Anglo-American Relations from World War to Cold War, 1939-91

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Nigel Ashton SAR M.07


This course is available on the MA in Asian and International History (LSE and NUS), MA in Modern History, MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation, MSc in History of International Relations, MSc in International Affairs (LSE and Peking University), MSc in International and Asian History, MSc in International and World History (LSE & Columbia) and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This course analyses the changing nature of the Anglo-American "special" relationship from its creation against the backdrop of the Second World War in Europe through to the end of the Cold War. It will illuminate the foundations of the relationship in terms of culture and ideology, and also the threat posed by common enemies in the Second World War and Cold War. The competitive dimension of the Anglo-American relationship will also be highlighted as a means of explaining instances of discord such as the Suez Crisis of 1956.

The topics covered include: Anglo-American relations in historical perspective; the creation of the Anglo-American alliance, 1939-41; competitive co-operation in war strategy and politics, 1941-45; the American "Occupation" of Britain during the Second World War; the emergence of the Cold War in Europe, 1945-49; the Cold War in Asia, 1945-54; the Palestine question; the Suez Crisis, 1956; nuclear relations and the Skybolt Crisis; Kennedy, Macmillan and the Cuban Missile Crisis; Anglo-American relations and European integration, decolonisation and Anglo-American relations since 1945; the impact of the Vietnam War; the Cultural Cold War; intelligence co-operation; Anglo-American relations in the 1970s; Thatcher, Reagan and the Cold War in the 1980s; the Falklands War; the significance of personal relations at the top; retrospect and prospects for Anglo-American relations.


The School aims to run in-person seminars, subject to circumstances, with some online provision if and where necessary. There will be one reading week in the MT and one in the LT. 

Formative coursework

Three pieces of written work must be submitted by students taking this course. These consist of two essays of up to 3,000 words in length and one timed class essay.

Indicative reading

For an introduction to Anglo-American relations, students should consult the following texts: K. Burk, Old World, New World: the Story of Britain and America (2007); D Reynolds & D Dimbleby, An Ocean Apart: the Relationship between Britain and America in the Twentieth Century (1988); J Dumbrell, ‘A Special Relationship’: Anglo-American Relations from the Cold War to Iraq (2006); C Bartlett, The Special Relationship: A Political History of Anglo-American Relations Since 1945 (1992; W R Louis & H Bull (Eds), The Special Relationship: Anglo-American Relations since 1945 (1984); D C Watt, Succeeding John Bull: America in Britain's Place, 1900-75 (1984). A detailed reading list will be issued at the start of the course.


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours) in the summer exam period.

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: 14

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information