Maastricht, Netherlands

The History of the Great Power System: The Search for Global Stability in a Competitive World

when 29 June 2022 - 15 July 2022
language English
duration 3 weeks
credits 6 EC
fee EUR 998

How do the most powerful countries in the world get along? How do they balance their own interests with the general desirability for the world to be a stable and peaceful place? Why do some nations fall out of the ranks of the Great Powers and others join?

This class will introduce students to the system by which powerful countries in the world have related to each other over the past 400 years. We will trace the centuries-old but still vital concept of global “Great Powers” and track how, through time, Great Powers have interacted with one another in war and peace.

The structure of this course will be chronologic and thematic, covering the years roughly from 1600 to the present.

The teaching methods involved in this course will include student centered learning through open group discussions, student research and presentations, and classroom debates. There will also be lectures to provide context for the material.

Course leader

David Smith

Target group

Students should have a general interest in and basic knowledge of global world history and politics.

Course aim

The aim of this course is to give students an understanding of how major world powers have managed their relationships and competing interests while crafting a stable system that allows them to pursue their own goals. We will investigate aspects of cooperation and competition as they manifest in military, economic, and cultural means and see how these fields have shaped the global order and how economics, technology, and culture have influenced the interaction.

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
- Explain the origins and evolution of the Great Power System;
- Understand what constitutes a “great power” and see how these countries have interacted with one another over the centuries throughout the spectrum of war and peace;
- Be able to explain why and how over time countries move into and out of “great power” status and how the individual interests of Great Powers influence the way the system works;
- Understand the differences between universalist aspirations and state equality;
- Understand concepts of “soft power,” economic power, and diplomacy as these relate to ongoing competition between the Great Powers and how those Powers in turn relate to the rest of the world.

Fee info

EUR 998: Tuition fee


No scholarships are available for this course.