Academic year
2023/2024 Syllabus of previous years
Official course title
Course code
LM5730 (AF:378733 AR:249951)
On campus classes
ECTS credits
Degree level
Master's Degree Programme (DM270)
Educational sector code
1st Semester
Course year
Go to Moodle page
The course is a "characterizing" course of the curriculum in American studies of the International Relations program (RIC), where it contributes to fulfill the teaching objectives in the historical field. It is also available to students from the programs in Storia dal medioevo all'età contemporanea and Lingue e letterature europee, americane e postcoloniali. It provides students with an advanced level of historical knowledge about the history of US foreign relations. By putting an emphasis on the historical method of inquiry, the course will provide students with the capacity to critically analyze historical events and to develop original and well-founded interpretations about them, beyond the specific object of the course itself. By emphasizing the preparation of a written paper and the participation in class discussions, the course will allow students to learn how to prepare a bibliography, how to treat different kinds of sources, how to reach original conclusions and how to communicate them, with clear and precise language, on topics of US history in particular, but with potential applications in different contexts.
Through the readings, the lectures, and the class discussions, by the end of the course students should have acquired:

a) a confident knowledge of the facts, concepts and characters of US foreign policy from the 19th to the 21st century, with an emphasis on the post-1945 decades;

b) a confident knowledge of the main interpretations concerning the drivers, the making and the outcomes of US foreign policy over the decades;

c) a good degree of ability in treating various kinds of primary and secondary sources, to critically interpret them and to elaborate their critical interpretation in both written and oral form;

d) the basic methodological tools for the elaboration of autonomous research work in the field of US foreign relations history, with possible applications also beyond the field;

e) a good degree of knowledge of the lexicon of US foreign policy, finalized at the oral and written communication of historical and political contents with clarity and precision.

This course has no formal requirement, except a basic knowledge of modern and contemporary history as from High School programs. For RIC students, since this is a second year class, having already taken the first-year exam of History of International Relations is not a formal prerequisite but is highly advisable. Finally, a deep interest in the subject and a serious approach to the lessons and the reading materials are not formal requirements, but usually help.
The course provides students with an in depth and critical knowledge of US foreign policy from the 19th to the 21st century, with an emphasis on the post-1945 years, and with the ability to organize an autonomous research project in the field.

Tentative weekly schedule for the classes (any change will be communicated via Moodle):

Week 1 General Introduction

Week 2 XIXth Century Expansion and Empire: Hunt, Intro and chap. 1
-More in depth: Nicholas Guyatt, “The United States between Nation and Empire, 1776–1820” in The Cambridge History of America and the World, Volume 2

Week 3 The Spanish–American–Cuban–Filipino War: Hunt, Chapter 2, pp.45-57
-More in depth: Thomas G. Paterson. United States Intervention in Cuba, 1898: Interpretations of the Spanish–American–Cuban–Filipino War, “The History Teacher”, 1996

Week 4 WWI and the Wilsonian Moment: Hunt, Chapter 2, pp.57-78
-Primary Sources: “Fourteen Points”, January 8 1918: Hunt, Chapter

Week 5 1920s-30s Isolationism?: Hunt, Chapter 3
-More in depth: Melvin Leffler, Political Isolationism, Economic Expansionism or Diplomatic Realism: American Policy Towards Western Europe, 1921-1933 in Melvin Leffler, Safeguarding Democratic Capitalism: U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security, 1920-2015 (2017), 76-116

Week 6 From WWII to the Cold War: origins and causes: Hunt, Chapter 4
-More in depth: Melvin Leffler, The Emergence of an American Grand Strategy, 1945-1952 in Westad and Leffler (eds), The Cambridge History of the Cold War. I: Origins (2010)

-Primary Sources: George Kennan, “The Sources of Soviet conduct” (X article), July 1947

Week 7 The Nuclear Era: William Burr and David Alan Rosenberg, Nuclear competition in an era of stalemate, 1963–1975 in Arne Westad & Melvyn Leffler (eds.), The Cambridge History of the Cold War, Vol. II (2010)

-Movie: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Week 8 The Global Cold War: development and military interventions in the Third World: Hunt, Chapter 6
-More in depth: David Engerman, The price of aid: the economic cold war in India, Chapter 3

Week 9 The 1970s: new strategies for a different world: Hunt, Chapter 7, until pp.225- 251
-More in depth: Daniel Sargent, The United States and Globalization in the 1970s in Sargent, Manela, Ferguson and Maier (eds.), The Shock of the Global. The 1970s in Historical Perspective (2010)

Week 10 The Neo-conservative moment: Hunt, Chapter 7, pp-251-265
-Primary sources: National Security Strategy of the United States, 1988

Week 11 Post-Cold War hegemony: Hunt, Chapter 8
More in depth: Daniel Sargent, “Neoliberalism as a form of US Power”, in in The Cambridge History of America and the World, Volume 4: 1945 to the Present

Week 12 Students’ presentation

Week 13 Students’ presentation

Week 14 Students’ presentation

Week 15 Conclusions

Students who regularly attend the class can prepare the exam on:
1) the class notes, the slides from the classes and other materials (videos, documents, etc.), which will be made available on Moodle.
2) a reference textbook: Michael Hunt, The American Ascendancy, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2007.
3) specific readings assigned for each class

Students who do not attend the class can prepare the exam on:
1) a reference textbook such as Michael Hunt, The American Ascendancy, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2007 (or any other comparable textbook that you may already possess, after discussing the matter with the teacher).
2) a complementary textbook on US foreign relations after WWII, such as: M. Cox and D. Stokes (eds.), US Foreign Policy, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012, chapters 3, 4, 5, 6, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17

PLEASE NOTE: In all parts of the course, the lectures by the teacher in class provide guidance to the reading materials and emphasize their methodological and epistemological foundations, in order to provide students with a clearer perspective on how they themselves can build an interpretation of international affairs based on sound historical knowledge. Students who do not attend the class will have more readings to do for the simple fact they will need to make up for some missed information. In any case, both the students who attend and those who do not attend the class have to take the assigned readings seriously: neither the class notes alone, nor the summaries of the class lectures or of the readings that may circulate online or elsewhere, can be considered sufficient to prepare this exam in a satisfactory way.

Evaluation of learning outcomes

a) participating actively and constructively in the class discussions will contribute up to 30% of the final grade.

b) students will prepare, in groups of 3-4 participants, a final paper of some 3500 words (excluding notes and bibliography) on a topic in the history of US foreign relations of the 1970s or the 1980s (to be decided collectively in class in the early weeks of the course): they will present and discuss their papers in class in the final weeks of the course (up to 30% of the final grade).

c) Final oral exam: two sets of questions at the final oral exam, concerning two different topics covered in the reference textbook(s) and assigned readings (40% of the final grade). This part of the oral exam will verify the acquisition of the notions related to the program (events, actors, processes, concepts) and the ability to communicate critical contents in the history of US foreign relations with clarity and precision.

d) For not attending students: final oral exam, three questions, concerning three different topics covered in the reference textbook.

The final oral exam has a duration of some 20-30 minutes.
Lectures, interactive online exchange, in-depth individual study of recommended readings. The lectures are in part frontal lectures, with possible use of slides and multimedia material, and in part interactive classes, including with the students' presentations of the own works.
Definitive programme.
Last update of the programme: 13/06/2023