Course Syllabus

“I shall not surrender this game leaving any available card unplayed.”

–Abraham Lincoln, July 26, 1862

“This is the best bad idea we have, sir, by far.”

–“Argo,” (2012)


Required Text

  • Herring, George C. From Colony to Superpower: US Foreign Relations Since 1776. New York:  Oxford University Press, 2008. [LIBRARY]

Additional Readings

  • Baker, Jean Harvey. “Learning From Buchanan.”  New York Times: Disunion.  February 26, 2011, [WEB]
  • Belohlavek, John. “In Defense of Doughface Diplomacy: A Reevaluation of the Foreign Policy of James Buchanan.” John W. Quist and Michael Birkner, eds.  James Buchanan and the Coming of the Civil War.  Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2013. [LIBRARY]
  • LaFeber, Walter. “The Constitution and United States Foreign Policy: An Interpretation.” Journal of American History 74 (Dec. 1987): 695-717. [JSTOR]
  • Mead, Walter Russell. “The American Foreign Policy Legacy.”  Foreign Affairs 81 (Jan.-Feb. 2002): 163-176. [JSTOR]
  • Pinsker, Matthew. Lincoln and War Powers. Dickinson College (2013), [WEB]

Buchanan Post

By MONDAY, March 4 [REVISED], students will create an essay post (about 800 to 1,000 words or 4 to 5 pages) hat analyzes one of James Buchanan’s most significant achievements (or failures) as an American diplomat.  Students may analyze any relevant period from Buchanan’s long career, such as his tenure as Minster to Russia (1832-34), US senator (1834-45), Secretary of State (1845-49), Minister to Great Britain (1853-56) or as President (1857-61), but they should focus on just one particular diplomatic episode or incident even as they also summarize his career and contextualize the topic.  All posts should include a thoughtful combination of primary and secondary sources.  Late posts will be penalized up to 5 points per day.

Mapping Post

By MONDAY, APRIL 8 [REVISED], students will create a custom-made Google Map or StorymapJS with companion essay post that helps document an episode from US diplomatic history.  Students may choose any episode which George Herring covers in his book, From Colony to Superpower (2008).  They should conduct research not only in Herring, but also from other secondary sources.  Using short quoted excerpts from these sources, they should be able to create at least ten (10) custom placemarks that help explain the story of the episode.  On the left column of the map, the placemarks should be arranged in chronological order.  On the map itself, these placemarks should be situated in correct geographical position and should include text excerpts and properly credited historic images.  Students should also provide hypertext links to relevant primary sources.  Students must post their maps along with a descriptive essay (about 800 to 1,000 words or 4 to 5 pages) by 5pm on April 7. Late maps will be penalized up to 5 points per day. The best map posts will also be published online.  Model posts and tutorials on how to create a custom Google map are available at the course website.

Profiles in Diplomacy Paper

By Monday, April 22 [REVISED], students are required to submit an 8 to 10-page biographical paper that analyzes any historic American figure mentioned in George Herring’s From Colony to Superpower (2008) who was not a US president. The goal of these papers will be to provide an insightful analysis of lesser known American figures who have made significant contributions to the development of US diplomatic history.  Good profile papers will summarize the subject’s life, but more important, will also aspire to provide deep analysis of his or her particular contributions, assessing both motivations and significance.  All papers should take care to include quotations from Herring’s book that help illustrate how to situate the subject within the evolution of US diplomatic history.  Some papers may choose to build on the earlier mapping post, which if properly conceived, might serve as a starting point (and even partial rough draft) for the profiles paper.  All profile papers must include a descriptive title and Chicago-style footnotes.  Late papers will be penalized up to 5 points per day.

Profiles in Diplomacy Web Project

By Monday, May 6, students should post a profiles in diplomacy project on their own Weebly site.  Each project should be designed as an online teaching exhibit, revised from material submitted earlier in the profiles paper, but now focusing on conveying an engaging multi-dimensional perspective (both American and international).  Once again, students should employ a variety of primary and secondary sources, but now benefiting from the online platform, they should strive to find ways to provide full-text access to primary sources whenever available.  Most important, students should also strive to engage classroom audiences with visual and multi-media tools such as image slideshows, maps, timelines, podcasts, or even short videos.  Students may embed and curate multi-media elements from outside sources, but they must take care to credit and caption those sources properly.  All text content at the student-produced websites should be original and cited with Chicago-style footnotes.  Students should submit a link to their website by email to Prof. Pinsker.  Late projects will be penalized up to 5 points per day.

