Module Details

HR267-5-FY-CO: 'The Special Relationship'? Anglo-American Relations 1850-2005

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Year: 2017/18
Department: History
Essex credit: 30
ECTS credit: 15
Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students: Yes
Full Year Module Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students for a Single Term: Yes
Outside Option: Yes

Supervisor: Dr Andrew Priest
Teaching Staff: Dr Andrew Priest
Contact details: Belinda Waterman, Student Administrator, Department of History;

Module is taught during the following terms
Autumn Spring Summer

Module Description

Both Britain and the United States are major, industrialized, urbanized nations, democracies with considerable international interests. Both share a common language and (to some extent) heritage, yet in many respects the two nations have varied greatly in their historical development. In the late nineteenth century, Great Britain was the world's leading power and the 'workshop of the world', whilst the United States was still preoccupied with extending its boundaries across the continent. Yet, by the time of the Second World War, the position had been reversed, with the United States dominant in both political and economic terms. In the face of declining power, the British cultivated the concept of a 'special relationship' between themselves and the Americans, one that has been particularly marked in two key periods: the Second World War and the current 'war on terror'.

After a discussion of the forging of the idea of this 'special relationship' during the Second World War, the nature and the degree of co-operation and tension between the two countries will be examined with reference to a number of significant themes, such as popular culture, the Empire, defence, the Cold War and Europe. The concluding sessions will look at the impact of the end of the Cold war, and Anglo-American relations during the Blair premiership, culminating in the 'war on terror'. Throughout the module, we will discuss the notion of the special relationship' and how contemporary commentators and historians alike have employed that concept. We will consider, not only whether there has been a 'special relationship', but also the extent to which such a concept, by its very existence, shapes the historian's approach to Anglo-American relations. In doing so, we will reflect upon the usefulness - or otherwise - of such concepts in the study of history.

Learning and Teaching Methods

One-hour lecture and one-hour seminar per week.


50 per cent Coursework Mark, 50 per cent Exam Mark


Two 3000-word essays.

Exam Duration and Period

3:00 during Summer Examination period.

Further information