nl en

Modern United States Foreign Policy


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA International Relations.


This course invites students to study the foreign policy of the United States in the modern era, defined as the 20th and 21st centuries. The course is split into three parts: history, processes, and issues. The historical component of the course focuses on understanding key traditions of thought regarding American foreign policy throughout history. We will explore doctrines like containment, isolationism, and pre-emption. The section on pocesses focuses on the making of U.S. foreign policy and the influences on it. For instance, what is the relationship between the media, public opinion, and policy? Do unelected bureaucrats in a “deep state” retain control over U.S. foreign policy, or are democratically-elected leaders most influential? What is the role of Congress in foreign policy? Finally, we explore issues which are both geographic, ethical, and practical. For instance, what impact is the rise of China having on U.S. foreign policy? Where is the correct balance between privacy and surveillance in U.S. intelligence practices? And what, if anything, does the United States owe the world?

Course objectives

Concise description of the course objectives formulated in terms of knowledge, insight and skills students will have acquired at the end of the course. The relationship between these objectives and achievement levels for the programme should be evident.
Students will:

  • Gain an understanding of key traditions in the history of American foreign relations, along with key events;

  • Gain an understanding of the key domestic processes involved in the formation of American policy, and the role of actors like the presidency, the executive branch, Congress, and the press;

  • Be able to understand and comment upon key issues posed to American foreign relations – and the issues posed by American power to the rest of the world;

  • Be able to synthesize their knowledge into presentations and essays which draw links between the various elements of the course.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Assessment method


  • Weekly reading summaries

  • Critical review

  • Presentation

  • Final essay


  • Weekly reading summaries, 15%

  • Critical review, 20%

  • Presentation, 15%

  • Final essay, 50%


The resit is only available if the final essay is insufficient.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

A syllabus will be provided before the course begins containing information on the literature to be used in the course. Any student wishing to start early should contact the instructor.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga


Not applicable