International Relations/Political Science
An Interdepartmental Major

International relations is an interdisciplinary field concerned with understanding global interactions, both in the historical past and in the present. The major is designed to expose students to a wide range of viewpoints and analytical methodologies in their study of such fields as diplomacy and foreign policy, peace, war and security, international political economy and development, and human rights.

The International Relations major is an interdepartmental major organized into three tracks: International Relations/Economics; International Relations/History; and International Relations/Political Science. All three tracks of the major share a set of five common “core” courses.

The majors are administered by their “home” departments, and interested students should contact the relevant department chair or contact person for guidance on choosing an advisor and completing the major. For 2015-16, these contact people are:

Economics: please see Dept website for advisor [Akila Weerapana]
History: please see Dept website for advisor [Nikal Rao]
Political Science: Stacie Goddard (Fall); Paul MacDonald (Spring)

Students who elect one of these International Relations majors may not combine it with a second major in their track department—e.g., students may not double major in International Relations-Economics and Economics. Other double majors are permitted, but generally unadvisable.

Goals for the Major

  • A student who completes a major in international relations will acquire the depth of knowledge and intellectual skills equivalent to completing a major in one of the three component disciplines (economics, history, political science).
  • The student will also acquire the breadth of knowledge about the other two component disciplines necessary for an interdisciplinary approach to the study of international relations.
  • The student will demonstrate advanced competence in the reading, writing, and speaking of a language other than English.
  • International Relations-Economics majors will acquire a more in-depth understanding of international trade, development or finance, as well as a familiarity with empirical research done in one of these three areas.
  • International Relations-History majors will acquire specific knowledge about the history of modern international relations, an appreciation of the importance of culturally and geographically localized historical knowledge in the analysis of global change and an understanding, through case studies, of the relevance of history to contemporary international issues.
  • International Relations-Political Science majors will be familiar with the historical study of international relations, across both world regions and centuries, complete at least five courses in the International Relations subfield, and engage in intensive research, writing, and interaction with a faculty member.

Requirements for the Major

International Relations majors consist of 14 units of course work—five core courses plus nine courses in one of the three tracks. In addition to this course work, all International Relations students are required to demonstrate advanced proficiency in a modern language, normally defined as two units of language study beyond the minimum required by the College. Language courses do not count towards the minimum 14 courses.

Five Core Courses

All students majoring in International Relations must take the following courses:

  • ECON 101
  • ECON 102
  • ECON 213, 214, or 220
  • HIST 205
  • POL3 221

It is strongly recommended that students complete all core courses by the end of their sophomore year.

Nine Courses in One of the Following Majors:

Economics - please see Economics Dept.
History - please see History Dept.
Political Science

Students who elect the International Relations-Political Science major take the following courses in addition to the International Relations core:

  • Five political science courses in international relations (i.e., POL3 courses or POL2 courses that the director agrees may count as POL3), at least two of which must be at the 300 level and one of which must be a seminar
  • Two political science courses in comparative politics:
    • Either POL2 202 or POL2 204, and one of the following area studies courses: POL2 205, [206], 207, 208, [209], or 211
  • One political science course in American politics or in political theory or statistics and data analysis
  • One additional 200- or 300-level course in Africana Studies, Anthropology, Economics, Environmental Studies, History, Peace and Justice Studies, Sociology, or Women’s and Gender Studies

With the approval of the International Relations director and the chair of the department in which she is majoring, a student may count up to two Wellesley courses taken outside the departments of economics, history, or political science towards the nine courses in her major. Attention is particularly drawn to International Relations-related courses offered in the departments of Africana Studies, Anthropology, Sociology, and Women’s and Gender Studies.


The policies governing eligibility for honors work in International Relations-Economics, International Relations-History, or International Relations-Political Science are set by the individual departments. Students interested in pursuing honors should consult the relevant departmental entry in the Bulletin.

Advanced Placement Policy

The International Relations program’s policy about AP/IB credits follows that established by the relevant department. Please consult directions for election in the Departments of Economics, History, and Political Science. In no case do AP credits count towards the minimum major in International Relations.

Study Abroad

International Relations majors are strongly encouraged to spend at least one semester in a study-abroad program. Transfer credits from study-abroad programs must be approved by the appropriate department chair. Students are strongly encouraged to seek the relevant approval before studying abroad. At least two 300-level units must be completed at Wellesley.