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20th Century Diplomatic History




Admissions requirements

Birth of the Modern World


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 provides a different narrative to standard interpretations of US-European diplomatic relations. It 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 be able to situate archival documents in a historical context, and interpret them in relation to published sources

  • 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:

This will include a weekly schedule whereby students, organized in a schedule, will provide a brief oral synopsis of the readings for each class. Each student will therefore need to prepare a short presentation at least once during the class.

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.

Document Analysis Proposal and Paper
This is the central part of the course's assessment. Each student must select a primary source document (archival source, oral history transcript, newspaper article, etc) and develop a paper that draws on secondary sources to explain the historical significance of the chosen item. The proposal will identify the document and outline why it is chosen and which sources will be used to explain its significance. The proposal acts as a guide for writing the paper. Only documents related to transatlantic relations in the 20th century are acceptable.


  • In-class participation 20%

  • Book review (+/- 1500 words) 20%

  • Written exam (take home) 20%

  • Document analysis proposal (+/- 700 words) 10%

  • Document analysis 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

Materials will be provided via Blackboard.


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