Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
The American Century: America in the World since 1914
Academic Year
Semester 1

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 16 Hours (16 x 1 hour)
Seminars / Tutorials 8 Hours (8 x 1 hour)


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 3,000 word essay  50%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   Examination  50%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 3,000 word essay in lieu of exam, if exam element failed  50%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 3,000 word essay, if essay element failed  50%

Learning Outcomes

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

1. Demonstrate, in writing and in seminars, a broad grasp of the major themes in the history of the Twentieth Century US global experience
2. Assess the role of the World Wars in consolidating US power and shaping domestic policies.
3 Discuss the development of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union after 1945 and its impact on US society
4 Evaluate how the US became involved in and was in turn shaped by the Vietnam War
5 Debate the end of the Cold War and the role of the US in the demise of the Soviet Union.
6 Demonstrate knowledge of the relationship between US economic power, democracy and US wars in the post-Cold War Era.
7 Critically assess the importance of the events of 11 September 2001 on US foreign policy.
8 Demonstrate an understanding of key contested concepts such as `Wilsonianism', `isolationism', `containment', `New World Order', `globalization', `War on Terror' and `empire'.


This module adds to the Department's provision of international history and international politics. It provides students with an overview of American foreign policy in the 'American Century' up to the present day.

Brief description

This module explores America's role in world affairs primarily in the Twentieth Century, from its development as a world power in the first years of the Twentieth Century to the so-called 'War on Terror' today. It deals with the political, military, economic and cultural dimensions of US global power and explores these within the context of US political and social developments. The relationship between the 'domestic' and the 'international' is therefore the central organizing theme of this course.


The course begins with an exploration of the United States as 'reluctant' world power in the era of the First World War, the 1920s and 1930s. It then explores its emergence as a global Superpower during the Second World War and the onset of tensions with the Soviet Union in what became the Cold War. Considerable attention is then given to US foreign and domestic policy during the Cold War, exploring development of the perceived Soviet threat and US grand strategy, as well as identity, ideology, race and gender in the formation of US Cold War policy. Focus is also given to the US role in the Vietnam War; how it developed and the impact of the war on US politics and society. The course then explores the development of detente and the notion of a developing 'crisis' in the American world role, before it deals with the emergence of 'Reaganism' in the 1980s. The course then examines the role of the US in the ending of the Cold War and the relationship between democracy, liberalism, and US wars since the 1990s, looking for evidence of continuity and change from earlier periods. Finally, it examines the proposition that since the end of the Cold War the US is emerging as the centre of a new form of global Empire.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Communication Students will learn how to present their ideas both verbally and in writing and how to assert themselves to advantage. They will understand the importance of information and clear communication and how to exploit these. They will know how to use the many sources of information available and how to use the most appropriate form of communication to the best advantage. They will learn to be clear and direct in their and to be direct about aims and objectives. They will learn to consider only that which is relevant to the topic, focus and objectives of their argument or discussion. Seminars will be run in groups where oral discussion and presentations will form the main medium of teaching and the emphasis throughout the module will be on student participation and communication.
Improving own Learning and Performance The module aims to promote self-management but within a context of assistance from both the convenor and the fellow students alike. Students will be expected to improve their own learning and performance by undertaking their own research and to exercise their own initiative, including searching for sources, compiling reading lists, and deciding (under guidance) the direction of their essay and presentation topics. The need to conduct a seminar presentation and to meet an essay deadline will focus students' attention on the need to manage their time and opportunity resources well.
Information Technology Students will be expected to submit their work in word-processed format. Also, students will be encouraged to search for sources of information on the web, as well as seeking sources through electronic information sources (such as Web of Science and OCLC).
Personal Development and Career planning The discussions in particular will help to develop students' verbal and presentation skills. Learning about the process of planning an essay and a presentation, framing the parameters of the projects, honing and developing the projects and seeing through to completion will contribute towards their portfolio of transferable skills
Problem solving Independent project work and problem solving will be one of the central goals of the module; the submission of an essay will require that the student develops independent research skills as well as problem solving skills. The need to research and prepare seminar presentations will also enable the student to develop independent project skills. The ability of students to solve problems will be developed and assessed by asking them to: adopt differing points of view; organize data and estimate an answer to the problem; consider extreme cases; reason logically; construct theoretical models; consider similar cases; look for patterns; divide issues into smaller problems A final examination will ensure that an assessment of the student's ability to work alone can be undertaken.
Research skills The submission of an essay will reflect the independent research skills of the student. The need to locate appropriate research resources and write up the results will also facilitate research skills. Research preparation for a seminar presentation will also enable the student to develop independent project skills. A final examination will ensure that an assessment of the student's ability to work alone can be undertaken
Subject Specific Skills Students will develop a wide range of subject specific skills relating to the collection and assessment of complex data, the ability to deal with different perspectives and arguments and subject specific research techniques
Team work Seminars will consist in part of small-group discussion where students will be obliged to discuss as a group the core issues related to seminar topics. Such class room debates and discussions are a vital component of the module


This module is at CQFW Level 6