Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
The American Public, Washington and the World
Academic Year
Semester 2

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 10 x 2-hour seminars
Workload Breakdown 20 hours seminars 2 hour tutorial support including individual essay returns 178 hours independent study and essay preparation


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

Demonstrate a critical understanding of relevant themes and approaches in the history and historiography of modern American international relations (broadly defined), in particular the relationship between public opinion, political participation and the policymaking process.

Marshal and understand the use of appropriate evidence in formulating historical arguments regarding modern American international relations.

Demonstrate through written work an ability to integrate methodological themes into their own research.

Brief description

Academic rationale of the proposal:

The module will address how the American public influenced the policymaking process at Washington regarding international affairs (broadly understood) between the 1930s and the 1990s. It will examine the successes and failures of American presidents, presidential candidates, members of Congress and foreign policy opinion leaders in responding to, and shaping, public opinion. Students will be encouraged to test common assumptions regarding the relationship between presidential leadership and public opinion, the role of the media, and the degree and nature of consensus between different branches of the American policymaking establishment. The module will introduce a range of primary and secondary sources suitable for advanced study in this field.

Brief Description:

This module explores the dynamic interaction between the American public and policymakers in Washington between the 1930s and the 1990s, a period in which Americans faced significant new international challenges as they grappled with their country’s new role as a global superpower. The module focuses not just upon headline conflicts (the Korean War, the Vietnam War), but also upon case studies such as America’s foreign relations in the 1930s, including the ‘Good Neighbor policy’ towards Latin America, and the handling of successive European refugee crises from the 1930s to the 1950s.

Content (indicative):

1. Introduction: the public, political participation and the policymaking process
2. The 1930s: ‘Isolationism’ and the Good Neighbor policy
3. Building support for the United Nations in war and peace
4. Responding to European refugee crises at mid-century
5. The Korean War and the challenge of the right
6. Civil rights and immigration
7. Vietnam and domestic dissent
8. Détente and its demise
9. Reagan and public opinion
10. Post-Cold War crises policymaking


This module is at CQFW Level 7