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HIST1176 Eisenhower and the World: U.S. Foreign Policy in the 1950s

Module Overview

A two-term president and the mastermind of D-Day, Dwight D. Eisenhower was one of the most influential figures of his time. His presidency took place during a hugely eventful decade that saw increasing Cold War tensions, the beginnings of a space race, decolonisation gathering pace, and the rise of the non-aligned movement. While Eisenhower may not have attracted the same public attention as his successor John F. Kennedy, he continues to intrigue scholars. Eisenhower’s actions and attitudes have long been shrouded in mystery by his muddled syntax at presidential press conferences and his tendency to play devil’s advocate in private meetings. This has created fantastic scholarly debate, which, fuelled by the release of new archival material like the recent release of documents on the 1953 CIA-sponsored coup in Iran, continues to spawn new historical work on his presidency. Historical reassessments of his foreign policy have seen Eisenhower shoot up the rankings for presidential performance over the past few decades, moving from 22nd in 1961 to 5th in the latest C-Span poll put together by presidential historians. This module will examine Eisenhower’s foreign policy during his two presidential terms in the 1950s. Students will examine Eisenhower’s handling of the global crises of his time, assess how Eisenhower’s background and broader currents of thought in the 1950s shaped his responses to the international challenges he faced, and reflect on the short and long term legacies of the foreign policy decisions made by the 34th president of the United States. The module will make use of a variety of different source materials, including internal government documents from the State Department, the CIA and the National Security Council, and cultural sources like newspapers, magazines, films and television programmes.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

Aims of this module are to • examine Eisenhower’s management of international affairs. • examine important primary sources related to Eisenhower’s foreign policy decision-making. • interpret and evaluate the personal and structural factors that influenced Eisenhower’s decisions. • discuss changing scholarly ideas on Eisenhower’s foreign policy. • debate the short-term and long-term impact of Eisenhower’s foreign policy

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Having successfully completed the module you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of Eisenhower’s management of the foreign policy bureaucracy.
  • Having successfully completed the module you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the challenges facing historians in trying to understand Eisenhower's attitudes and actions as president.
  • Having successfully completed the module you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the key historiographical debates on Eisenhower's foreign policy.
  • Having successfully completed the module you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the impact that Eisenhower's foreign policy decisions had on the world in the immediate, medium and longer term.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Having successfully completed the module, you should be able to organise and structure material to write and present confidently.
  • Having successfully completed the module, you should be able to conduct primary research through written and visual sources.
  • Having successfully completed the module, you should be able to critically analyse sources and secondary material.
  • Having successfully completed the module, you should be able to participate actively in group discussions, debates, historical role plays and presentations.
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Having successfully completed the module, you should be able to discuss the historical importance of Eisenhower’s foreign policy.
  • Having successfully completed the module, you should be able to show yourself familiar with a range of primary sources, textual as well as visual.
  • Having successfully completed the module, you should be able to critically analyse source material.

Syllabus

An indicative list of the topics covered in the module includes: • Historians and the Hidden Hand Presidency: Historical Revisionism and the 34th President of the United States • Massive Retaliation, Rollback and the Soviet Union • The CIA and Regime Change in the Eisenhower Years • The Fourth Weapon: Eisenhower and Psychological Warfare • Cool, Calm, Collected?: Eisenhower and Crisis Management • Religion and the Cold War • Race, Decolonisation and the Non-Aligned Movement • Eisenhower and the Special Relationship • Ike’s Legacy

Learning and Teaching

TypeHours
Seminar11
Preparation for scheduled sessions33
Tutorial1
Completion of assessment task50
Wider reading or practice33
Lecture11
Follow-up work11
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Greenstein, F.I., The Hidden Hand Presidency: Eisenhower as Leader (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1994).. 

Melanson, R.A. and Mayers, D., eds., Reevaluating Eisenhower: American Foreign Policy in the 1950s (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987).. 

Klein, C., Cold War Orientalism: Asia in the Middlebrow Imagination, 1945-1961 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003).. 

Statler, K.C. and Johns, A.L., eds., The Eisenhower Administration, the Third World, and the Globalization of the Cold War (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006).. 

Watry, D.M., Diplomacy at the Brink: Eisenhower, Churchill, and Eden in the Cold War (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2014).. 

Preston, A., Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012).. 

Smith, J.E., Eisenhower in War and Peace (New York: Random House, 2013).. 

Nichols, D.A., Eisenhower 1956: The President’s Year of Crisis: Suez and the Brink of War (New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2012).. 

Osgood, K.A., Total Cold War: Eisenhower’s Secret Propaganda Battle at Home and Abroad (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2006).. 

Assessment

Summative

MethodPercentage contribution
Commentary exercise  (1500 words) 50%
Essay  (2500 words) 50%

Linked modules

New module to be offered in semester 2 2017-18 and to be taught by a new appointment, Alexander Ferguson whose position with us does not start until late September 2017.

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