Undergraduate Module Descriptor

POL2117: Great Power Politics

This module descriptor refers to the 2021/2 academic year.


NQF Level 5
Credits 15 ECTS Value 7.5
Term(s) and duration

This module ran during term 2 (11 weeks)

Academic staff

Dr David Blagden (Convenor)





Available via distance learning


In 1814, Lord Castlereagh – then serving as UK Foreign Secretary – used the collective noun “Great Powers” to describe the states of Europe among which he hoped to achieve an accord that would settle the Napoleonic Wars. Since then, the term – and the concept it encapsulates – has been central to both the conduct and the analysis of international relations. But of course, the “great powers” were not called into being by Castlereagh’s 13 February letter. On the contrary, his chosen term reflected a well understood reality: that in matters of international politics, a select group of countries – those with large enough concentrations of relative power to defend and advance their interests – matter disproportionately in determining outcomes.

This module will provide an introduction to great power politics as a domain of contemporary international relations. With a focus on the present – but drawing on lessons from the past and with an eye to the future – it will elucidate and interrogate interactions between the international system’s most powerful states.

No pre-requisite or co-requisite modules are required to register for ‘Great Power Politics’, although prior familiarity with international relations and/or security studies will obviously be relevant. The module will provide a basic introduction to key concepts and debates in the analysis of interstate power politics. Students who complete the module successfully will thus gain a more developed theoretical and empirical knowledge of the power-political dimensions of international relations to inform their scholarly and practical understanding.

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