Nationalism and international relations IR2084

This course provides an introduction to the study of one important aspect of nationalism, namely its impact on international relations.


If taken as part of a BSc degree, courses which must be passed before this course may be attempted:

  • IR1011 Introduction to international relations.

Topics covered

The rise of nationalism: concepts and definitions: 

  • The doctrine of nationalism
  • Rival definitions of the nation
  • Modernism and primordialism
  • ‘Nations’ and modernity
  • ‘Nations’ before modernity
  • Contested origins, contested futures

Nationalism and the Structure of International Society: 

  • A real estate model
  • The problem of legitimacy
  • The use of force
  • The extension of the system
  • The terms of nationalism discourse
  • National self-determination
  • National minority
  • Plebiscite
  • Irridentism
  • Secession

Nationalism and other ideologies:

  • Ideology and international relations
  • An ideology for nationalists?
  • Liberalism and nationalism
  • Essentials of liberal thought
  • Tensions between liberal and nationalist principles
  • The liberal nationalist accommodation
  • Communism
  • Nationalism as false consciousness
  • The impact of the Russian Revolution
  • Fascism and National Socialism
  • A different kind of ideology
  • Pathological nationalism?

The spread of nationalism in Europe:

  • Europe before nationalism
  • A changing political landscape
  • Language and nation
  • National self-determination
  • A new territorial status quo
  • State-building and minorities
  • Overcoming the territorial status quo: case study Kosovo.

The spread of nationalism beyond Europe: 

  • Africa and Asia before nationalism
  • Race and nation
  • A changing political landscape
  • Self-determination and equality of peoples
  • A new territorial status quo
  • State-building and minorities
  • Overcoming the territorial status quo: case study Eritrea

The future of nationalism: 

  • Identity and community
  • The challenge of minorities
  • The challenge of religion
  • The challenge of economic nationalism
  • The challenge of internationalism
  • The challenge of globalization
  • The challenge of post-nationalism.

Learning outcomes

If you complete the course successfully, you should be able to:

  • Critically examine the main concepts and theories employed in the study of nationalism
  • Account for the similarities and differences between nationalism and other leading ideologies (liberalism, communism, fascism, and national socialism)
  • Discuss the evolving role nationalism has played in international politics and the changing policy responses directed at problems of nationalism.


Unseen written exam (3 hrs).

Essential reading

  • Mayall, J. Nationalism and International Society. Cambridge University Press.
  • Hutchinson, J. and A.D. Smith (eds). Nationalism. Oxford Readers, Oxford University Press.
  • Jackson Preece, J. Minority Rights: Between Diversity and Community. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2005.

Course information sheets

Download the course information sheets from the LSE website.