05515 - 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 Reduced inequalities Peace, justice and strong institutions Partnerships for the goals

Academic Year 2022/2023

Learning outcomes

The course in History of International Relations is aimed at understanding the evolution of the international scenario from the Congress of Vienna to the breakdown of USSR. Students will be able to manage historical diplomatic case-studies and analyze new crisis for an autonomous comprehension. History of International Relations is a basic course of international studies and for diplomacy.

Course contents

History of International Relations is a fundamental course of the first cycle degree in 'Scienze Internazionali e Diplomatiche'. The course is shaped according to the Department's learning experimentation named "y", which provides the division of the course into two different sections. All activities will be held in presence and the total amount of hours for attending A-L students will be 46: 32 hours for the 16 lectures of the teacher and 14 hours for the seminars. The first part of the course, the general one based on 16 lectures, will be aimed at introducing students to the conceptual tools and fundamental historical-diplomatic contents. Then, the second part, also mandatory for attending A-L students, will be based on 7 seminars and characterized by their active participation. Applying the historical-diplomatic theoretical skills acquired in the first part of the course, students will develop specific soft skills such as panel organization, public presentations, classroom debate. Attending A-L students will be divided into two in presence-groups and both of them will carry out activities for 7 seminars planning their panels and holding their presentations in the classroom. Students will choose from the topics listed below according to the calendar that will be indicated at the beginning of the course and will contact the teacher in advance in order to organize their work and select the sources. All attending students will have to read the sources provided in advance by the teacher through the "Virtual" Unibo platform in order to follow the presentation of the panels and take part in the debate. The evaluation given by the teacher to the active participation in the seminars, such as presentations and meaningful interventions, will contribute to the final grade.


General Part (32 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

EU and NAO's Enlargements Towards East.

11 September 2001: New Terrorism and U.S. Unipolarism

China's Rise.

A New Multipolarism in the Global Era.


Part II: Seminars (14 hours groups)

Introduction: How to plan a seminar?

Clinton's Foreign Policy

China's Entrance to WTO and its international rising

Putin's Foreign Policy

The Rising of the Environmental Question in International Politics

The EU's Diplomatic System

Libya's Political Fragmentation

Diplomatic Origins of the Ukrainian War.



Mandatory sources both for attending and non-attending students: handbooks and a reading of student's choice.



- L. Monzali, F. Imperato, R. Milano, G. Spagnulo, Storia delle relazioni internazionali (1492-1918), Mondadori Università, Milano 2022: pp. 167-277 and pp. 275-477;

- L. Monzali, F. Imperato, R. Milano, G. Spagnulo, Storia delle relazioni internazionali (1919-2022). Tra Stati nazionali, potenze continentali e organizzazioni sovranazionali, Mondadori Università, Milano 2022: pp. 3-701.


Readings (one of student's choice):

G. Allison, Destinati alla guerra. Possono l'America e la Cina sfuggire alla trappola di Tucidide? Fazi, Roma 2018

- F. Bettanin, La Russia, l'Ucraina e la guerra in Europa, Donzelli, Roma 2022

- V. Criscuolo, Il Congresso di Vienna, il Mulino, Bologna 2015

- N.J. Cull, Public Diplomacy. Global Engagement nell'era digitale, Olivares, Milano 2020

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

- L. Mascilli Migliorini, Metternich. L'artefice dell'Europa nata dal Congresso di Vienna, Salerno Editrice, Roma 2014

- 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;

- M. Smith, S. Keukeleire, S. Vanhoonacker (editors), The Diplomatic System of the European Union, Routledge, Londn and New York 2016

- 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.


Further sources to read, not included in the exam programme:


Attending students:

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


Attending and non-attending students:

- 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 section of the course (32 hours) will be based on lectures aimed at introducing students to the discipline, its conceptual categories and main historical themes as theoretical premises of historical reasoning applied to the foreign policies of international actors. The focus will be on diplomacy, its articulation and its evolution, as a prevailing practice and cultural foundation of international relations.The seminar section of the course (14 hours for each in presence - group) will stimulate students to apply knowledge and historical reasoning to specific case studies introduced with study sources. Students will be able to exercise soft skills such as the organization of presentations and panels, as well as the debate in the classroom by the lead of the teacher. Active participation in the seminars will be evaluated and will contribute to the final grade.

Assessment methods

Students who regularly attend the lessons (the teacher will take the signatures) will take three intermediate written tests on dates that will be communicated at the beginning of the course. Each test will focus on a specific part of the program. Indications on the parts of the program to be studied for each test will be given in time by the teacher. The tests will be based on open and closed questions aimed at stimulating the student's historical reasoning skills and probing the acquired preparation. The evaluation of the tests will be expressed in thirtieths. In case of insufficient grade or absence from a test (always to be justified by informing the teacher in time), the student will have to recover in the final oral exam. The grade of a test can be refused, but it is strongly recommended to evaluate such opportunity only after all the written tests. Also in this case the recovery of the test will be held orally on the occasion of the final exam. For students who have passed all the tests and do not intend to refuse a grade, the final exam will be based on a few question aimed at testing the theoretical reasoning skills, without the repetition of the specific questions already addressed in the tests, as well as in the discussion of the reading. Students are invited to present a critical appraisal of the reading, not just a summary. The final grade will be determined by the arithmetic mean between the mean of the three tests and the final oral exam. Active participation in the seminars, with presentations and repeated, meanignful interventions in the debates, will contribute to the final vote for attending students. 

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

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

Teaching tools

The teacher will deliver a few sources available on Virtuale.unibo.it [https://virtuale.unibo.it/] .

Office hours

See the website of Paolo Soave

See the website of Giuseppe Spagnulo