nl en

The United States and Western-Europe in the ‘American Century’


Admission requirements

Students should have successfully completed their propaedeutic exam and both second-year BA-seminars, one of which is in the same specialization as the third-year seminar.


This course explores the relationship between the United States and Western Europe after the Second World War – a period hailed by the American journalist Henry Luce as the ‘American Century’ – from a diplomatic, cultural, political, economic and military-strategic perspective.

The United States emerged from the Second World War as the strongest power in the world challenged only by the communist Sovjet Union in the unfolding Cold War. In this context, the post-war period witnessed a strong intensification of relations between the United States and Western Europe, for example through the Marshall Plan, the establishment of NATO and the OECD, but also through cultural and intellectual exchanges. Some eagerly talked of the emergence of an ‘Atlantic Community’ while more critical voices preferred to look at these developments in terms of American political, economic and cultural imperialism - after all, the transatlantic relationship did not always develop smoothly, but also faced severe challenges causing serious friction across the Atlantic.

Thus, by studying the development of the post-war transatlantic relationship from multiple angles by studying both primary and secondary sources while engageing with relevant scholarly debates, this course allows us to place recent developments in the Atlantic relationship – think, for example, of Donald Trump’s claim that the European NATO allies should pay more for their own defence if they want the United States to maintain its obligation to defend them or the French demand to keep culture out of the negotiations for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – in a historical perspective.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student can:

  • 1 divise and conduct research of limited scope, including:
    a. identifying relevant literature and select and order them according to a defined principle;
    b. organising and using relatively large amounts of information;
    c. an analysis of a scholarly debate;
    d. placing the research within the context of a scholarly debate.

  • 2 write a problem solving essay and give an oral presentation after the format defined in the Themacolleges, including;
    a. using a realistic schedule of work;
    b. formulating a research question and subquestions;
    c. formulating a well-argued conclusion;
    d. giving and receiving feedback;
    e. responding to instructions of the lecturer.

  • 3 reflect on the primary sources on which the literature is based;

  • 4 select and use primary sources for their own research;

  • 5 analyse sources, place and interpret them in a historical context;

  • 6 participate in class discussions.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

  • 7 The student has knowledge of a specialisation, more specifically;
    in the specialisation General History: the place of European history from 1500 in a worldwide perspective; with a focus on the development and role of political institutions;
    in the track American History: American exceptionalism; the US as a multicultural society and the consequences of that for historiography; the intellectual interaction between the US and Europe;

  • 8 Knowledge and insight in the main concepts, the research methods and techniques of the specialisation, more specifically;
    in the specialisation General History: the study of primary sources and the context specificity of nationally defined histories;
    in the track American History: exceptionalism; analysis of historiografical and intellectual debates;

Learning objectives, pertaining to this specific seminar


  • 9 are familiar with the development of post-war transatlantic relations and related concepts and institutions;

  • 10 can apply relevant research methods and techniques that enable them to study the transatlantic relationship from multiple angles;

  • 11 are familiar with relevant debates in the historiography of post-war European-American relations.


The timetable is available on the History website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours

  • Seminar sessions: 13 × 2 = 26 hours

  • Required reading and web posts: 134 hours

  • Oral Presentation: 5 hours.

  • Writing a paper (including literature and source study): 125

Assessment method

  • Written paper (ca. 7200 words, based on problem-oriented research using primary sources, including footnotes and bibliography)
    Measured learning objectives: 2-5, 9-11

  • Oral presentation
    Measured learning objectives: 3-5, 9-11

  • Participation
    Measured learning objectives: 6, 9-11

  • Web posts
    Measured learning objectives: 3,5-11


Particiation: 10%
Web posts: 20 %
Oral presentation: 10%
Written paper: 60%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.


Written papers should be handed in within the given deadline


The written paper can be revised, when marked insufficient. Revision should be carried out within the given deadline


Blackboard will be used for:

  • handing in assignments, posting webposts, giving feedback, student discussion.

  • the distribution of relevant documents.

Reading list

  • Geir Lundestad, The United States and Western Europe Since 1945: From ‘Empire by Invitation’ to Transatlantid Drift (Oxford, 2003).

  • Richard Pells, Not Like Us: How Europeans have loved, hated, and transformed American culture since World War II (New York, 1997).

A full list of required readings will be made available on Blackboard.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch


Drs. Albertine Bloemendal


This course will include a visit to a relevant archive, possibly outside normal class hours.