Pocket Guide to VietnamHST6063: Another Country: America and the Problem of Decolonisation

15 credits (Semester 2017-18: Spring)

Module Leader: Dr Sarah Miller-Davenport

'The United States in the 20th century declared itself at once a great world power and an advocate of national self-determination. This module explores the paradoxes and contradictions at the heart of America's efforts, sometimes through force, to mould the world in its image. By looking to a range of historical actors - from high policymakers to cultural producers to ordinary Americans - we will seek to both take understand, and critique, America's role on the global stage in the age of decolonisation.' Dr Sarah Miller-Davenport


Module Summary

This module explores America’s historical relationship to the problem of decolonisation and how the United States has shaped, and been shaped by, the forces of both colonialism and its collapse. Rather than approaching the United States as an actor in external struggles for sovereignty, it treats the U.S. as author of its own projects of colonisation and decolonisation. The course readings will examine the impact of the problem of decolonisation on both American foreign relations and domestic U.S. culture throughout the 20th century, with particular attention to how it structured categories of race, gender, and nation in American society. At the heart of our inquiry will be a number of key questions on the nature of U.S. global power. Is the United States an empire? If so, is it an exceptional one? If not, how should we characterise America’s role in the world?

Module aims

This module aims to help you to develop mastery in a particular historiography. More broadly, the module is aimed at helping you to develop your reading, research, and teaching skills. To that end, you will be responsible for advancing the quality of class discussion, which will focus on how to critically read both secondary and primary sources, identify and articulate authors’ key claims, and offer original analysis. Class discussions will thus also serve a professionalization purpose, familiarising you with the art of high-level intellectual exchange and giving and receiving constructive criticism.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, you should be able to demonstrate:

  1. Knowledge of a set of related scholarly texts within the field of American foreign relations;
  2. A more critical understanding of America’s role in the world as a global power;
  3. An appreciation for the nuances of historical actors’ own understandings, and misunderstandings, of their place in history;
  4. The ability to identify and compare different historiographical interpretations of the same events and developments and offer their own original analysis of same;
  5. Skill in translating critical reading into analytical writing.


Learning hours
Seminar hours Tutorial hours Independent Learning
10 1 139

The module will be taught in five, two-hour classes. Each will address a particular moment in America’s engagement with the problem of decolonisation. Readings will focus on the most recent, cutting-edge historiography on American empire and decolonisation. You will write a research paper of your own design on a specific topic that engages the themes of the course. Throughout the term we will spend a portion of each discussion addressing the writing process. You will, in addition, have individual tutorial contact with the module leader in order to discuss your written work for this module.



Assessment methods
Assessment % of final mark Length
Coursework 100% 3000 words

You will prepare a 3,000 word paper which relates to at least one key theme of the module.


Selected reading

  • Walter LaFeber, The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations, Volume II: The American Search for Opportunity, 1865-1913 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993)
  • Akira Iriye, The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations, Volume III: America, 1913-1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993)
  • Warren Cohen, The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations, Volume IV: America in the Age of Soviet Power, 1945-1991 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993)
  • Amy Kaplan and Donald Pease, eds., Cultures of United States Imperialism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993)
  • Penny Von Eschen, Race Against Empire: Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937-1957 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997)
  • Thomas Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001)
  • Amy Kaplan, The Anarchy of Empire in the Making of U.S. Culture (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005)
  • Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005) 
  • Paul Kramer, The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States, & the Philippines (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006)
  • Ann Laura Stoler, ed., Haunted by Empire: Geographies of Intimacy in North American History (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006)
  • Alfred McCoy and Francisco A. Scarano, eds. Colonial Crucible: Empire and the Making of the Modern American State (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2009)
  • Bruce Cumings, Dominion from Sea to Sea: Pacific Ascendancy and American Power (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009)
  • Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman, American Umpire (Harvard University Press, 2013)




*The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.