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Britain, the US and the World in the Twentieth Century

  • Module code: HS6005
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: Year 6
  • Credits: 30.00
  • Pre-requisites: Completion of modules at L5 or equivalent
  • Co-requisites: None

Summary

Of interest and value to students of history, politics, international relations and economics, this L6 option module examines offers a comparative historical perspective on twentieth British, American and world affairs. That century was of immense significance for both countries. At its outset Britain, with a worldwide empire, appeared to be the primary global power. At century’s end (and with the demise of the Soviet Union), it had been supplanted by the United States. Now, in the twenty-first century, there is speculation as to whether and for how long American primacy may endure. The prospect of American 'decline' is currently a source of anxiety among American policymakers. Historians have identified many reasons for American ascendancy and British ‘decline’ during the period 1900-2000. Were these two phenomena related, closely or otherwise? The answer to that question is by no means straightforward. Vitally important as were internal social and political changes, study of relations between the two countries – and of their relations to other states and nations – also provides us with insight into the scale and nature of historical change on a global scale. Focusing on key case studies in twentieth century British, American and international history the module provides stimulating study into issues of power and 'decline'.     

Aims

  • To familiarise students with empirical and theoretical approaches to the history of Britain and the United States in the twentieth century, through study of the interaction of national, international and world affairs;
  • To enable students to identify and assess key factors in the changing relationship between Britain and the United States, with particular reference to power and 'decline';
  • To inform student knowledge and understanding of debate about relations between the United States and Britain;
  • To develop students' skills of comparative analysis in relation to the history of Britain and the United States in the twentieth century.

Learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of twentieth century British and American history, in the context of international and world affairs;
  • Appreciate the interaction of ideas, opinion, power and policy in terms of relations between Britain and the United States;
  • Critically compare and contrast the historical experiences of Britain and the United States;
  • Show how historiography and key historical sources contribute to knowledge and understanding of British, American and world affairs.

Curriculum content

  • Comparing Britain and the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century.
  • 1900-1914: society, economy and overseas entanglements.
  • The First World War and its consequences.
  • Inter-war problems, economic and diplomatic.
  • Isolationism and Appeasement.
  • ‘Hot’ and ‘Cold’ Wars in the mid-twentieth century.
  • The myths and realities of the 'Special Relationship'
  • Britain, Europe, the British Empire and American world power.
  • The 1960s and 1970s: problems at home and abroad.
  • 'Hot Spots': Suez, Vietnam, the Falklands, the Middle East.
  • Ideologies: Thatcherism and Reaganism and foreign affairs.
  • Adjusting to new realities after 1989: the US, Britain and Europe.
  • World Power and 'Decline'.

Teaching and learning strategy

The module is delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars and two essay workshops.  Guest lecturers will provide additional expertise and insight on particular topics. There will be extensive use of source material, visual as well as text-based, with particular emphasis on contemporary press reports, photography and documentary and newsreel film footage. StudySpace will feature digitised documents and links to learning resources in the LRC and on the internet.

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive KIS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching 23 one-hour lectures 23
Scheduled learning and teaching 21 one-hour seminars 21
Scheduled learning and teaching 2 one-hour workshops 2
Guided independent study Guided independent study 254
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

The module is assessed summatively by means of two 2,000-word essays, one at the mid-point of the module and one at the end of the module. Summative assessment tests students’ comprehension of major historical themes, ability to critically historiography, sources, and understanding of the causes and significance of important aspects of British, American and international history.  Formative assessment figures throughout the module in seminars and essay workshops. Feedback and feed-forward enables students to check their knowledge and understanding and to monitor their progress through means such as documentary source analysis and reviews of historical literature.

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of twentieth century British and American history, in the context of international and world affairs Assessed formatively through seminar-based discussion, analysis, feedback and feed-forward; and summatively through essays
Appreciate the interaction of ideas, opinion, power and policy in terms of relations between Britain and the United States Assessed formatively through seminar-based discussion, analysis, feedback and feed-forward; and summatively through essays
Critically compare and contrast the historical experiences of Britain and the United States Assessed formatively through seminar-based discussion, analysis, feedback and feed-forward; and summatively through essays
Show how historiography and key historical sources contribute to knowledge and understanding of British, American and world affairs Assessed formatively through seminar-based discussion, analysis, feedback and feed-forward; and summatively through essays

Breakdown of Major Categories of Assessment

Assessment Type Assessment Name Assessment Weighting
CWK In-course Essay 50
CWK End-course Essay 50
Total (to equal 100%) 100%

Achieving a pass

It IS NOT a requirement that any major assessment category is passed separately in order to achieve an overall pass for the module

Bibliography core texts

Lundestad, G (2012). The Rise and Decline of the American 'Empire': Power and its Limits in Comparative Perspective. Oxford University Press. 

Reynolds, D (2000). Britannia Overruled. Longman.

Bibliography recommended reading

Berman, M. (2011). Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline. Wiley. 

Brendon, P (2010). The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781-1997. Vintage. 

Burk, K (2007). Old World, New World: The Story of Britain and America. Little, Brown. 

Ellwood, D (2012). The Shock of America: Europe and the Challenge of the Century. Oxford University Press. 

Hodgson, G (2006). More Equal than Others: America from Nixon to the New Century. Princeton University Press. 

Kennedy, DM (2001). Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945. Oxford University Press.

Kennedy, P (1989). The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. Vintage. 

Ovendale, R (1998). Anglo-American Relations in the Twentieth Century. Macmillan.

Patterson, JT (1997). Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974. Oxford University Press.

Schama, S (2008). The American Future: A History. Bodley Head. 

Young, JW (1997). Britain and the World in the Twentieth Century. Arnold. 

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