The Struggle for the Persian Gulf, 1945-2003

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Roham Alvandi SAR M.12


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

This course is capped at 30 students.

Course content

This course examines the international history of the Persian Gulf as an ongoing struggle among external powers and local actors for regional supremacy. Through the use of documentary primary sources, the course covers the history of this struggle for mastery in the Gulf in three stages. It begins with the decline of the British Empire and the rise of American power in the Gulf after the Second World War, in the face of Arab and Iranian nationalism. It then examines the long era of intense regional competition for primacy between Iran and Iraq, with particular reference to the Cold War and the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Finally, the course turns to the renewed Anglo-American military intervention in the Gulf since 1991 that continues until today. As a List B paper, the course makes extensive use of primary sources as part of the weekly reading assignments. These will include government documents, public statements, diaries, and memoirs. These primary sources will all be in English and will all be available on Moodle for students to access. Key topics covered in the course include: nationalism in Mosaddeq's Iran and Qasim's Iraq; the Arab Cold War and the civil war in Yemen; the Cold War politics of reform in Mohammad Reza Shah's Iran and King Faisal's Saudi Arabia; the British withdrawal from the Persian Gulf between 1968 and 1971; Nixon and Kissinger in the Persian Gulf; the secret war between Iran and Iraq in Kurdistan from 1972 to 1975; the rise of OPEC and the 1973/74 energy crisis; the 1979 Iranian Revolution; the Iran-Iraq War of 1980 to 1988; the Persian Gulf War of 1991; the rise and fall of Iranian-American détente under Khatami; Saudi Arabia and the United States before and after 9/11; and the 2003 Anglo-American invasion of Iraq


20 hours of seminars in the MT. 20 hours of seminars in the LT. 2 hours of seminars in the ST.

There will be a reading week in the MT and the LT.

Formative coursework

Students are required to submit one essay of 3000 words in the MT; one set of gobbet answers during the LT; and one 1-hour timed mock exam in ST.

Indicative reading

Roham Alvandi, Nixon, Kissinger, and the Shah: The United States and Iran in the Cold War (Oxford University Press, 2014); W. Taylor Fain, American Ascendance and British Retreat in the Persian Gulf Region (Palgrave Macmillllan, 2008); F. Gregory Gause III, The International Relations of the Persian Gulf (Cambridge University Press, 2010); Trita Parsi, Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the U.S. (Yale University Press, 2007); Charles Tripp, A History of Iraq, Third Edition (Cambridge University Press, 2007); Daniel Yergin, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power (Simon & Schuster, 1993).


Exam (75%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (25%, 3000 words) in the LT.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2016/17: Unavailable

Average class size 2016/17: Unavailable

Capped 2016/17: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills