Module code: POL3065

Module provider


Module Leader

GILLESPIE C Mr (Politics)

Number of Credits


ECT Credits



FHEQ Level 6

JACs code


Module cap (Maximum number of students)


Module Availability

Semester 1

Overall student workload

Lecture Hours: 11

Seminar Hours: 11

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework CRITIQUE (1,250 WORDS) 30%
Coursework ESSAY (2,500 WORDS) 70%

Alternative Assessment

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module overview

America's role in the world has always been controversial, but since September 11, 2001 and the Bush administration's response to the terrorist attacks of that day US foreign policy has become a focal point for thinking about contemporary international relations. The first half of this module will introduce students to the different schools of thought on American foreign policy. This will provide students with the vocabulary to then interpret and assess US foreign policy since the end of the Cold War. The second half of the module will introduce students to key contemporary issues in American foreign policy.  For instance, we will consider issues such as why President George W. Bush considered it necessary to invade Iraq when his father decided not to and we will examine what impact the Iraq War has had on US perceptions of its role in the world.

Module aims

Build on, develop, refine and apply knowledge acquired in modules such POL1013 Introduction to International Relations, at Level 1; as well as POL2036 Security Studies, POL2031 Analysing Foreign Policy and POL2030 Theorising International Relations at Level 2;

Provide students with a detailed theoretical vocabulary through an exploration and interrogation of the principal debates and traditions of American foreign policy.  These skills will marry the awareness of historiography developed from POL1019 Contemporary International History (and also POL2030) with disciplinary theoretical debates in International Relations as applied empirically to the United States.

Enable students to analyse, understand and critique contemporary American foreign policy, through a refined theoretical vocabulary.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
Demonstrate a clear understanding of the central ideological, theoretical and historical concepts involved in the making and conduct of contemporary US foreign policy, including relevant institutions and personalities;
Critically engage with central texts on US foreign policy and be able to distinguish authors, locate their opinions on ideological spectrums and critically assess the validity of their views;
Apply theoretical frameworks (e.g. Wilsonian, Jacksonian, Hamiltonian, Jeffersonian) to policy/empirical analysis.

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Module content

The module is structured in two parts, considering theories and traditions, before turning to discuss these debates through a broadly chronological analysis of contemporary American foreign policy.

Introduction. American power and American exceptionalism.
Theories of American foreign policy and American foreign policy traditions.
Revisionism.  America’s imperial foreign policy and questions of Empire.
The end of the Cold War and the New World Order.  The foreign policies of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
The Unipolar Moment.  The foreign policy of President William Clinton and the geo-political context of the 1990s.
The impact of September 11th 2001.  The foreign policy of George W. Bush before 9-11, the shock that 9-11 induced in American society and the framing of 9-11 as an ‘act of war’.
The War on Terror and beyond.

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

Encourage student independence in learning and teaching.

Encourage the sharing of literature, theory and knowledge in a collaborative environment.

Encourage analytical and critical thought.

The learning and teaching methods include:

Each week, one-hour lectures will introduce students to the subject matter, which will subsequently be discussed in weekly hour-long seminars. Students will be expected to contribute actively during discussion, having prepared to answer a specific question based on between one and three key readings for the week.  Three different questions and readings will be set to create a division of labour for the students and maximise learning.  This requires all students to prepare each week for the topic.  The set up of seminars and group work will be discussed during the first class.

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate

Analytical and critical skills.

The ability to write in depth on a specific IR topic.

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

a critique which (if the student desires) builds into an essay.


Formative assessment and feedback

The critique is designed to equip students with knowledge of the literature and theory required to write analytically and critically on an empirical topic in their essays. Students will also receive advice and feedback on essay preparation (abstracts and plans) if they opt to.

Reading list


Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2017/8 academic year.