Not available in 2019/20
IR448      Half Unit
American Grand Strategy

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Peter Trubowitz CLM 4.05


This course is available on the MSc in International Relations, MSc in International Relations (Research) and MSc in International Relations Theory. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This course will explore American foreign policy at the broadest level of analysis - the level known as grand strategy. The course will showcase the main theoretical perspectives that inform the study of US grand strategy and apply them to historical and contemporary cases of American statecraft. In this connection, we will assess the relevance of the US experience for theorizing about power politics and the implications of alternative theories for thinking critically about American behavior. Students will gain an appreciation of the debates and controversies that animate the study of US foreign policy, as well as of the unique challenges posed by making foreign policy in the American political, economic, and cultural context.


10 hours of lectures and 20 hours of seminars in the LT.

Students in this class will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students will write one short (1,500) words formative essay based on questions from previous exam papers. The essay will be due in Week 7 of the LT.  Students will be able to use the essay to explore ideas that they might wish to develop in their assessed essay.

Students will provide a 1-2 page outline of their assessed essay by the end of Week 9 LT.  This will be returned with comments and feedback by the end of the LT.

Indicative reading

  • John Lewis Gadds, Strategies of Containment (2005)
  • Peter Trubowitz, Politics and Strategy (Princeton 2011)
  • Linda Weiss, America Inc.? (Cornell 2014)
  • Fareed Zakaria, From Wealth to Power (Princeton 1998)



Essay (100%, 4000 words) in the ST.

Students will write a 4,000-word assessed essay selecting from a list of topics and questions provided by the course coordinator.

The essay will be due at the end of Week 1 of the ST.

Student performance results

(2015/16 - 2017/18 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 21.8
Merit 58.2
Pass 16.4
Fail 3.6

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2018/19: 30

Average class size 2018/19: 15

Controlled access 2018/19: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information