The Imperial Presidency: U.S. foreign policy from Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama - HIST5106

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Autumn Term 5 30 (15) Aurelie Basha i Novosejt checkmark-circle


The course explores the rise and decline of the "imperial presidency" in the United States' conduct of foreign policy. During the Second World War and ensuing Cold War, successive Presidents were given considerable leeway to forge a foreign policy in their own image. A cooperative Congress and broad consensus about the United States’ place in the world facilitated an activist foreign policy. As this permissive domestic context began to erode in the late 1960s, the constitutional constraints on the President’s powers became more pronounced. The course will chart the evolution of U.S. foreign policy from Roosevelt to Obama: it will consider the substance of each incumbent’s foreign policy and their ability to work with existing constitutional constraints.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 33
Private study hours: 267
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods
Essay (3,000 words): 45%
Primary source analysis (1,500 words): 35%
Primary source 7-minute presentation: 20%

Reassessment methods
100% course work

Indicative reading

The University is committed to ensuring that core reading materials are in accessible electronic format in line with the Kent Inclusive Practices. The most up to date reading list for each module can be found on the university's reading list pages:

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Apply historical techniques to interpret the role of individuals (President, advisors), constitutional arrangements, domestic issues and international considerations in the formulation and implementation of U.S. foreign policy.
2 Demonstrate a critical understanding the sources of Presidential power as well as the constraints on the executive in the formulation and implementation of U.S. foreign policy.
3 Place contemporary issues of U.S. foreign policy in historical perspective and context.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Deconstruct problems in a logical and sequential manner.
2 Construct coherent and evidence-based written and oral arguments.
3 Demonstrate the ability to work independently and in groups.
4 Critically assess different types of primary sources, with an ability to understand their strengths and weaknesses as evidence for historical enquiry.
5 Demonstrate ability to provide persuasive written and verbal presentations while deploying a range of primary source materials and historiographical content.
6 Demonstrate ability to access, analyse and integrate primary sources into written and verbal assessments.


  1. Credit level 5. Intermediate level module usually taken in Stage 2 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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