Hist 498, Section 1, Fall 2023

Undergraduate Research Seminar 
on Recent US Foreign Relations

Hist. 498, Section 1
Offered by the Department of History, University of Arizona
Fall Semester, 2023

Tuesday-Thursday, 3:30-4:45pm
Class location: Cesar Chavez 306

David N. Gibbs, Professor of History
Office: Chavez 338 ​​​​​​
Email: dgibbs@arizona.edu
Office hours: Monday, Wednesday, 9-10:30am

 ** Class Announcements **
Students should check the announcements page regularly.


The purpose of this course is to introduce students to methods of historical research for recent and contemporary US foreign relations, with a special focus on the post-1898 period. The class will emphasize the following specifics: basic features of historical methodology, especially with regard to finding and interpreting primary source materials; how to use source materials to construct logical arguments; how to use theoretical perspectives (from both history and social science) to improve the quality of arguments; and the mechanics of designing a college-level research paper.

The main assignment will be a research paper of 15-20 double-spaced pages. It is important that you select a topic and begin at least preliminary work on their papers as early in the semester as possible. You will be expected to turn in a take-home midterm exam; a draft version of the research paper, and an optional revised version of the paper, all at intervals throughout the semester as indicated below. Students are expected to meet with me several times during the semester to discuss their progress in conceptualizing and writing the paper.

Note that student papers must meet the specified length requirements, or they will not be accepted. Students will receive significant feedback on their draft papers from the instructor, which will aid them in writing the final version.

Students must properly attribute any information or material borrowed from other sources. Students should also keep a copy of the paper on their computers, as well as all researach materials used for the paper (either electronic copies of hard copies). The reason for these requirements is to dissuade plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty. If I have any doubts about a student paper, I may ask the student to produce computer disks and/or additional research materials. For further information on the issue of plagiarism, see the UA History Department's Policy on Academic Integrity.


There will be no in-class exams for this class. Final grades will be based on the following three assignments, weighted by percentages as noted:

Take-home midterm, 5-8 pages -- 30 percent (due October 17);
Draft research paper, 15-20 pages -- 30 percent (due November 30);
Optional revised research paper -- 40 percent (due December 13).

The take-home midterm exam will involve a short paper, in which students will be asked to answer specific questions on the class readings, as well as class discussions of those readings. After the midterm, we will focus on the research papers. Scheduled assignments must be turned in on time, on the dates specified. Late assignments will be penalized. All students will be expected to use standard syntax and spelling, as well as correct Chicago-style citation technique. I will provide extensive information on how students can obtain declassified government documents and other obtain primary source information on US foreign policy, from reliable sources. I will also provide instruction on Chicago-style citation.

Please note: Students may not use material obtained through simple Google searches, and may not include such material in their research papers. Also to be minimally acceptable, the papers must meet the required length and must contain at least 20 sources. Students who hand in papers that do not meet these minimum requirements will have them returned for revision, with a penalty.

Class Attendance

This is a class in which consistent attendance is vital. Attendance will be taken each day. Note that readings are to be completed by the specified class date, as listed in the syllabus. Students will lose three points from their final grade for each class that they miss (unless they have a legitimate excuse for missing class, such as illness). If students miss a total of three classes, they will then lose six points from their final grade for each additional class that they miss, beyond the first three.

Note that the following circumstances constitute legitimate reasons to miss a class or class assignment without penalty: illness, death in family, religious holiday, or mandatory military service. Students who present such reasons must be prepared to present documentation, such as a note from a doctor, clergy, or commanding officer. Students are expected to arrive in class on time. Please do not come late on a regular basis, as this is disruptive.

Writing Assistance

The UA Writing Center runs regular workshops for students. Students may also consult the following classic: William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style, fourth edition (New York: Allyn & Bacon, 2000). It is short, inexpensive, and available in the UA bookstore. For those on a tight budget, an earlier version of this book is available online (click here for full text). 

For online assistance on how to construct Chicago-style citations, click here. For information on how to cite and use on-line research materials, click here.

Students with Disabilities

I will be happy to arrange the assignments in any reasonable way that is consistent with the student's needs, in cooperation with the UA Disability Resource Center. It is the student's responsibility to find out what the Center requires, to fill out the forms, and to undertake the necessary "foot work" for special arrangements. The student is responsible to make sure that all deadlines are met.


The following book is available free of charge:

Christopher Layne, The Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007). Full text available through Open Library, click here

Several articles listed below are available through one of several electronic databases. Other materials, as indicated below, are available through D2L electronic reserve. The readings from the electronic reserve and from the databases can be obtained free of charge at any computer on campus.

I may make some small changes in the reading list -- with advance notice -- during the course of the semester.


Week of August 22
Introduction to the class

No assigned reading.


Week of August 29
How the Cold War Influenced the Study of US Foreign Policy

David N. Gibbs, "Spying, Secrecy, and the University: The CIA is Back on Campus," Counterpunch, April 7, 2003. For full text, click here.


Week of September 5
Historical Methodology

Sigmund Freud, A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920), chapters I, II, and IX. Click here for full text.


Week of September 12
America as an Empire?

Layne, The Peace of Illusions, chaps. 2, 3, 4.

Note: Students must finalize a research topic and meet with me to discuss it with me by this week.


Week of September 19 
Humanitarian Intervention

David N. Gibbs, "The Military-Industrial Complex in a Globalized Context," in Ronald W. Cox, ed., Corporate Power and Globalization in US Foreign Policy (London: Routledge, 2012). For full text, click here

Layne, The Peace of Illusions, chap. 5.

James Petras and Steve Vieux, "Bosnia and the Revival of US Hegemony," New Left Review, no. 218, 1996. For full text, click here.


Week of September 26
Democracy Promotion and US Foreign Policy

William I. Robinson, Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, US Intervention, and Hegemony (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), chap. 5. Available through D2L.

Layne, The Peace of Illusions, chap. 6.


Week of October 3
The Military-Industrial Complex

Dwight D. Eisenhower, "Farewell Address," January 17, 1961. For full text, click here. Note especially section IV.

Arindrajit Dube, Ethan Kaplan, and Suresh Naidu, "Coups, Corporations, and Classified Information," Quarterly Journal of Economics 126, no. 3, 2011. For full text, click here (click on "PDF").


Week of October 10
US Policy during the Post-Cold War Period

Layne, Peace of Illusions, chap. 7

John J. Mearsheimer, "Why the Ukraine Crisis is the West's Fault: The Liberal Delusions that Provoked Putin," Foreign Affairs, September/October, 2014. For full text, click here.

Take-Home Midterms are handed out October 10; due October 17


Week of October 17
Techniques of Writing

George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language," in George Orwell: A Collection of Essays (Garden City, NY: Doubleday-Anchor Books, 1954). For full text, click here.  

Take home midterms are due October 17. Hard copy only, placed in my mailbox in Chavez 415. 


October 24

Return graded papers, discuss with Professor Gibbs


Note: During the next several weeks, students are required to meet with me individually, to discuss their papers. More than one meeting is strongly encouraged.


November 30

Drafts of research papers are due on Today, 5:00pm. Hard copy only, placed in my mailbox in Chavez 415. Make sure to attach copies of the first page of each source cited.


December 5

Please come to class so that I can return all student papers. I will discuss graded papers individually with students. 


Optional revised research papers due: December 14, 5:00pm. Hard copy only, placed in my personal mailbox Chavez 415.




Course Objectives:

Understand more clearly issues of theories, events, and controversies related to the history of US foreign relations. 

Demonstrate a well-developed critical faculty for distinguishing among the various theoretical and ideological interpretations related to US foreign relations. 

Expected outcomes from the course:

Write clear, well-organized prose in the area of US foreign relations, as indicated by student performance on midterm and final exams.

Analyze primary sources in light of their historical context, audience, and author’s intent, pertaining to US foreign relations.

Recognize and evaluate competing historical interpretations pertaining to US foreign relations.

The UA’s policy concerning Class Attendance, Participation, and Administrative Drops is available at: https://deanofstudents.arizona.edu/policies/attendance-policies-and-practices.  

The UA policy regarding absences for any sincerely held religious belief, observance or practice will be accommodated where reasonable, http://policy.arizona.edu/human-resources/religious-accommodation-policy.

Absences pre-approved by the UA Dean of Students (or Dean Designee) will be honored. See: https://deanofstudents.arizona.edu/policies/attendance-policies-and-practices.  

University policy regarding grades and grading systems is available at http://catalog.arizona.edu/policy/grades-and-grading-system.

Classroom behavior policy: Students are expected to behave themselves at all times. 

Information contained in the course syllabus, other than the grade and absence policy, may be subject to change with advance notice, as deemed appropriate by the instructor.

The University is committed to creating and maintaining an environment free of discrimination; see http://policy.arizona.edu/human-resources/nondiscrimination-and-anti-ha…

Students are encouraged to share intellectual views and discuss freely the principles and applications of course materials. However, graded work/exercises must be the product of independent effort unless otherwise instructed. Students are expected to adhere to the UA Code of Academic Integrity as described in the UA General Catalog. See: http://deanofstudents.arizona.edu/academic-integrity/students/academic-….

The UA Threatening Behavior by Students Policy prohibits threats of physical harm to any member of the University community, including to oneself. See http://policy.arizona.edu/education-and-student-affairs/threatening-beh…