History Department

HIU 718

HIU 718 XW81

The History of American Foreign Relations, 1912 - Present

Professor Duane Tananbaum

Fall 2010
294 Carman Hall
Office Hours: Monday, 12:15 – 1:00
Wednesday, 9:00 – 9:30, 5:00 - 6:00
and by appointment

Click here for a pdf file of this syllabus


Learning Objectives

Since this is a graduate course, the main objective of this course is to help students improve their understanding of the History of American Foreign Relations in the 20th Century. By the end of this course, students should be able to discuss and write about the goals and objectives of U.S. foreign policy in the 20th Century, the methods and strategies employed to achieve those objectives, and the effects and consequences of U.S. policies. Specifically, students will learn about U.S. Policy toward Latin America; U.S. Entry into World War I; Isolation, Neutrality, and the Coming of World War II; the Origins of the Cold War; the Korean War; the Vietnam War; the End of the Cold War; U.S. Foreign Policy after 9/11; and the changes in the constitutional system of checks and balances between the President and Congress in foreign affairs. Students will write three papers to demonstrate their understanding of these issues.


The required work for this course consists of three formal, graded papers. Students are also expected to participate actively in class discussions.

Final grades will be computed on the following basis:

Class Participation 25%

Formal Papers 75%

Failure to complete any part of the required work for this course will result in a failing grade in the course.

Attendance and Late Arrivals

Students are expected to attend class regularly and to be on time. Attendance will be taken at the beginning of each class, and excessive absences and/or frequent tardiness will result in a lower grade. The instructor reserves the right to utilize quizzes at the beginning of each class if absences and tardiness are a problem.


The three papers for this course are on the following topics:

  • Woodrow Wilson and the League of Nations;
  • FDR and World War II;
  • The Vietnam War.

In these papers, students are expected to formulate, sustain, and justify a historical argument; support that argument with historical evidence drawn from the assigned primary and secondary sources; and produce a paper that is well-organized and flows logically. More specific directions will be handed out for each paper as the semester goes along.

Plagiarism and Academic Integrity

All work in this class must be your own. Any cheating on tests or plagiarism on papers – the use of someone else’s words or ideas without acknowledging them as such – will result in a failing grade in the course and referral to the appropriate college disciplinary authorities.


The following books are required for this course and should be purchased at the Lehman College Bookstore (one copy of each book is also on reserve at the Library):

Walter LaFeber, The American Age: United States Foreign Policy at Home and Abroad Since 1750, Vol. II (2nd edition)

Dennis Merrill and Thomas Paterson, eds., Major Problems in American Foreign Relations, Vol. II: Since 1914 (7th edition)

Additional readings may be placed on reserve or online, or distributed in class.

Reading and Written Assignments

All assignments must be completed by the dates indicated below. You need to have read the material by that time, prepared and submit written work when indicated, and be able to discuss the material and/or write on it in class.

Date Class Topics

Wed., 9/1 Introduction: U.S. Foreign Relations, 1750-1912


Wed., 9/15 Different Approaches to Studying
Problems, Preface and American Foreign Relations Chap. 1
The U.S. and Latin America LaFeber, Preface, pp, 193-284

photo of General Pershing and Pancho Villa

General John J. Pershing with Mexican revolutionary leader Pancho Villa in 1914.

Wed., 9/22 The U.S. and World War I
LaFeber, pp. 284-313
Problems, 28-36, 45-61

Wed., 9/29 The League of Nations
LaFeber, pp. 313-333
Problems, 36-45, 61-68

Wed., 10/6 League of Nations Paper Due

U.S. Foreign Policy in the 1920s
LaFeber, Chap. 11
Problems, Chap. 3

Wed., 10/13 U.S. Foreign Policy in the 1930s: From Neutrality to Pearl Harbor and the Growth of Presidential Power
LaFeber, Chap. 12
Problems, Chap. 4

Wed., 10/20 The U.S. in World War II
LaFeber, Chap. 13
Problems, Chap. 5

Image:Yalta Conference.jpg

Wed., 10/27 FDR Paper Due

Wed., 11/3 The Cold War in Europe: Containment
LaFeber, Chap. 14
Problems, Chap. 6

Wed., 11/10 Containment in Asia: The Korean War
LaFeber, Chap. 15
Problems, Chap. 7

Wed., 11/17 Eisenhower and the 1950s
LaFeber, Chap. 16
Problems, Chaps 8-9

Wed., 11/24 Cuban Missile Crisis
LaFeber, pp. 580-604
Problems, Chaps. 10

Wed., 12/1 Vietnam Paper Due

LaFeber, pp. 604-670
Problems, Chaps. 11-12


Wed., 12/8 The End of the Cold War
LaFeber, pp. 670-782
Problems, Chap. 13

U.S. Foreign Policy after 9/11
Problems, Chap. 14


Last modified: Oct 25, 2011

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