IR317      Half Unit
American Grand Strategy

This information is for the 2022/23 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 not available as an outside option. This course is available with permission 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 totalling a minimum of 20 hours across Lent Term (LT). 

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 LT.


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 ST.

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 ST.

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2021/22: 30

Average class size 2021/22: 16

Capped 2021/22: Yes (30)

Value: Half 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
  • Communication