Not available in 2022/23
Cold War Public Diplomacy: United States Cultural Battles Abroad

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Victoria Phillips


This course is available on the 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.


The course is intended for students with or without a detailed knowledge of public diplomacy. However, students without a detailed knowledge of Cold War history are advised to undertake preliminary background reading.

Course content

Because the Cold War was a series of ideological battles for the “hearts and minds of mankind,” culture became a weapon. This seminar examines the United States’ export of its ideals to counter communism abroad. Although the course focuses on American-led projects, soft power, and psychological warfare, the reach was global and thus offers the opportunity to examine nations world-wide. The class opens with an examination of American political power from the 19th-century’s claims about the frontier through the American Century and Cold War conceptions of “truth,” “propaganda, " and "informational" practices. The intersection of American governmental branches and clandestine operations with international private foundations, the press, advertising agencies, universities, corporations, and private individuals unpack the complexity of export operations. The course continues to explore cultural diplomacy through radio, music, modernist art, dance, literature, books, magazines, film, television, architecture, and sports.  It examines the power of race, gender, and religion. The concept of soft power is challenged by its intersection with military operations, hot wars, or the threat of nuclear attacks in case studies of Korea, Berlin, Cuba, and Vietnam. Cultural exports are examined in the context of secondary source readings and primary sources including conventional archival documents as well as examples of art, film, and performances.


Seminars will either be on campus or via Zoom, as circumstances dictate.

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

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay and 1 other piece of coursework in the MT.

Students are required to produce one formative essay (3,000 words maximum) by the conclusion of the reading week in the MT. A formative primary source analysis exercise will be due at the conclusion of the MT.

Indicative reading

  • Leigh Armistead, ed., Information Operations: Warfare and the Hard Reality of Soft Power;
  • Richard Arndt, The First Resort of Kings: American Cultural Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century;
  • Greg Barnhisel, Cold War Modernists: Art, Literature, & American Cultural Diplomacy;
  • Laura Belmonte, Selling the American Way: U.S. Propaganda and the Cold War;
  • Richard H. Cummings, Cold War Radio: The Dangerous History of American Broadcasting in Europe, 1950-1989;
  • Mary L. Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy;
  • Danielle Fosler-Lussier, Music in America’s Cold War Diplomacy;
  • A. Ross Johnson and R. Eugene Parta, Cold War Broadcasting: Impact on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe;
  • Dianne Kirby, ed., Religion and the Cold War;
  • Melvin P. Leffler and Odd Arnie Westad, eds., The Cambridge History of the Cold War, Volumes I, II, and III;
  • Jane Loeffler, The Architecture of Diplomacy: Building America’s Embassies;
  • Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics;
  • Margaret E. Peacock, Innocent Weapons: The Soviet and American Politics of Childhood in the Cold War;
  • Alfred A. Reisch: Hot Books in the Cold War: The C.I.A. Funded Secret Western Book Distribution Program Behind the Iron Curtain;
  • Laura Roselle, Media and the Politics of Failure: Great Powers, Communication Strategies, and Military Defeats;
  • Tony Shaw and Denise J. Youngblood, Cinematic Cold War: The American and Soviet Struggle for Hearts and Minds;
  • Anders Stephanson, Manifest Destiny: American Expansion and the Empire of Right;
  • Stephen Wagg and David Andrews, eds., East Plays West: Sport and the Cold War;
  • Audrea J. Wolfe, Freedom’s Laboratory: The Cold War Struggle for the Soul of Science;
  • Odd Arne Westad, The Cold War: A World History.


Essay (55%, 5000 words) in the ST.
Presentation (10%), class participation (10%) and online assessment (25%) in the MT and LT.

On alternate weeks, students will post a brief essay on the syllabus topic (500 word-maximum – 25%) and participate in the seminar discussions (10%). During either the MT or LT, each student will give an in-class presentation relating to the week’s agenda (maximum fifteen minutes, 10%). In lieu of a final exam, students will write one maximum 5,000 word essay (including footnotes) based on a primary and secondary source analysis due in the ST (55%).

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Controlled access 2021/22: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

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