An undergraduate degree in international relations was officially launched at Johns Hopkins University for the 1962-63 academic year. The major required studies in languages, history, political science, political economy, geography, psychology and social relations, a senior seminar, and a “field of interest.” In 1968, the name of the major changed to International Studies and moved into the Department of Political Science.
In 1964, an accelerated BA-MA program in international relations was established with SAIS. The program was designed to prepare students for research, teaching, or practice in international affairs. The junior year abroad program in Bologna was launched in 1975.
In 2014, the International Studies Program became a free-standing program outside of the Department of Political Science.
Several portions of the degree program have remained virtually unchanged for more than 50 years. From the beginning, the major has required:
- Language proficiency to the advanced level
- Four semesters of coursework in economics and/or political economy
- A field of interest (also referred to as a concentration or focus area) organized in terms of region, function, or language
A fourth component, referred to as the “electives” or “geography, psychology, and social relations” requirement, was part of the major from its creation until 2002. This portion required four courses but the disciplines changed each year. Over the years, anthropology, philosophy, and eventually sociology were also included as part of this requirement.
History and political science were core elements of the major from its inception. Traditionally, students undertaking the major took two semester-long courses in occidental civilization plus four more history courses. In Political Science, students took one pre-requisite course along with four additional courses in international relations and comparative politics.
A first mention of a new program in international affairs is made in the 1961 edition of the Report of the Faculties and the Administration:
“A beginning was…made in establishing an undergraduate program in international affairs. Mr. Nissan Oren, a specialist in the governments of Eastern Europe, was appointed to an assistant professorship in Political Science. With present staff members and new appointees, and with the assistance of the faculty of the School of Advanced International Studies, the Faculty of Philosophy will be able to offer a full basic program and specialized studies for four major geographical areas. As this undergraduate work develops, it will strengthen the graduate program conducted on the Homewood campus by the Committee on International Relations and it will develop students for our School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.”
An undergraduate degree in international relations, managed by the Committee on International Relations, is officially launched. The committee includes representatives from the Departments of Geography, History, Political Economy, and Political Science. The major requires studies in languages, history, political science, political economy, geography, psychology and social relations, a senior seminar (lasts only one year), and a focus field. The focus field could “be organized in terms of area (e.g., Latin-America, the Soviet Union, the Far East), or in terms of function (e.g., international law and organization, international economics).” It is also possible for a student to select an additional language for study.
From the 1963 edition of the Report of the Faculties and the Administration: “In the planning stage is the establishment of a program in International Relations that will lead to both the A.B. and the M.A. degree. This is a joint effort of the Faculty of Philosophy and the School of Advanced International Studies.”
“In the February term, plans were completed for the new program in international relations. Each year a group of specially selected freshmen will begin a five-year course of study that will lead to the award of the A.B. and M.A. degrees. The series of courses and seminars was designed jointly by the staffs of the Faculty of Philosophy and the School of Advanced International Studies. Students are to spend the first three years of residence on the Homewood campus; the work of the fourth year will involve study both at Homewood and on the Washington campus; the final year will be spent at the School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. The bachelor’s degree will be recommended by the Faculty of Philosophy, and the master’s degree by the School of Advanced International studies. For the new program, Professor Tucker was named director, Dr. George Liska was appointed to a professorship in the Department of Political Science, and arrangements are being made for members of the faculty of the School of Advanced International Studies to participate in the instruction on the Homewood campus. Applications for the combined bachelor’s and master’s program were received in the spring from one hundred students; because of the excellence of the applicants, twenty-four, instead of the fifteen for whom the plans provided, have been admitted for 1964-65.”
A new “Accelerated BA-MA Program in International Relations” is established. “The Johns Hopkins program is designed to prepare young men for research, teaching, or practice in international affairs.” Also, “some students may study at the School’s Bologna Center in Italy” in year five of the program.
The name of the major is changed to International Studies and it moves into the Department of Political Science.
The Junior Year Abroad Program in Bologna is officially launched.
The major’s gateway course, Contemporary International Politics, is taught for the first time. The course replaces Introduction to American Politics as one of the prerequisites of the program.
A thesis program for honors in the major is created.
An Environmental Studies Minor is created and remains available until 2003.
The number of history courses is reduced from six to five and the number of political science courses is increased from five to six with the addition of a new political theory requirement.
A non-Western history requirement is introduced to the program, which stipulates that at least one history course should focus on a non-Western region. The electives requirement is scrapped, reducing the minimum number of required courses for the major from 19 to 15.
A new BA/MA program with Sciences Po is launched.
The non-Western history requirement jumps from one to three courses.
The occidental civilization requirement is eliminated and replaced with a “one introductory course at the 100-level” requirement.
A select number of double major and major-minor tracks are added. The tracks are offered in conjunction with affiliated departments and allow students to gain an in-depth specialization within the major.
The International Studies Program becomes an autonomous unit outside of the Political Science Department. The program is headed by an academic director, who chairs an advisory board made up of representatives from the core departments of Anthropology, Economics, History, Political Science, Sociology, and Modern Languages and Literatures.