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America and the Cold War

The module will begin with an examination of the origins of the Cold War, ending with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of a unipolar world dominated by a triumphalist America. Critical Cold War events in both the international arena and the domestic home-front will be examined with a particular emphasis on the conflict’s religious dimension.

  • Module Coordinator:
    • Dr Dianne Kirby
  • Duration:
    • Hilary term
  • Contact Hours:
    • 2 hours per week
  • Weighting:
    • 10 ECTS
  • Assessment:
    • 100% coursework (2 essays 40% and 60%)

The module will examine how at the beginning of the Cold War US-Soviet rivalry was transformed from a traditional great power struggle into a morality play that drew on firmly entrenched notions rooted in the American past, above all American exceptionalism and its sense of mission. These powerful notions influenced the way in which America conducted the Cold War abroad, including in Europe, Latin America, Cuba, Vietnam and the Middle East. It also had significant repercussions at home, including on the civil rights and peace movements, as well as key institutions such as the presidency, the CIA and the FBI. The module will assess how the atavistic representation of what was, in essence, a clash of two rival models of modernity as a life and death struggle between the forces of good and evil had profound consequences for America at home, the rise of the religious right, and abroad, the rise of militant Islam. The module will also examine the extent to which the image of a godless and evil enemy led to an irreconcilable conflict that precluded the very modes of diplomacy and discourse that might have helped avoid the worst excesses, costs and consequences of the Cold War.