Plan II Honors

Mark Atwood Lawrence

Ph.D., 1999, Yale University

Associate Professor
Mark Atwood Lawrence



Vietnam War, U.S. policy toward Third World nationalism during the 1960s, and nuclear history


Mark Atwood Lawrence is Associate Professor of History and Senior Fellow at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at The University of Texas at Austin. He received his B.A. from Stanford University in 1988 and his doctorate from Yale in 1999. After teaching as a lecturer in history at Yale, he joined the History Department at UT Austin in 2000. Since then, he has published two books, Assuming the Burden: Europe and the American Commitment to War in Vietnam (University of California Press, 2005) and The Vietnam War: A Concise International History (Oxford University Press, 2008).  

Lawrence is also co-editor of The First Indochina War: Colonial Conflict and Cold War Crisis (Harvard University Press, 2007), a collection of essays about the 1946-1954 conflict. He is now at work on a study of U.S. policymaking toward the developing world in the 1960s and early 1970s.


T C 357 • Key Debates Hist Us Frgn Rel-W

43590 • Spring 2010
Meets TTH 330pm-500pm CRD 007B

TC 357
Key Debates in the History of U.S. Foreign Relations
Unique #43590
Tuesday and Thursday, 3:30-4:45 p.m.
CRD 007B

Mark A. Lawrence
Office:  GAR 3.204, 475-9304
Office Hours: Tuesday, 2-3 p.m.; Thursday, 11-12:30;
and by appointment

This course has three goals.  First, it aims to familiarize students with some of the most contentious and enduring debates in the history of U.S. foreign relations.  The class cannot, of course, survey the entire flow of the American past.  Rather, we will focus on particular episodes that have generated intense controversy and are, in various ways, representative of disputes surrounding other events.  

Second, the course aims to push students to think like historians.  Students will be encouraged to view the discipline of history not so much as an endeavor to uncover objective “truth” as an endless argument influenced by the concerns of the present.  We will spend a good deal of time critiquing scholarly works that present conflicting interpretations of contentious historical events.  For each of our case studies, we will ask why different authors have come to different conclusions.  For some of the cases, we will also read primary sources that will enable students to make their own judgments about disputed topics.  All of this work will, it is hoped, make students more sophisticated readers and researchers and help them frame their own research projects in the future.  

Third, the course is designed to help students hone their skills in writing argumentative essays – skills with enormous value not only inside the academy but also in law, journalism, business, and other career fields.  Each student will be required to write four papers of different styles and lengths, one of which will be revised based on comments from the instructor.  

1.    attendance and active participation in class, including two brief presentations (20%)
2.    paper of 1,200-1,500 words on the Spanish-American War (15%)
3.    paper of 1,200-1,500 words on the A-bomb (15%)
4.    paper of 3,000-4,000 words on Vietnam, with rewrite (40%)
5.    op-ed of roughly 800 words on the “war on terror” (10%)

Required texts
Kristin Hoganson, Fighting for American Manhood:  How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars (1998)
Stephen Kotkin, Armageddon Averted:  The Soviet Collapse, 1970-2000 (2001)
Fredrik Logevall, Choosing War:  The Lost Chance for Peace and the Escalation of War in Vietnam (2000)
Louis A. Pérez Jr., The War of 1898:  The United States and Cuba in History and Historiography (1998)
J. Samuel Walker, “Prompt and Utter Destruction”:  Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs Against Japan (revised ed., 2004)
Photocopy packet

Other important notes
•    All of the required books are available for purchase at the University Coop.  The photocopy reader is available at Jenn’s Copy & Binding at 2200 Guadalupe Street.
•    The instructor may occasionally hand out additional photocopies for use during class.  These should be treated as required reading.
•    This syllabus and all materials presented in class are copyrighted by Dr. Mark A. Lawrence.  No materials may be directly or indirectly published, posted to the internet, or rewritten for publication or distribution in any medium.  Neither these materials nor any portion thereof may be stored in a computer except for personal and non-commercial use.  
•    Students should be fully aware of university rules regarding academic dishonesty.  The instructor assumes full compliance throughout the semester and will strictly observe all university procedures in cases of violations.
•    The University of Texas at Austin provides upon request appropriate academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities.  For more information, contact the Office of the Dean of Students at 471-6259 or 471-6441.

