Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
The Evolution of American Foreign Policy
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 16 Hours. (16 x 1 hour)
Seminars / Tutorials 10 Hours. (5 x 2 hours)


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 3,000 word essay  50%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   (1 x 2 hour exam)  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  F resit If module is running in resit year (the next academic session following failure) the student must follow module deadlines - submitting assessments and/or sitting exam as module convenor indicates for `capped pass mark (40) If module is not being offered in the resit year (the next academic session following failure) the student must submit 2 x 2,500 word essays worth 50% each for `capped pass mark (40) H resit The student must submit/take the missing/failed element of assessment/s (exam and/or assessment). Depending on individual circumstances, the resit opportunity will be available in the supplementary (August) examination period or the following academic session for full marks.   50%

Learning Outcomes

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

1. Discuss the origins of American foreign policy.
2. Evaluate the utility of different approaches to the study of American foreign policies.
3. Discuss the relationship between the development of the American nation and America's place in the world from the pre-revolutionary period to the beginning of the Twentieth Century.
4. Demonstrate knowledge of the relationship between the United States and the imperial powers in the nineteenth century.
5. Critically assess the role of war, economics, ideology and race in explaining the history of American foreign policy before c.1900.
6. Discuss key contested concepts such as `exceptionalism', `isolationism', `frontier', `manifest destiny' and the Monroe Doctrine.

Brief description

This module deals with the foundations of American foreign policy; its Enlightenment origins, notions of American `exceptionalism', the question of independence from Britain, the role of the constitution in foreign policy making, `isolationism', the Monroe Doctrine, interactions with European imperial powers, wars of the 19th Century, `manifest destiny' and westward movement (including encounters with Native Americans) and US `emergence' on the world stage.


Throughout the module the emphasis is on developing ideas about American nationhood and growing interactions with the outside world, thus the relationship between domestic and foreign policy is crucial.

The module begins with a discussion of the foundations of American political thought and how this influenced the War of Independence and the writing of the constitution. It then examines foreign policy imperatives in the revolutionary and post-Revolutionary era, including the War of 1812, and the development of the Monroe Doctrine. It then focuses on ideas of 'manifest destiny' and the frontier especially in Jacksonian era America, including territorial expansion, the extension of slavery, encounters with Native Americans and the war with Mexico in 1848. In this section, the notion of the `Other' in both domestic and foreign policy will be considered. The module then explores growing interactions and rivalries between the US and European colonial powers. It focuses on the America Civil War and its implications for American power, industrialization from the late 1860s, tensions within American society (post-Reconstruction), population growth and immigration, growing American interest in East Asia and Latin America and the 'emergence' of America on the world stage in the 1890s.


1. Introduction: The foundations of American foreign policy
2. The War of American Independence
3. The Constitution and foreign policy
4. The diplomacy of the early republic
5. Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase
6. The War of 1812-15
7. Monroe and his Doctrine
8. 'Manifest Destiny' in Jacksonian America
9. The War with Mexico
10. The diplomacy of the Civil War
11. Industrialisation and development After the Civil War
12. Diplomacy after the Civil War
13. American foreign policy in the 1890s
14. The War with Spain
15. American power at the start of the 'American Century'
16. Conclusions


1. The revolutionary era and early republic

2. The Monroe Doctrine

3. 'Manifest Destiny', expansionism and displacement

4. The impact of war, industrialisation and Social change

5. The rise to global power at the end of the nineteenth century


This module provides students with an introduction to the basis of American foreign policy and its development up to the start of the Twentieth Century.

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 BIDS 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

Reading List

(c2005.) Major problems in American foreign relations :documents and essays.edited by Dennis Merrill, Thomas G. Paterson. 6th ed. Houghton Mifflin Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 6