One Hundred Years of International Relations Studies

Date01 June 2021
Published date01 June 2021
Subject MatterOpinion
1 Former Indian Foreign Secretary.
Corresponding author:
Krishnan Srinivasan, 5 Nafarkundu Road, Kolkata-700026, West Bengal, India.
One Hundred Years
of International
Relations Studies
Krishnan Srinivasan1
The origin of international relations (IR) as an academic discipline began
in the UK after World War I, as part of the liberal internationalist reaction
that also led to the formation of the League of Nations. Three university
chairs in Britain were endowed by two entrepreneurs, who took the view
that if internationalism was to replace nationalism, the world could then
be spared the kind of carnage that resulted from the Great War. The cause
of war, according to them, was the illegitimate nature of many of the
then-existing regimes. If the dynastic rulers in Europe gave way to
democracies, they thought, then the days of secret diplomacy, alliances
and conflict would come to an end. And to the then novel idea of
self-determination was added the concept of collective security.
There was of course a prehistory to this in the evolution of the concept
of an international law. Such political philosophers as Immanuel Kant
addressed the problem of war and peace late in their careers and in the
margins of their major works, to say nothing of Herodotus and
Thucydides, our own semi-mythical Chanakya, Machiavelli, and Hugo
Grotius, all of whom studied the nature of political relations and tensions
between nations.
The first chair in Britain was in Aberystwyth University funded by
David Davies, who was a steel tycoon, and then one each in Oxford and
the London School of Economics (LSE) were funded by Montague
Burton, a successful tailor. The underlying assumption was that since
World War I was a product of irrational national rivalries between
sovereign states, peace could be secured by rational and international
Jadavpur Journal of
International Relations
25(1) 124 –131, 2021
2020 Jadavpur University
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DOI: 10.1177/0973598420958095

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