Course outline

This course will explore the external relations, and sometimes some selected themes in the
internal history, of the leading sovereign states whose interactions have shaped the period
from the outbreak of the Second World War up to the present day.

1. Introduction – The basis of international relations and its growth as a modern
academic discipline

2. The emergence of global great powers in the twentieth century. The importance of ideological elements in the way in which democratic (Western) states and totalitarian (Marxist inspired) states viewed and misunderstood each other.

3. The tensions between the Allied powers fighting against Germany Italy and
Japan, 1939-1945.

4. The origins of the Cold War in the deteriorating relations between Russia and
the West in the post-war years.

5. The development of nuclear weapons and their influence on superpower rivalry.

6. Proxy wars and crises. Berlin, Korea, Cuba, Vietnam and Afghanistan.

7. Espionage, intelligence gathering and its influence during the Cold War.

8. Putin’s Russia.

9. Islam and international terrorism in the twenty-first century.

10. The rise of China to global power status.


Course Aims & Objectives

  • To give students an awareness of the importance of international relations against
    the background of the history of the last eighty years.
  • To link the abstract considerations of political and military rivalry to the everyday
    concerns of the people living through the period as shown in their films, songs,
    popular literature, humour, protest movements and documentaries.


  • To be able to demonstrate, in both oral and written forms, a knowledge and
    understanding of theories and interpretations of international relations and to be
    able to relate this awareness to present day international issues.
  • To be able to research information and deploy it in class discussion as well as use
    it to support critical and analytical judgements presented in written work.
  • To complete regular class work, as set by the tutor, using a range of material and
    working both on an individual basis and as part of a group.

Assessment process

Students typically undertake a short piece of written work or give a brief presentation in class
at the end of each of the weekly set topics. Full tutor support for these tasks is provided in the
form of printed extracts from books, articles and sometimes topical journalism. The marks for
these tasks combined with an assessment of student performance in class discussion, make
up the final grade for the course.


Assessment Criteria


Grade A
Student understands a broad range of ideological concepts, has excellent understanding of their impact in relation to given historical situations, and shows excellent communication skills in constructing an original and persuasive argument, with reference to a broad range of evidence.
Grade B
Student understands core ideological concepts clearly, has advanced
understanding of their impact in relation to given historical situations, and can construct a sound argument to reflect that with persuasive use of evidence.
Grade C
Student understands core ideological concepts, has clear understanding of their impact in relation to given historical situations, and can construct an argument to reflect that knowledge accurately, with reference to a range of evidence.
Grade D
Student understands basic ideological concepts, has some understanding of their impact in relation to given historical situations, and some ability to communicate that information both orally and in written form.
Fail None of the criteria listed above followed.

Recommended reading

The two books below will introduce some interesting ideas on aspects of this course. You do
not need to purchase either of them before arrival but may wish to see if they could be
borrowed from a local library if you want to begin some preliminary reading.

This course does not depend on any textbooks being purchased by students once it is
underway as extensive use is made of an existing in-house stock of prepared extracts.

Peter Calvocoressi, World Politics Since 1945 2008 (9th edition)
John Lewis Gaddis, The Cold War 2005

Additional notes

This subject can be taken as a core or an elective module.