IR448      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 MSc in International Relations, MSc in International Relations (LSE and Sciences Po) and MSc in International Relations (Research). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

All students are required to obtain permission from the Teacher Responsible by completing the online application on LSE for You. Admission is not guaranteed.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access). In previous years we have been able to provide places for most students that apply but that may not continue to be the case.

Course content

This course will explore American foreign policy at the broadest level of analysis – the level known as grand strategy. The course will showcase the main theoretical perspectives that inform the study of US grand strategy and apply them to historical and contemporary cases of American statecraft. In this connection, we will assess the relevance of the US experience for theorizing about power politics and the implications of alternative theories for thinking critically about American behaviour. Students will gain an appreciation of the debates and controversies that animate the study of US foreign policy, 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 seminars 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 seminars or seminars 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)

• Fareed Zakaria, From Wealth to Power (Princeton 1998)

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

• Joan Hoff, A Faustian Foreign Policy (Cambridge 2008)


Essay (100%, 4000 words) in the LT.

Students will write a 4,000-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

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information