Diplomatic History Post 1945

Second year module

Lecturer: Dr Richard Lock-Pullan

This course will focus on international relations and the changes in the international system from the outbreak of the Second world War up until the end of the Cold War. In the first term the emphasis will be on the breakdown of the old European order and the emergence of a bipolar world divided into two opposing blocs, one led by the United States and the other by the Soviet Union. Topics to be considered here include the origins of WWII and the diplomacy of the grand alliance between 1941 and 1945; the origins of the cold war in the immediate post-war period in Europe; its extension to Asia; the European retreat from Empire in the immediate post-war period and the strategic balance between East and West in the 1950s.

The second term will concentrate on the period from the mid 1960s to 1989 when the domination of the two superpowers was being challenged not only within the blocs themselves but by the emergence of new centres of power. Here we will focus on decolonisation and its legacy; the end of empire and superpower involvement in the Third World; China's relations with the US and the USS; the continuing conflict in the Middle East; the rise and fall of détente in the 1970s and the transformation of the postwar order in the 1980s with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

Learning outcomes

At the end of the module students are expected to:

  • To further extend students’ knowledge through an in-depth examination of the diplomatic history of the period 1939 to 1989
  • To further develop students’ skills in historical analysis of the Second World War and the Cold War era which followed it


  • Term One: 1,500 words assessed essay (40%)
  • Term Two: Presentation (10%)
  • Term Three: 2 hour examination (50%)