We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2022/2023

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23
No such Code for pgprog:

Department: Government and International Affairs


Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Not available in 2021/22
Tied to


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To achieve an understanding of the making of American foreign policy. Following an introduction to the relevant theoretical and historical literature, the main institutions of, and influences on, the US foreign policy-making process will be considered. Case-studies will include both Cold War and post-Cold War eras. The module will culminate in an assessment of the nature, extent and likely development of American global power.


  • 1. Introduction and overview of US foreign policy
  • 2. Theoretical concepts
  • 3. Presidential power and leadership
  • 4. Congress and bureaucracy
  • 5. Culture, public opinion, and special interest group lobbying
  • 6. Energy, US economic policy, and the international economic institutions
  • 7. Cold War and Post-Cold War paradigms
  • 8. George W. Bush and the war on terror
  • 9. Barack Obama's foreign policy and the future

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module students should have the ability to master the complex and specialised area of knowledge and skills concerning:
  • arguments for and against Presidential domination of the foreign policy-making process.
  • political operation of Congressional foreign policy.
  • influence of interest groups (especially ethnic groups), public opinions and allies (especially the UK) on US foreign policy.
  • individual psychology of decision-makers to the international dynamics of American power.
  • competing interpretations of the Vietnam War.
  • Clinton's post-Cold War foreign policy leadership.
  • the impact of the 9/11 terror attacks.
  • the nature and extent of contemporary American global power.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module, students should be able to:
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the major theoretical and historical approaches to the study of US foreign policy.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the roles played by the leading political institutions and forces in making US foreign policy.
  • Be able to properly analyse American Foreign Policy strategies, procedure, and outcomes.
  • Discuss and explain the procedural variations in different policy areas.
  • Assess the extent and likely trajectories of American global power.
Key Skills:
  • Independent learning within a defined framework of study at an advanced level.
  • Independent thought in analysing and critiquing existing scholarship on the subject area and in evaluating its contribution.
  • The ability to work to a deadline and complete written work within word limits.
  • Advanced essay-writing skills.
  • Group work and learning, fostering social learning.
  • The ability to seek out and use relevant data sources, including electronic and bibliographic sources.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Student presentations should be about 15 minutes in length and be prepared for oral delivery. It would be useful if the paper-giver could bring a one A4 page handout for each member of the seminar. The handout should summarise points.
  • Formative and summative assessment allows engagement with the material throughout the module. Students work in groups (of either 2 or 3) on a project relating to the foreign policy relationship between the United States and another foreign nation. Students are expected to analyse the foreign policy relationship between the two nations using historical and contemporary sources while incorporating the different theories and concepts covered in the module.
  • Formative assessment will be a presentation about the country given in the seminar as well as a 1,000 word summary of their project so far, including presentation slides. Feedback will be provided, which will include the development and direction of the project, specifically with regards to the application of the theories and concepts discussed in seminar and the reading.
  • Summative assessment will be 4,000 words, produced jointly, about the same topic. The project will take the form of a jointly produced wiki, in which students prepare a comprehensive summary of foreign relations between the US and the country they covered in the formative assessment. Different sections of the wiki will cover different aspects of the foreign policy relationship between the two countries. In order to ensure that students within groups contribute equally, progress on the assessment will be tracked regularly by the module convenor through DUO, specifically through the DUO wiki, which allows the convenor to track individual student contributions to the overall project.
  • Students will engage in all the elements covered in the module, work in groups and provide a joint formative and summative assessment structure that works in tandem.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 9 weekly 2 18
Preparation & Reading 132
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 4,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Presentation about the country given in the seminar, and a 1,000 word summary of the project

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University