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2023/24 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 2023/24

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

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 themes and concerns within United Kingdom foreign policy in the years 1979-90. 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, the role(s) of diplomacy, and the impact of conflict (particularly the Falklands War). 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 at a time of international tension and change.Content warnings apply to some of the readings/materials in this module. Please email the module tutor if you have any queries or concerns in advance of enrolment.


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.


Indicative themes include:
Gender in politics; UK foreign policy towards the ‘superpowers’; foreign relations in a European context; relations with the Commonwealth; British foreign policy on the wider world stage; crisis and conflict in international relations.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours352.00
Total Contact hours48.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)400.00

Private study

Reading to prepare for seminars (120 hours)
Further self-directed reading (66 hours)
Preparing and researching 4000-word assessed essay, including formative elements (80 hours)
Preparing and researching OTA, including formative elements (80 hours)
Reflection on feedback (6 hours)

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Ongoing feedback and advice on seminar progress and performance.
Submission of 500 word essay outline (week 8/9) for written feedback and in-person discussion with tutor in week 10/11 of semester 1.
Written feedback and in-person advice on minimum 2, maximum 3 gobbet answers of 500 words each completed across semester 2.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay4000 words50.00
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: 28/04/2023 14:41:13


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