Cropped image of Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev debating at the American National Exhibition in Moscow, 1959, part of what came to be known as the Kitchen Debate. Photo by Thomas J. O'Halloran

The United States in the World since 1945

Tutor: Shaul Mitelpunkt

Module type: MA Option

Module code: HIS00084M

In his 1941 essay ‘The American Century’ American publicist Henry Luce used the pages of Life magazine to make the case for American involvement in World War II. More than a specific policy recommendation, however, Luce proposed “to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit.” The actual realities of the post-1945 world, however, proved more complicated than that. What was the purpose of American influence? What means did Americans use to increase and maintain hegemony in the Cold War world? And how did non-Americans perceive and react to U.S. designs?

This module examines central themes in the historiography of U.S. and the World, paying attention to different regions, a range of methodologies, and key areas of contention for historians in the field . While paying close attention to economic, diplomatic, military, and organizational factors, we will dedicate significant attention to the ways sensitivity to cultural history, foreign language sources, non-state actors, gender, religion, developmentalism and interdisciplinary influences inform cutting edge research. While the focus of the module is on the United States, the module adopts a transnational approach that would enrich our discussions and allow us to locate the U.S. within the broader history of the late 20th century world.

The provisional outline for the module is as follows:

  • 1945: The “Zero Hour” of American Hegemony?
  • The Cold War as Domestic and Global History
  • From Korea to Vietnam: The Shape of the Domino
  • Civil Rights and American Power
  • Empire’s Workshop? The U.S. and Latin America
  • Age of Fracture: U.S. Attitudes to Power in the 1970s
  • The U.S. and the Middle East
  • Terrors, Strange and Familiar: The U.S. in the Post-Cold War World

Preliminary reading

  • Costigliola, Frank and Michael Hunter eds. Explaining the History of American Foreign Relation.s 3rd edition. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016 
  • de Grazia, Victoria. Irresistible Empire: America’s Advance through Twentieth-Century Europe. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2006 
  • Keys, Barbara J. Reclaiming American Virtue: the Human Rights Revolution of the 1970s. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2014 
  • Yaqub, Salim. Imperfect Strangers: Americans, Arabs, and U.S.-Middle East Relations in the 1970s. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2016

For more information, please visit the module catalogue.