Henry Kissinger and the Global 1970s

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Roham Alvandi SAR M.12


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

Course content

Henry Kissinger might be the most controversial American statesman of the twentieth century. More than forty years since he left office, he remains the focus of intense popular and scholarly debate concerning the uses of American power during the Cold War. This course offers an introduction to these controversies in the study of ‘America and the World’ in the 1970s. The course begins by examining how Kissinger’s ideas about foreign policy evolved during his early life in wartime Germany and his career as a foreign policy intellectual at Harvard University. The majority of the course is then concerned with the central controversies of Kissinger’s time in office as national security adviser and secretary of state between 1969 and 1976. Each week students will examine Kissinger’s role in shaping and implementing American foreign policy in a particular theatre of the global Cold War, focusing on the major crises and conflicts of the decade. Students read and reflect on extracts from Kissinger’s memoirs as a primary source each week, in conjunction with the latest historical research on that topic. They are asked to engage with ongoing historiographical debates about Kissinger’s record and legacy and to form their own judgements, based on their reading of primary and secondary sources. Finally, students are asked to reflect on Kissinger’s writings on international relations since leaving office and to ask what, if anything, we have to learn from him.


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

There will be a reading week in week 6 of the Michaelmas and the Lent Terms.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the MT.

A 2,000-word review essay of one required reading from the Michaelmas Term.

Indicative reading

Roham Alvandi, Nixon, Kissinger, and the Shah: The United States and Iran in the Cold War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014)

Garry Bass, The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide (New York: Knopf, 2013)

John Bew, Realpolitik: A History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015)

Paul Chamberlin, The Global Offensive: the United States, the Palestine Liberation Organisation, and the Making of the Post-Cold War Order (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012)

Mario Del Pero, The Eccentric Realist: Henry Kissinger and the Shaping of American Foreign Policy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010)

Niall Ferguson, Kissinger: 1923-1968: The Idealist (New York: Penguin, 2015)

Greg Grandin, Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2015)

Jussi Hanhimäki, The Flawed Architect: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004)

Tanya Harmer, Allende’s Chile and the Inter-American Cold War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011)

Christopher Hitchens, The Trial of Henry Kissinger (London: Verso, 2001)

Alistair Horne, Kissinger: 1973, The Crucial Year (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009)

Barbara Keys, Reclaiming American Virtue: The Human Rights Revolution of the 1970s (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014)

Henry Kissinger, American Foreign Policy: Three Essays (New York: W. W. Norton, 1969)

Henry Kissinger, White House Years (Boston, Little, Brown, 1979)

Henry Kissinger, Years of Upheaval (Boston: Little, Brown, 1982)

Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994)

Henry Kissinger, Years of Renewal (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999)

Henry Kissinger, Crisis: The Anatomy of Two Major Foreign Policy Crises (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003)

Henry Kissinger, Ending the Vietnam War: A History of America’s Involvement in and Extrication from the Vietnam War (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003)

Henry Kissinger, World Order (New York: Penguin, 2014)

Bruce Kuklick, Blind Oracles: Intellectuals and War from Kennan to Kissinger (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006)

Mark Atwood Lawrence, The Vietnam War: A Concise International History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008)

Frederick Logevall and Andrew Preston (eds.), Nixon in the World: American Foreign Relations, 1969-1977 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008)

Lien-Hang T. Nguyen, Hanoi’s War: An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam (Chapell Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2012)

Daniel Sargent, A Superpower Transformed: The Remaking of American Foreign Relations in the 1970s (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)

William Shawcross, The Shah’s Last Ride: The Fate of an Ally (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988)

Sarah Snyder, Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War: A Transnational History of the Helsinki Network (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011)

Jeremi Suri, Henry Kissinger and the American Century (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007)

Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007)

Salim Yaqub, Imperfect Strangers: Americans, Arabs, and U.S.-Middle East Relations in the 1970s (New York: Cornell University Press, 2016)


Essay (35%, 3500 words) in the LT.
Essay (35%, 3500 words) in the ST.
Presentation (15%) and class participation (15%) in the MT and LT.

3,500-word review essay on an extract from Kissinger’s memoirs due in the Lent Term (35%); 3,500-word review essay on Hitchens’s Trial of Henry Kissinger, using primary sources, due in the Summer Term (35%); Class presentation (15%); Class participation (15%).

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2018/19: Unavailable

Average class size 2018/19: Unavailable

Capped 2018/19: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills