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Grand Strategy and the Foundations of Anglo-American Statecraft (Module)

Module description


Grand Strategy means ‘big picture’ or ‘long-term’ thinking. The core emphasis of Grand Strategy is to secure the long-term security, peace and prosperity of a nation. It does not get bogged down in theory but instead asks: how we got to this point, and in what direction should we go in the future? Grand Strategy combines all the traditional elements of War Studies – history, strategy, statecraft, warfare, and diplomacy. It is not about ‘hard’ versus ‘soft’ power but understanding how they all these things come together to serve the long-term goals of a nation, or a group of nations. It also emphasises the role play played by key statesman, or strategists – such as Winston Churchill or Henry Kissinger – in changing the course of history. 

Politicians in the west are often heard talking about the need for a new Grand Strategy in the face of new threats – the return of great power rivalries, the rise of China, Russia’s invasion of Crimea, the implosion of the Middle East, and the spectre of global terrorism. Grand Strategy Programmes exist at Yale, Duke, and Columbia Universities. But Grand Strategic thinking is something for which the Department of War Studies at King’s College London is already world famous. 

More specifically, the module looks at the foundations of Anglo-American Grand Strategy in the past, present and future – starting with the French Revolution (often taken as the starting point of modern history). Britain was the leading superpower of the nineteenth century and America of the twentieth century. Since 1940, they have worked together to preserve an Anglo-American version of world order. The course will explore what ideological and strategic foundations their foreign policies were based upon. What do mean when we talk about things like ‘world order’, ‘geopolitics’ and ‘realpolitik’? And is the current world order now under threat?

The module is ideal for those students who want to think deeply and read widely about history but want to apply their knowledge to the type of problems faced by Prime Ministers and Presidents in the past, present and future.

It requires an ability to understand the grand sweep of history and a willingness to apply that knowledge


 At the end of the module students will have:

  • Developed an understanding of the meaning of Grand Strategy and its component parts;
  • A greater sense of the roles of history, strategy and statecraft in contemporary foreign affairs;
  • Familiarity with some of the classic texts and theorists of Western statecraft and raison d'état (eg. Machiavelli, Mill, Mahan, and Makinder);
  • An introduction to some of the key players and statesman who are most cited in discussions of Grand Strategy in Britain and America (such as Lord Castlereagh, Viscount Palmerston, Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, George Kennan and Henry Kissinger);
  • An understanding of the roots of the Anglo-American world view, by looking at Britain as the dominant power of the 19thC and America as the dominant power of the 20thC.
  • The skill of applying historical knowledge to contemporary foreign policy problems.

*Please note that module information is indicative and may change from year to year.

Staff information

Dr Maeve Ryan*

Teaching pattern

Typically, 1 credit equates to 10 hours of work. For a Full Year 30-credit module, this will equate to 40 hours of teaching time (2 hours per week) with 260 hours of self study.

Module assessment - more information

Coursework only*

Key information

Module code 5SSW2004

Credit level 5

Assessment coursework

Credit value 30

Semester Full-year

Study abroad module No