Systemic Change in the 20th Century: Theories of the Cold War

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Christopher Kent CLM 4.05


This course is available on the BSc in International Relations and BSc in International Relations and History. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

The course examines the nature of the Cold War system, the theories of its origins, causes and consequences, its relationship to systemic change and the reasons for its end. The course will provide a general analytical overview of the nature of and debates on the Cold War system and why it has been confused with all aspects of Soviet-American relations between the end of the Second World War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The nature and significance of the systemic changes which its onset and sudden end produced will be analysed. And from a regional and systemic perspective the course will attempt to provide explanations of how the Cold War was fought in different time periods and how the goals changed. Emphasis will be given to the changing nature of the relationship between ideology and power politics within the international system and to the differences and links between Cold War and Hot War and their respective requirements. There will be coverage of how domestic aspects of the Cold War, including intelligence, propaganda and culture interacted with regional and international developments, covert operations and psychological warfare. There will be a requirement to study at least one area of the world in more detail and an opportunity briefly to examine the historical characteristics of the Cold War and the international systems which preceded it.


10 hours of lectures and 8 hours of classes in the MT. 5 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 3 hours of classes in the ST.

Formative coursework

Students are expected to write four essays, each of a maximum length of 1,500 words, during the course of the year.

Indicative reading

R L Garthoff, The Great Transition American-Soviet Relations and the End of the Cold War (1994); Scott Lucas, Freedom's War The US Crusade Against the Soviet Union 1945-1956 (1999); W La Feber, America, Russia and the Cold War 1945-1996 (8th edn, 1997); Richard N Lebow & Thomas Risse-Kappen, International Relations Theory and the End of the Cold War (1995); J Young & J Kent, Global Politics: A History of International Relations since 1945 (2nd edition, 2013); Saki Ruth Dockrill, The End of the Cold War Era (2005); Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (2005); Steven Hurst, Cold War US Foreign Policy: Key Perspectives (2005); Kenneth Osgood, Total Cold War: Eisenhower's Secret Propaganda Battle at Home and Abroad (2006); Archie Brown, Seven Years that Changed the World: Perestroika in Perspective (2007), Vladislav Zubok, A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev (2007), Sarah Jane Corke, US Covert Operations and Cold War Strategy: Truman, Secret Warfare and the CIA 1945-53 (2007), Jonathan Haslam Russia’s Cold War (2011); Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd Arne Westad (eds.) The Cambridge History of the Cold War (2010).


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2012/13: 9

Average class size 2012/13: 9

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills