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The University of Southampton
Lifelong Learning

Policing the World

American Foreign Relations from World War II to the War on Terror, 1945-2012

President Obama
President Obama

This module will explore the history of American foreign affairs from the end of World War II to the War on Terror. The module will begin by exploring the origins of the Cold War, a struggle which dominated American foreign affairs for almost fifty years, and the U.S. assumption of the mantle of "leader of the free world" ("policeman of the world").

Underlining that ideas conceived in the early years of the superpower struggle had remarkable staying power, the early sessions will explore how anti-communism, American exceptionalism and early American interaction with former colonial states, post WWII, fundamentally impacted the U.S. prosecution of the Cold War.

Subsequent sessions will explore the key issues that faced presidential administrations from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Barack Obama, outline the political, economic, religious, cultural and historical factors that shaped their decisions, and discuss the significance of American policy for the wider world. While the focus of the module will be on American actions and actors, this module will, in discussing contemporary historical scholarship, provide a more nuanced view of American foreign affairs by placing American decisions in a wider international context.

Following American foreign affairs right up to the modern day, the module will, in the last few sessions, explore the end of the Cold War, U.S. foreign policy post-Cold War and the War on Terror. In analysing the major decisions of the period, the module will make use of key primary sources and examine the various organisations, committees and structures used to manage foreign affairs.

Utilizing footage of the Republican debates for its nomination for President in 2012, the concluding session will explore how far America has learnt from its foreign affairs in this period and how far the themes discussed throughout the module continue to influence its vision of the world.


Date: Tuesday evenings, starting 11 February 2014
Time: 7 - 9 pm
Duration: 12 meetings


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