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The History of International Studies  

Brian C. Schmidt

A significant development in the history of international relations (IR) is the increased focus on historiographical issues. Prior to 1998, the literature had, for the most part, failed to address adequately the question of how to write a history of the field. The tendency was to describe the history of IR as if a complete consensus existed on the essential dimensions of the field’s evolution. However, during the past 10 years (1998–2008) a wealth of new literature has appeared that greatly challenges much of the conventional wisdom regarding the development of IR. Three main thematic issues have been prominent in the literature. The first theme concerns the status of IR as an academic field or discipline. For various reasons, there has been a repeated questioning of whether IR is in fact a distinctive discipline. A second theme is the issue of whether the boundaries of IR should be demarcated in terms of one particular country (the United States) or whether it should be viewed as a more cosmopolitan endeavor without regard to national differences. The third theme involves the historiographical debate about whether the evolution of the field is best explained in terms of exogenous events in the realm of international politics or by endogenous factors associated with the institutional setting of the field.