Henry Kissinger and the Global 1970s

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Alexandre Dab SAR.G.03


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, 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 ideas about international relations in light of his praxis as a statesman by asking, is Henry Kissinger really a Realist?


The School aims to run in-person classes and seminars, 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

A 2,000-word essay in 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)

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)

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

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

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)

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

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

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)


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, using primary sources, 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%).

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: 14

Average class size 2020/21: 13

Capped 2020/21: Yes (15)

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