Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton

HIST2110 The Global Cold War

Module Overview

This is a module on the relationship between the “West” and the “Rest” from the end of the Second World War to Soviet Union’s collapse. Rather than focus on the nuclear-tipped confrontation between the Soviet Union, the United States and European allies, this module will reconnoitre their rivalry in the “Third World.” We will examine a major historical episode and then investigate it using novels, films, data, primary sources and the historical literature to elucidate the American and European encounter with Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East since 1945. The module will engage debates over the natures of, and overlaps between, imperialism, decolonization, neo-colonialism and global governance. The overarching question is whether, from the Atlantic charter to the 1991 Gulf War, the world moved toward equity, justice and homogeneity, or if instead the fault lines dividing humanity merely shifted locations. Odd Arne Westad has argued that the cold war sowed the seeds for political instability and social inequality throughout the poorer regions of the Earth, the bitter fruits of which the international community is still reaping. Others note that the percentage of the world’s population living in poverty plummeted from 72 per cent in 1950 to 51 per cent in 1992, to just 10 per cent in 2015, with 680 million people escaping poverty since 1981 in China alone. By the end of this module, you will know the historical actors and tectonic forces that so altered the landscape of human events in the second half of the twentieth century and bequeathed to us our contemporary world.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • build a study base of knowledge about the most significant happenings and trend lines in the module of human events since 1945
  • become conversant in the major issues and debates revolving around contemporary international economics and politics including the causes of international and civil conflicts, the expansion and integration of global society and economies and the transformation of global inequalities in the past 70 years
  • contemplate the origins and efficacy of universal belief systems such as capitalism, communism, development, humanitarianism and human rights
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • collect, analyse, synthesize and interpret data along with primary and secondary textual sources
  • comment fluently on complex historical and theoretical debates, with appropriate use of evidence and terminology in argumentation
  • show mindfulness of intercultural and philosophical differences about what constitute better or worse outcomes in history
  • draw upon your acquired knowledge in debate, essays, role play and under timed conditions
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • work independently and unsupervised for extended periods of time on complex tasks
  • display effective time management
  • interact purposefully, productively and confidently with both your tutor and peers
  • make valuable, critical and valued contributions to discussions and debates
  • write speedily yet fluently for extended periods, clearly articulating your ideas
  • skim, select and précis complex material
  • write in a mature and sophisticated style, with graduate-level prose and presentation
  • apply the skills acquired during the module to problem-solving and policy making


This module will introduce you to major topics and theme in global history from 1945 to 1991, with a focus on the transition from an imperial world system to one based on nation-states and international institutions. The lectures and seminars will strike a balance between offering perspective on regional developments in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East and the global forces that knit together far-flung human communities via supply chains, transport, cultural transmissions, telephony, social networks and migration. Early weeks will discuss the aftermath of the Second World War in Asia, North Africa and the Middle East and the ways in which deteriorating relations between the United States and the Soviet Union collided with surging anticolonial sentiment to precipitate independence struggles and proxy wars in China, Korea, Indochina, Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria, Cuba and elsewhere. Examples of the topics that will be explored include: • Theories of imperialism and neo-colonialism • Self-determination and national sovereignty • Global governance, human rights and humanitarianism • Decolonization in Africa, the Middle East and Asia • Oil in the Middle East • Postcolonialism • Cold war proxy wars in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East • Modernization, social democracy and development • Financial and economic globalization • The rise of China

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: • Seminars will entail focused reading and rigorous analysis in primary sources and the secondary literature concerned with the character and consequences of U.S.-Soviet rivalry in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, accompanied by forays into the core historiography of modern global history in its social, technological, cultural, demographic, military, economic and political aspects. • A combination of group work and role play in seminars. You will split into two groups to discuss primary sources or to present arguments on opposing sides of a historical case before a mock International Court of Justice or United Nations Security Council session. • One-on-one appointments to provide guidance and feedback on research and writing • Essays and timed examinations Learning activities include: • Analysis and interpretation of selected primary documents • Consideration and comprehension of seminal debates in international history and relations • Substantial preparatory reading and personal study • Individual participation in seminars and group work on seminar themes • Intensive individual research and writing • Engagement in historical re-enactment, role play, debate and group presentations

Preparation for scheduled sessions30
Wider reading or practice20
Completion of assessment task46
Follow-up work30
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Jian Chen (2001). Mao’s China and the Cold War. 

Paul Thomas Chamberlin (2012). The Global Offensive: The United States, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the Making of the Post-Cold War Order. 

William Roger Louis (1977). Imperialism at Bay 1941-1945: The United States and the Decolonization of the British Empire. 

Elizabeth Borgwardt (2005). A New Deal for the World: America’s Vision for Human Rights. 

Greg Grandin (2004). The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America in the Cold War. 

Gary Jonathan Bass (2013). The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide. 

Steve Coll (2004). Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. 

Kishore Mahbubani (2013). The Great Convergence: Asia, the West, and the Logic of One World. 

Nick Cullather (2010). The Hungry World America’s Cold War Battle against Poverty in Asia. 

G. John Ikenberry (2011). Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order. 

Mark Mazower (2009). No Enchanted Palace: The End of Empire and the Ideological Origins of the United Nations. 

Melvyn P Leffler and Odd Arne Westad (2010). The Cambridge History of the Cold War. 

Daniel Yergin (1991). The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power. 

David Reynolds (2000). One World Divisible: A Global History since 1945. 

Odd Arne Westad (2005). The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times. 

Samuel Moyn (2010). The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History. 

Shashi Tharoor (2003). Nehru: The Invention of India. 

Fredrik Logevall (2012). Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam. 

Hal Brands (2010). Latin America’s Cold War. 


Assessment Strategy

1. You will research and write a substantial paper based on a key theme established in the module lectures or seminars, or propose a subject and title of your choice. You will first present an abstract with a short summary of key debates in the literature about a particular case study together with a list of five secondary sources and five primary sources. The essay must be turned in with a cover sheet and bibliography by the announced date and time. In the run up to this essay you will complete a number of short weekly activities which will develop their essay writing skills, such as completing executive summaries of key policy positions discussed, essay planning activities and peer-review activities of short written assignments. 2. The final assessment will be a two-hour, in-class examination that will consist of 10 identification questions, five short-answer prompts, of which you must answer three, and two essays. Nine essay prompts will be circulated one week before, of which six prompts will then be included in the test. You must choose two to which to respond.


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 50%
Examination  (2 hours) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Share this module Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo
Privacy Settings