The United States and the World since 1776

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Elizabeth Ingleson


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

This course explores how the United States has engaged with the world since 1776. After gaining independence from Britain, the United States looked westward, expanding its territory through indigenous dispossession and a pursuit of hemispheric dominance. By the end of the nineteenth century, the United States held overseas colonies. Soon thereafter, it became involved in one, and then a second, world war followed shortly by the Cold War and more recently the “forever wars.” Together we will think broadly about who has been involved in shaping U.S. foreign relations with the world. We will explore decisions made by diplomats and policymakers in Washington as well as the voices of a wide range of people who influenced and resisted U.S. power including missionaries, American Indians, businesspeople, women, workers, and immigrants. Over the course of the semester we ask three key questions: what is the U.S. empire and how did it develop and change over time? How has capitalism shaped and been shaped by U.S. engagement with the world? And how has the history of U.S. relations with American Indians influenced the development and projection of U.S. power?


Lectures will be online. The School aims to run in-person, subject to circumstances, with some online provision if and where necessary.

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

Formative coursework

One essay in the Michaelmas Term and one essay in the Lent Term.

One essay will be thematic and the other will contextualise a primary source.

A mock exam may be offered as part of exam revision arrangements.

Indicative reading

1. Walter LeFeber The American Age: United States Foreign Policy at Home and Abroad, 1750 to the Present (1994)

2. Jane Burbank and Fredrick Cooper, Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference, (2010)

3. Brian DeLay, War of A Thousand Deserts: Indian Raids and the U.S.-Mexican War (2008)

4. Emily Rosenberg, Financial Missionaries to the World: The Politics and Culture of Dollar Diplomacy (2003)

5. Kristen Hoganson, American Empire at the Turn of the Twentieth Century: A Brief History with Documents (2016)

6. Erez Manela, The Wilsonian Moment: Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism (2007).

7. Elizabeth Borgwardt, A New Deal for the World: America’s Vision for Human Rights (2005)

8. Mae Ngai, Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (2014)

9. Mary Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights (2000)

10. Greg Grandin, Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, The United States and the Rise of the New Imperialism (2007)


Essay (35%, 3000 words) in the LT.
Take-home assessment (50%) in the ST.
Class participation (15%) in the MT and LT.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2020/21: 35

Average class size 2020/21: 9

Capped 2020/21: Yes (59)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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