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20th Century Diplomatic History




Admissions requirements

Introduction to International Relations or Birth of the Modern World are recommended.


In the twentieth century contacts between North America and Europe intensified on all levels: political, economic, military, cultural, intellectual. This course looks at various aspects of this relationship through the century, concentrating on the Cold War period, and assesses to what extent we can talk of an ‘Atlantic Community’. The rise of the United States as a superpower is at the centre of these developments, and during the Cold War US power and influence was directed towards opposing and containing communism and its foremost proponent, the Soviet Union, around the globe. Central to this post-war geopolitical strategy was a close relationship with Western Europe, which was put into action via the Marshall Plan, NATO and other transatlantic institutions. The United States also supported European integration from early on as a means to accelerate its economic and political recovery from WW II. The course combines a focus on Cold War foreign policies and the interests behind them with the activities of various governmental and non-governmental organisations and individuals who sought to improve transatlantic cultural relations, cooperation and understanding. It also examines challenges to the Atlantic Community from various perspectives, such as De Gaulle and the consequences of European Integration. In doing so it will ask the student to consider the current state of transatlantic relations and their continuing significance in a changing world where other regions are rising in significance.

Course objectives

  • To understand key themes and approaches to studying the transatlantic region

  • To appreciate the differences between types of source material

  • To develop a critical perspective when reading and analysing texts and source materials

  • To be able to organise an independent research project, based on a research question, and complete a clearly-written research paper

  • To be able to formulate clear arguments in discussion and debate

The course expands the approach of traditional diplomatic history (analysis of official diplomatic documents) with the use of other sources (oral history, materials covering business and public diplomacy issues, papers of NGOs and international organisations). By doing so it highlights the importance of both formal and informal diplomacy for building and maintaining international and transnational relationships, particularly in relation to transatlantic relations and the meaning and policy relevance of the ‘Atlantic Community’. Through readings and assignments the main goals of the course are to stimulate the interest of the students for US-European issues and guide them towards developing these interests – making use of archival and other sources – into a final research paper.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

The course is seminar-based, so the emphasis is on considering a particular topic each week and discussing it in class based on the lecture and the readings.

Particular components of the course consist of the following:

  • Web postings. Each student is required to submit an informal web posting before a designated class session. Five postings in total are required. Web postings are used to engage with that week’s topic, summing up and discussing one of the readings.

  • Written Exam. This will be held around half-way through the course. It is a short take-home exam, with written answers, covering the topics of the first half of the course.

  • Book Review. This requires each student to choose a book related to the course theme, and write a review of it, involving the following: description of contents; identification of its main arguments; types of sources used; relevance for the course topic.

  • Research Paper and Proposal. This is the central part of the course’s assessment. It involves drawing up a research proposal to clearly lay out the main components of the paper (draft title, research question, description, justification, and draft source list). The proposal acts as a guide for writing the paper. To guide the research process, a set of possible topics will be provided.


In-class participation 10%
Web postings (five, 300 words each) 20%
Book review (+/- 1500 words) 15%
Written exam (take home) 15%
Research paper proposal (+/- 800 words) 10%
Research paper (+/- 2000 words) 30%


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

Mary Nolan, The Transatlantic Century (2012)


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Prof. dr. Giles Scott-Smith