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Unit information: US Foreign Policy in 2015/16

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Unit name US Foreign Policy
Unit code SPAI30002
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Van Veeren
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


How should the U.S. respond to global nuclear proliferation? What is the best way to navigate changes in the global economy? Under what circumstances should America use military force? How should U.S. policymakers react to rapid advances in communication technology? What issues and challenges will confront the U.S. in the future? The economic, military, political and cultural reach of the United States internationally remains significant. This makes studying and understanding the actions that the U.S. government takes in the world ‘important. Complexes of histories, institutions, practices, people, objects and ideas working both domestically and internationally – from the military to the media - shape the decision-making processes that underlie U.S. foreign policy. This unit provides theory, history, and debates on current U.S. foreign policy issues to provide students with a basis for understanding the transformations and continuities in U.S. Foreign policy as a means to pressing foreign policy issues.

The aims of this unit are to:

  • develop students’ knowledge and understanding of, and ability to critically evaluate, US foreign policy;
  • provide a participatory approach to learning in which students can further develop their independent research and communication skills.

Intended learning outcomes

The learning outcomes of this unit are to:

  1. Demonstrate a sophisticated awareness of the major themes, events, structures, and actors that have influenced US foreign policy, both historically and in the contemporary era;
  2. Evaluate different approaches to the analysis of US foreign policy;
  3. Offer a critical evaluation of US foreign policy.

Teaching details

1 x 3-hour seminar per week

Assessment Details

  • Group ‘Presidential Policy Briefings’ (25%)
  • 3,000-word essay (75%)

Both assessments assess all learning outcomes

Reading and References

  • Ambrose, Stephen K. and Douglas Brinkley (2012 [1971]) Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy Since 1938, 9th Revised edition, Penguin Press.
  • Zelizer, J. E. (2010) Arsenal of Democracy: The Politics of National Security - From World War II to the War on Terrorism, New York: Basic Books. 

  • Stone, O. and Kuznik P. (2013) The Untold History of the United States, Croydon: Ebury Press. 

  • Hook, S. W. and Spanier, J. (2013) American Foreign Policy Since World War II, 19th Edition, London: CQ Press.
  • Herring, G.C. From Colony to Superpower: US Foreign Relations since 1776, Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

  • Cox, M., and Stokes, D. (Eds.). (2012) US Foreign Policy. Oxford University Press.

Electronic reading will be provided for this unit