Realism & idealism, WWI, and the history of IR
Foundational to the discipline of international relations, historian E. H. Carr's path-breaking book Twenty Years' Crisis was the first to systematically assess the (then-emerging) field as consisting of 'realist' and 'idealist' approaches. Published in 1939, the book carefully outlines the economic, military, and legal underpinnings of the outbreak of World War I, and the failure of the utopianism that preceded it.
From the book:
"We can accept neither the Darwinian doctrine, which identifies the good of the whole with the good of the fittest and contemplates without repugnance the elimination of the unfit, nor the doctrine of a natural harmony of interests which has lost such foundation in reality as it once had, and which inevitably becomes a cloak for the vested interests of the privileged.
This then is the basic reason for the overwhelming importance of international politics after 1919. The conflict between privileged and unprivileged, between the champions of an existing order and the revolutionaries, which was fought out in the nineteenth century within the national communities of Western Europe, was transferred by the twentieth century to the international community. The nation became, more than ever before, the supreme unit round which centre human demands for equality and human ambitions for predominance. Everywhere in Europe, national governments and one-party states made their appearance; and where party issues survived, they were thought of as something outmoded and deplorable—a blot on national unity which cried out to be erased. The inequality which threatened a world upheaval was not inequality between individuals, nor inequality between classes, but inequality between nations."
Link to the book.
- Jack Levy & William Thompson's 2010 book provides a comprehensive analysis of the determinants of interstate and civil wars, encompassing a wide range of historical cases and theoretical frameworks. Link. And Dale Copeland's 2015 book Economic Interdependence and War asks, contra the typical debates, "When and under what conditions will the trade and investment ties between nations lead to peace or military conflict?" Link.
- A 2005 paper by Oona Hathaway develops "an integrated theory of international law," in order to "explain why countries would commit to treaties that potentially constrain their behavior and how treaties influence or fail to influence state behavior." Link.
- Carr's other most famous work is his 1961 book What Is History?, a classic work of historiography that poses challenging questions about the facts of history. Link. A 2010 paper by George Lawson examines discipline of IR's relationship to history and historical research. Link.
- Historian Susan Pederson reviews a 2015 book by Robert Vitalis on the origins of the discipline of International Relations in the US. Link. (Link to Vitalis's book, link also to Pederson's book The Guardians, on the League of Nations.)
- Tangentially related, an economic history paper by Cong Liu looks at the effects of WWI on Chinese textile industry. Link.