A Conceptual History of International Relations (CHOIR)

2019 - 2023 (Ongoing)
Research project
The purpose of CHOIR is to investigate taken-for-granted concepts of international relations.

We start from the assumption that concepts such as “international”, diplomacy”, “foreign policy”, “war” and “peace” are not neutral and natural, but that they have emerged at specific times, for specific purposes and with specific connotations. The concepts through which we approach the world are not neutral analytical ones, but fundamentally political ones. Taking them for granted leads to misguided historical analyses, where the past is read in light of the present, and to misguided analyses of contemporary affairs, where the political world around us is naturalised.

The main goal of CHOIR is thus to write the first conceptual history of international relations. CHOIR starts from the assumption that the political vocabulary changed fundamentally between 1750 and 1850. This is the period when it became possible to think systematically about what we today refer to as “the international”. Additionally, this was a period where political hierarchies were established, and through the project, we will investigate if and how hierarchies of gender and civilisation were written into the basic concepts of international relations.

Another common assumption is that the central concepts of international relations have the same meaning across languages. We believe this to be wrong. CHOIR will thus also investigate how central concepts were translated to languages beyond English and French.

CHOIR will be conducted by an international team of closely cooperating researchers, covering different concepts and languages. Our sources will primarily be published texts, analysed first, to the extent possible, through quantitative content analysis to identify central concepts and when they emerged, and qualitative methods for studying content.

Funding program

The project is funded by the Research Council of Norway's FRIPRO scheme,


Bildet viser Halvard Leira

What does foreign policy really mean?

December 7, 2018

This, with other widely used IR concepts, is what Halvard Leira and his project CHOIR team have received funding to explore.


Publication : ARTIKKEL

The emergence of foreign policy

International relations scholarship typically treats foreign policy as a taken-for-granted analytical concept. It assumes either that all historical polities ...
Publication : Academic lecture

A Conceptual History of International Relations

In this lecture, I discussed why we need a conceptual history of international relations, and how we can go about writing it.

Project Manager

Diplomacy  Foreign policy  Historical IR

Morten Skumsrud Andersen

Senior Research Fellow,Head of the Research Group on Global Order and Diplomacy



External participants

  • Ann Towns, University of Gothenburg
  • Jens Bartelson, Lund University
  • Ayse Zarakol, University of Cambridge
  • Richard Devetak, University of Queensland
  • Oliver Kessler, University of Erfurt
  • Amanda Cheney, Lund University
  • Julia Costa Lopez, University of Groningen
  • Einar Wigen, University of Oslo
Mon 4 Nov 2019
Time: 12:15 Europe/Oslo
Location: NUPI

Theory Seminar: Global History and International Relations

Dr George Lawson from the London School of Economics and Political Science will present a paper on ‘Global History and International Relations’.

Sun 3 Nov 2019
Time: 13:15 Europe/Oslo
Location: NUPI

How do revolutions begin, unfold and end?

To mark the establishment of the Centre of Historical International Politics (CHIP) at NUPI, we have the pleasure of inviting you to a talk with Dr George Lawson on ‘Anatomies of revolution’.