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2023/24 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST2868 US Foreign Policy in a Changing World: the End of the Cold War, the Age of Terror, and the Resurgence of a Multipolar Order?

20 creditsClass Size: 30

Module manager: Dr Rachel Utley

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

Module replaces

HIST 2867, The End of the Cold War to the Age of Terror: US Foreign Policy in a Changing World

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Since the late 1970s, international relations in the contemporary era have been characterized by two developments of immense significance: the end of the Cold War, and the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. In both of these, the central role of the USA has loomed large – variously as the victorious Cold War superpower, the principal international power of the post-Cold War world; and the main target / major protagonist in the ‘war on terror’. However, this should not suggest that US leadership was inevitable, or unchallenged. This module therefore investigates relations between states in the period from the late 1970s towards the present, within a complex and changing international context. It considers the nature and scope of developments in international relations over this time frame. It examines them in relation to priorities and perspectives in US foreign policy, and analyses the US’ role in world affairs under successive Administrations. Questioning aspirations to leadership, and impediments to that role, it additionally evaluates the perspectives of other major international actors, both state and non-state, and assesses whether the changing character of international politics since the end of the Cold War has militated against the maintenance of a preponderant American stance. Asking searching questions about major international themes – including power and conflict; peace and war; states and non-state actors; polarity in international politics; unilateral, bilateral and multilateral interactions; proliferation, globalisation, terrorism and more – this module offers contemporary historical perspectives on some of the most important international problems of the time.


The objectives of this module are:

a) To develop skills of historical enquiry, interpretation and synthesis
b) To develop knowledge and understanding of structures, processes and state strategies in international politics during the period from 1976 to the present
c) To assess impacts and influence of US foreign policy on wider international considerations, and on developments in specific regions of the world
d) To examine the evolution and achievements of international organisations in the same period
e) To develop an understanding of key conceptual issues involved in the study of international politics (including power, its nature and limits; peace and conflict; the international system, and ‘polarity’ within it; alliances and alignments; aspects of globalization; terrorism; and the increasing breadth of international actors and forms of interaction in world affairs

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students will have: 

Demonstrated their understanding of relations between states in the period from the late 1970s (the onset of the ‘Second Cold War’) to the present 

Analysed transformations in international politics which characterized this period (eg the end of the Cold War, or the onset of the ‘war on terror’) 

Evaluated US foreign policy priorities and constraints; international relations in specific regions of the world; nature, scope and limits of international organisation and interdependent endeavour; the significance of the ‘war on terror’; order and power in international affairs 

Integrated into their own work empirical and conceptual explanations of the historical interpretation of contemporary international relations, and the interplay between them

Critically reflected on the study and substance of the international relations of the recent past 

Demonstrated the ability to apply fundamental standards and practices of historical study for research, discussion, and assessed work.


Indicative themes may include arms races, arms control and questions of proliferation; trade, globalisation and multilateralism; the reach and limits of international organisations and changing international norms; peace and war in regional contexts; challengers to US hegemony, both state and non-state; international implications of the course of events from 9/11 to the rise of IS; and assertions of a ‘new Cold War’ between the US its former Cold War adversaries.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours178.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

To include
- the completion of recommended reading and self-directed reading in preparation for seminars;
- research and writing of a 2,000-word assessment exercise;
- exam preparation and revision.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

This will include:

Informal monitoring through students’ contributions to seminars, and the offer of light-touch feedback (eg advice, observations etc either orally, by email or similar) on a range of informal seminar activities and contributions, whether undertaken independently or collaboratively.

An informal progress and feedback meeting will be offered to all students around the mid-module point, at which students will also have the opportunity to discuss ideas/interpretations etc for their assessed essay.

Formal advice will be made available through individual feedback on the assessed work.

A class will be scheduled for all students to discuss revision and exam technique. Additional advice from module tutor will be available as requested and/or appropriate for any students who seek it.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Assignment1 x 2000 word essay40.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)40.00

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

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Open Book exam48 hr 00 mins60.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)60.00

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: 28/04/2023 14:41:10


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