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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Postgraduate (History, Classics and Archaeology)

Postgraduate Course: Empire or Continent?: British Foreign Policy in the Era of the Great War (online) (PGHC11465)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
Course typeOnline Distance Learning AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course provides a study of developments in British foreign policy, from the last years of the Victorian Era to the signing of the Treaty of Locarno in 1925. It focuses in particular on the policy of British governments, giving an historical analysis of the main developments in their relationship with Europe and the wider world, such as the making of the ententes, diplomacy during the Great War, the origins of the policy of appeasement and relations with other great powers.
Course description In the late nineteenth century and for much of the twentieth century, Britain was simultaneously a European, American, Asiatic and African power. The purpose of this course is to examine the ways in which British policy-makers manipulated their foreign and defence policies to maintain Britain's overseas interests, with a particular focus on European affairs. The chronological period covered by the course includes the time when Britain was at the height of its global power and the period when its position was coming under so much stress that policy makers were compelled to shed an increasing proportion of their overseas commitments. The topics that will be examined will include: the composition and ideas of the policy-making elite in Britain; the influence of the Treasury - and more generally of economic constraints - on foreign and defence policy; the invasions of Afghanistan and Egypt in 1878 and 1882 and their significance; the governance of the British empire in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; the decision to rebuff German advances for an alliance but to negotiate an alliance with Japan and ententes with France and Russia at around the turn of the century; the development of war aims during the First World War; the Lloyd Georgian revolution in British Government; the British response to the Bolshevik Revolution; the problems facing the British when they tried to disengage from Europe in the 1920s.

The focus of this course is predominantly on high-level policymaking in the diplomatic, military and economic realms, but it will all give attention to shifts in popular attitudes, parliamentary debates, the influence of electoral considerations, and the larger-scale transitions taking place in the international system. It also discusses the wider background factors which influenced British policy and touches on such diverse factors as Imperial defence, financial limitations and the influence of public opinion. In common with other graduate courses, it will include study and discussion of primary sources throughout.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate command of a substantial body of historical knowledge;
  2. demonstrate the ability to develop and sustain historical arguments in a variety of literary forms, formulating appropriate questions and utilizing evidence;
  3. demonstrate an understanding of the varieties of approaches to understanding, constructing, and interpreting the past; and where relevant, knowledge of concepts and theories derived from the humanities and the social sciences;
  4. demonstrate the ability to address historical problems in depth, involving the use of contemporary sources and advanced secondary literature;
  5. demonstrate clarity, fluency, and coherence in written and oral expression.
Reading List
P. Kennedy, The Realities behind diplomacy. Background influences on British External Policy, 1865-1980, (1981)

D. Reynolds, Britannia Overruled. British Policy and World Power in the Twentieth Century (1991)

Z. Steiner & K. Neilson, Britain and the Origins of the Frist World War (2003)

K. Neilson, '"Greatly exaggerated": the myth of decline of Great Britain before 1914', International History Review (1991)

J. R. Ferris, '"The greatest power on earth": Great Britain in the 1920s', International History Review, vol. 13, no. 4 (1991), pp. 726-50.

J. Charmley, Splendid Isolation? Britain and the Balance of Power, 1874-1914, pp. 277-327.

F. H. Hinsley (ed.), British Foreign Policy under Sir Edward Grey P. Salmon, 'Reluctant engagement: Britain and continental Europe, 1890-1939', Diplomacy and Statecraft (1997)

C. J. Bartlett, British Foreign Policy in the Twentieth Century

K. J. Calder, Britain and the Origins of the New Europe

R. Holland, The Pursuit of Greatness. Britain and the World Role, 1900-1970

D. C. Watt, 'The nature of the foreign policy making elite in Britain', in D. C. Watt, Personalities and Politics (1965)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - an understanding of the methods and skills involved in historical study
- ability to identify, define and analyse historical problems
- ability to select and apply a variety of critical approaches to problems informed by uneven evidence
- ability to exercise critical judgement in creating new understanding
- ability to extract key elements from complex information
- readiness and capacity to ask key questions and exercise rational enquiry
- ability to search for, evaluate and use information to develop knowledge and understanding
- recognition of the importance of reflecting on one's learning experiences and being aware of one's own particular learning style
- openness to new ideas, methods and ways of thinking
- ability to identify processes and strategies for learning
- independence as a learner, with readiness to take responsibility for one's own learning, and commitment to continuous reflection, self-evaluation and self-improvement
- ability to make decisions on the basis of rigorous and independent thought
- ability to test, modify and strengthen one's own views through collaboration and debate
- intellectual curiosity
- ability to make effective use of oral, written and visual means convey understanding of historical issues and one's interpretation of them
- ability to marshal argument lucidly and coherently
- ability to collaborate and to relate to others
- readiness to seek and value open feedback to inform genuine self-awareness
- ability to articulate one's skills as identified through self-reflection
- a command of bibliographical and library research skills, as well as a range of skills in reading and textual analysis
- close reading of textual sources
- an ability to produce coherent and well presented text, sometimes of considerable length
- an ability to produce text to meet standard presentational specifications as laid out in a style sheet
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserMr David Kaufman
Tel: (0131 6)51 3857
Course secretaryMrs Lindsay Scott
Tel: (0131 6)50 9948
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