IR317      Half Unit
American Grand Strategy

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Peter Trubowitz CBG 10.16


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

This course has a limited number of places (it is capped).



Course content

This course explores American foreign policy at the broadest level of analysis – the level known as grand strategy. The course showcases the main theoretical perspectives that inform the study of grand strategy and applies them to historical and contemporary cases of American statecraft. In this connection, we will assess the relevance of the U.S. experience for theorizing about power politics and the implications of alternative theories for thinking critically about American international behaviour. Emphasis is placed on the debates and controversies that animate the study of grand strategy, as well as of the unique challenges posed by making foreign policy in the American political, economic, and cultural context.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totaling a minimum of 20 hours across Michaelmas Term (MT). This year some or all of this teaching will be delivered via online lectures and in-person classes or classes delivered online.

Formative coursework

Students will write short weekly blog posts on Moodle and provide an 800-word outline of their assessed essay by the end of Week 8. This will be returned by the end of MT.


Indicative reading

John Lewis Gadds, Strategies of Containment (2005)

Peter Trubowitz, Politics and Strategy (Princeton 2011)

Linda Weiss, America Inc.? (Cornell 2014)

Rebecca Thorpe, The American Warfare State (Chicago 2014)

Robert Kagan, The Jungle Grows Back (Knopf, 2018)

Joan Hoff, A Faustian Foreign Policy (Cambridge 2008)


Essay (100%, 2500 words) in the LT.

Students will write a 2,500 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 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 Relations

Total students 2020/21: 37

Average class size 2020/21: 9

Capped 2020/21: Yes (30)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Communication