Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Century of the Superpowers (c. 1890-2000)
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 20 x 1 Hour Lectures


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 2,500 word essay  30%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   (1 x 2 hour exam)  70%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 2,500 word supplementary (resit) essay  30%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   1 x 2 hour supplementary (resit) examination  70%

Learning Outcomes

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

1. Demonstrate a firm understanding of current approaches to and on-going debates on international history in the recent past (c.1890 - 2000).

2. Demonstrate an understanding of the longer term historical questions about global power and influence during this period.
3. Demonstrate an ability to use and reflect critically upon a range of relevant primary and secondary material.
4. Demonstrate an ability to collect and analyse relevant historical evidence to produce appropriate arguments both oral (not assessed) and written.
5. Demonstrate an ability to work independently.
6. Demonstrate the skills appropriate to the study of modern international history and produce work in a professional manner.

Brief description

The initial emphasis of the module will be on the foreign policies pursued by Washington and Moscow as both rose to global dominance. The 1941-1945 period is a transformative one and will receive special attention. For the post-1945 period, the focus will be on the interactions between the two superpowers and how these shaped the policies pursued by each. The module will explore episodes of conflict and cooperation between Washington and Moscow, demonstrating that these had a wide-ranging impact on other peoples and governments. It will also consider the options available to other governments during the period of superpower dominance.


To introduce students to a defining era in modern history, through an examination of the rise to power and the foreign policy pursued by, respectively, the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia.
To facilitate familiarity and engagement with sources for modern history and the manner in which they are used.
To encourage the acquisition of critical skills to be used to analyse relevant historiographical developments.


Lectures (twice a week):

1. Introduction: the Great Powers at the turn of the century
2. Russia and the First World War
3. The United States at Versailles and beyond
4. Soviet Foreign Policy in the 1920s and 1930s
5. American, Soviet and British Relations during the Second World War
6. The new 'American Century'
7. Stalin and the Cold War
8. The Korean War
9. The United States and the wider world in 1950s and 1960s
10. The CIA versus the KGB
11. Perspectives on the Cuban Missile Crisis
12. The Sino-Soviet Split and triangular diplomacy
13. The Arms Race
14. Other people's wars: The United States in Vietnam and the Soviet Union in Afghanistan
15. Superpowers in the Middle East
16. Reagan and the world
17. Gorbachev and the end of the Soviet Union
18. Beyond the Cold War
Seminars (students to choose two of four 2-hour seminars, held in weeks 7 or 8 of the course):
1. America's Rise to World Power
2. Shaping the 'American Century'
3. The Soviet Union in the world
4. Hot spots of the Cold War

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Understanding of statistical information relating to global economic strength and global power
Communication Written communication skills will be developed through the coursework and written examination; skills in oral presentation will be developed in seminars but are not formally assessed.
Improving own Learning and Performance Students will be advised on how to improve research and communication skills through the individual tutorial providing feedback on submitted coursework.
Information Technology Students will be encouraged to locate suitable material on the web and to apply it appropriately to their own work. Students will also be expected to word-process their work and make use of Blackboard. These skills will not be formally assessed.
Personal Development and Career planning Students will develop a range of transferable skills, including time management and communication skills, which may help them identify their personal strengths as they consider potential career paths.
Problem solving Students are expected to note and respond to historical problems which arise as part of the study of this subject area and to undertake suitable research for seminars and essays.
Research skills Students will develop their research skills by reading a range of texts and evaluating their usefulness in preparation for the coursework and the written examination.
Subject Specific Skills Students will develop an awareness of appropriate sources and historical literature associated with the study of modern international history.
Team work Students will be expected to play an active part in group activities (e.g. short group presentations in seminars) and to learn to evaluate their own contribution to such activities.


This module is at CQFW Level 6