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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST3747 The Iron Lady Abroad: Margaret Thatcher and UK Foreign Policy from 1979

40 creditsClass Size: 16

Module manager: Dr Rachel Utley

Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 (Sep to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

This module is not approved as a discovery module


By the end of this module students should have acquired:
- A broad knowledge of developments in UK foreign policy in the latter years of the Cold War;
- A deeper understanding of the domestic and external context and determinants of foreign policy;
- The capacity to engage with relevant conceptual issues in the study of foreign policy;
- Knowledge and understanding of the principal historiographical controversies surrounding this topic;
- An ability to identify and synthesise a wide range of secondary source material, and to identify, analyse and evaluate primary source material of relevance to the subject.
- Skills in the effective and appropriate communication of knowledge both orally and in writing.

Learning outcomes
By the end of this module, students should have developed extensive knowledge and understanding of key areas of UK foreign policy under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher from 1979.
They should have a detailed grasp of the determinants and constraints of foreign policy making, both national and external; the significance of political leadership and the domestic political environment; the context and challenges of formulating and implementing policy choices in an increasingly interdependent world; the significance of bilateral and multilateral policy-making in relation to principal partnerships, alliance relations, multilateral and regional as well as broader international organisations; and the significance of crises and conflict in shaping both foreign policy decision-making, and the perspectives of those who bear such responsibilities. In addition, they should have a heightened sense of constancy and change over time, and the factors affecting these characterisations over such a significant international time frame. Furthermore students should be able to demonstrate extensive familiarity with the principal biographical and secondary literature in this area, and will have developed enhanced skills in analysis and critical thinking in relation to these sources against the fundamental backdrop of their identification, use and evaluation of relevant primary, archival materials.


The Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, became a formidable feature on the international stage in the last decade or so of the Cold War. Inspiring admiration and controversy often in equal measure, she was a staunch advocate of the pursuit of British national interests, and a keen proponent of Britain's rightful role in the world. During her period of office, foreign policy was arguably more concentrated in 10 Downing Street than any other aspect of government activity.

In this module students will investigate a broad range of issues within United Kingdom foreign policy in the years after 1979. You will consider areas such as relations with the USA and USSR; relations with key states within Europe, as well as with the European Economic Community as a whole; residual relations with the Commonwealth; and the significance of alliances and other international organisations such as the UN. You will explore the significance of crises (such as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, or the Iranian embassy siege), the role of diplomacy (as in the case of Rhodesia), and the impact of conflict (particularly the Falklands War). These examples are taken from Thatcher's early years as Prime Minister, but the subject matter of the module moves forwards with the opening of government records under the 'thirty year rule', ensuring that you are always working at the leading edge of contemporary international history. This will allow you also to evaluate the changing international context, developments in the superpower relationship and the impact of Cold War developments in Europe and beyond in framing the scope for influence of a state such as the UK in a time of international tension and change.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours356.00
Total Contact hours44.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)400.00

Private study

Undertaking set reading; further self-directed reading around the topic; seminar preparation; researching, preparing and writing assessments; exam preparation.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Participation in weekly seminar discussions; informal and formal presentation of research findings in class; ongoing progress discussions with tutor.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1 x 4,000 word essay to be submitted by 12 noon on Monday of exam week 2 in January40.00
PresentationVerbal presentation10.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)50.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Online Time-Limited assessment48 hr 00 mins50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)50.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2022 15:25:08


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