali, Il colonialismo nella politica estera italiana 1878-1949. Momenti e protagonisti, Società Editrice Dante Alighieri, Roma 2017;

- B. Pierri, Giganti petroliferi e grandi consumatori: gli Stati Uniti, la Gran Bretagna e la rivoluzione petrolifera (1968-1974), Studium, Roma 2015;

- L. Riccardi, Yalta. I Tre Grandi e la costruzione di un nuovo ordine internazionale, Rubbettino, Soveria Mannelli 20021;

- P. Soave, Una vittoria mutilata? L'Italia e la Conferenza di Pace di Parigi, Rubbettino, Soveria Mannelli 2020;

- G. Spagnulo, Il Risorgimento dell'Asia. India e Pakistan nella politica estera dell'Italia repubblicana (1946-1980), Mondadori Education, Milano 2020;

- L. Tondo, L'Aquila e il Sol Levante. La politica degli Stati Uniti verso il Giappone (1920-1932), Congedo, Galatina 2008

- A. Varsori, L' Italia e la fine della guerra fredda. La politica estera dei governi Andreotti (1989-1992), il Mulino, Bologna 2013.


Other material to read, not included in the exam programme:

- preparatory readings for seminars will be available on Virtuale.unibo.it.

- any additional reading, always not included in the exam programme, will be uploaded on Virtuale.unibo.it [https://virtuale.unibo.it/]


Teaching methods

The general part of the course (26 hours) will be based on lectures aimed at introducing the students to the discipline, its concepts and most relevant case studies. The attention will be especially focused on diplomacy and its evolution as practice of the international relations.

The second part of the course (12 hours a group, in presence or remotely) will be based on seminars and students will be stimulated to exercise historical thinking and develop some specific skills (planning a panel, presentations and debate after preliminary readings) on case studies. 

Active participation in the seminars will be evaluated and contribute to the final grade.


Assessment methods

Regularly attending students (the professor reserves his right to collect signatures on the spot) will be evaluated twice with written intermediate tests, the first one on November 5 on the first part of the course, the other one on December 17 (or December 18 online) at the end of the seminars on the rest of the programme. Specific instructions on what to study before each test will be given by the professor. The tests will be based on some open questions stimulating the students' skills in historical thinking.


The grade will have a 18/30 range. In case of insufficient mark, or absence at any of the tests (always to justify), this will be made up at the final oral exam. The students have the right to refuse the mark of a test, but they are kindly adviced to decide this after having done both tests. Also in this case, the recovery of the test will take place orally during the final exam.


As concerns the students who have passed both tests and do not want to refuse any mark, the final exam will consist in a few questions aimed at assessing history reasoning skills, as well as the discussion and critical thinking, not a simple summary, of the book chosen by the students, without contents questions already faced during the written tests.


The final grade will be the outcome of the mean between the mean of the two written tests and the final oral mark, plus assessment of seminars.

Non attending students will take the exam in a single oral test on the whole programme, included the reading at their choosing.

Students have the right to refuse the final mark only once.



Teaching tools

The handbook offers some interactive sources (https://www.pandoracampus.it/store/details/10.978.8815/356574). The teacher will deliver some sources and slides, available on Virtuale.unibo.it.


Office hours

See the website of Paolo Soave

See the website of Giuseppe Spagnulo

See the website of