Grade Distribution

Class Participation                  20 percent

Buchanan post                       20 percent

Mapping post                          20 percent

Profiles paper                         10 percent

Profiles project                        30 percent


Day Date Discussion Topic Reading Assignment
Tuesday 1/22 Methods & Expectations
Thursday 1/24 American Diplomacy Mead article
Tuesday 1/29 Revolutionary Diplomacy

US-French Alliance // Treaty of Paris

Herring, chapter 1


Thursday 1/31 Constitutional Diplomacy

US Constitution

LaFeber article
Friday 2/1 Exhibit opening: Dickinson & Slavery 10am to 4pm, 61 N. West St.
Tuesday 2/5 Partisan Diplomacy

Farewell Address // Alien & Sedition

Herring, chapter 2


Thursday 2/7 Jeffersonian Diplomacy

Louisiana Purchase // War of 1812

Herring, chapter 3
Tuesday 2/12 No class
Thursday 2/14 Jacksonian Diplomacy

Monroe Doctrine

Herring, chapter 4
Tuesday 2/19 Expansionist Diplomacy

Manifest Destiny // Mexican War

Herring, chapter 5


Thursday 2/21 Re-assessing James Buchanan Baker Disunion essayBelohlavek chapter
Tuesday 2/26 Civil War Diplomacy

Trent Affair // Seward’s Folly

Herring, chapter 6
Thursday 2/28 Debating War Powers

Lieber Code

War Powers exhibit
Monday 3/4 Buchanan post due By 5pm
Tuesday 3/5 Toward Global Diplomacy

Chinese Exclusion 

Herring, chapter 7
Thursday 3/7 Imperial Diplomacy

War of 1898 // Open Door

Herring, chapter 8
Tuesday 3/12 SPRING RECESS
Thursday 3/14 SPRING RECESS
Tuesday 3/19 Progressive Era Diplomacy

Panama Canal // Dollar Diplomacy

Herring, chapter 9
Thursday 3/21 Wilsonian Diplomacy

Fourteen Points // Treaty of Versailles

Herring, chapter 10


Saturday 3/23 REQUIRED: Slavery Workshop or Christy Coleman Public Lecture Denny 317, 10am to noon, 2pm-4pm //

ATS, 7pm

Tuesday 3/26 Commercial Diplomacy

Washington Naval Conference // Dawes Plan

Herring, chapter 11
Thursday 3/28 NO CLASS
Tuesday 4/2 World War II Era Diplomacy

Good Neighbor // America First // Casablanca // Yalta

Herring, chapter 12- 13


Thursday 4/4 Containment Diplomacy

Long Telegram // Berlin Blockade

Herring, chapter 14 (I & II)


Monday 4/8 Mapping Posts due At site by 5pm
Tuesday 4/9 Cold War Diplomacy

NSC 68 // Korean War

Herring, chapter 14 (III & IV)


Thursday 4/11 Rollback Diplomacy

Suez Crisis // U2 Affair

Herring, chapter 15


Tuesday 4/16 Vietnam Diplomacy

Cuban Missile Crisis // Gulf of Tonkin

Herring, chapter 16

[Political Ads]

Thursday 4/18 Detente Diplomacy

Détente // China Opening

Herring, chapter 17


Monday 4/22 Papers due By email by 5pm
Tuesday 4/23 Crisis Diplomacy

Helsinki // Iranian Hostage Crisis

Herring, chapter 18


Thursday 4/25 Reagan Era Diplomacy

Star Wars // First Gulf War

Herring, chapter 19


Thursday 4/25  Lecture:  Steve Luxenberg on Plessy ATS, 7pm
Tuesday 4/30 Interventionist Diplomacy Herring, chapter 20
Thursday 5/2 Lessons & Legacies
Monday 5/6 Final projects due By email by 5pm