Schedule of topics and assignments

January 19        Introduction to the Course

Case Study I:  The Spanish-American War

January 21        The Problem of Imperial America:  The “Orthodox” View
READING:  Ernest May, Imperial Democracy:  The Emergence of America as a Great Power, chapters 1, 17, 18 (packet)

January 26        The “Revisionist” View
READING:  Walter LaFeber, The American Search for Opportunity, 1865-1913, chapters 2, 6, 7 (packet)

January 28        Writing Workshop:  Argument and Organization
READING:  Hoganson, Fighting for American Manhood, introduction-chapter 4

February 2        The “Cultural Turn”:  Gender
            READING:  Hoganson, chapter 5-conclusion

February 4        The “Cultural Turn”:  Race
    READING:  Pérez, The War of 1898

Case study II:  The Atomic Bomb

February 9        Film:  “The Day After Trinity”
    ASSIGNMENT DUE:  You have now read several works purporting to explain why the United States went to war against Spain in 1898.  On the basis of this reading, how would you explain the U.S. decision?  Write an essay of 1,200-1,500 words stating your position on the matter.  Draw on the readings as you see fit, using footnotes as necessary.

February 11        The A-Bomb:  Orthodoxy and Revisionism
READING:  Henry L. Stimson, “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb,” Harpers Monthly, February 1947; Joseph Grew’s letter to Stimson, February 1947;  Gar Alperovitz, Atomic Diplomacy:  Hiroshima and Potsdam, excerpt; Barton J. Bernstein, “A Post-War Myth:  500,000 U.S. Lives Saved” (packet)

February 16        Assessing the Evidence
            READING:  Documents 1-19 (packet)

February 18        Writing Workshop
            READING:  Walker, Prompt & Utter Destruction, preface-ch. 4

February 23        Toward a Post-Revisionist Synthesis
            READING:  Walker, chapters 5-7

February 25        Writing about the Bomb (Guest visit by Professor Michael Stoff)
            ASSIGNMENT:  Work on paper due March 2

Case Study III:  The Vietnam War

March 2        Lecture:  Debating U.S. Intervention in Vietnam
ASSIGNMENT DUE:  Imagine that it is July 25, 1945, and you are ether the U.S. Secretary of War or Secretary of State.  (Make clear which role you are assuming.)  Write a memorandum of 1,200-1,500 words advising the president what to do with the A-bomb.  Do your best to confine yourself to information you could reasonably have known at the time and to offer an opinion that would have been regarded as reasonable.  Remember that the president is a busy person and needs a succinct, well-argued memo that presents its case forcefully.

March 4        Structure and Continency
            READING:  Logevall, Choosing War, preface-chapter 2

March 9    Designing Research Projects
            READING:  Logevall, chapters 3-5

March 11        Film:  “LBJ Goes to War”
            READING:  Logevall, chapters 6-8

March 23        Visit to the LBJ Library (meet in Library lobby at 3:20)
            READING:  Logevall, chapters 9-10

March 25        No Class
READING:  Logevall, chapters 11-12
ASSIGNMENT:  individual meetings and research

March 30        No Class
            ASSIGNMENT:  individual meetings and research
April 1            No Class
            ASSIGNMENT:  individual meetings and research

April 6            Writing Workshop    
            ASSIGNMENT:  individual meetings and research

April 8            Presentations of Research Results
ASSIGNMENT:  continue research and writing; half of class gives presentations

April 13        Presentations of Research Results
ASSIGNMENT:  continue research and writing; half of class gives presentations

Case Study IV:  The End of the Cold War

April 15        Lecture:  Explaining the End of the Cold War
ASSIGNMENT DUE:  Research papers on U.S. intervention in Vietnam

April 20        Reagan and Gorbachev
READING:  Mevin Leffler, “For the Soul of Mankind,” chapter 5 (packet)

April 22        Writing Workshop
READING:  Stephen Kotkin, Armageddon Averted, introduction-chapter 1

April 27        The Disintegration of the Soviet Union
            READING:  Kotkin, chapters 2-5
            ASSIGNMENT DUE:  Revised papers on Vietnam War

April 29        In-Class Debate on the End of the Cold War
            READING:  Kotkin, chapters 6-7

Case Study V:  Debating the War on Terror

May 4             Debating Recent American Diplomacy
            READING:  Op-ed collection TBA

May 6            Debating Recent American Diplomacy (continued)
ASSIGNMENT:  Write a brief (approximately 800 words) op-ed of the sort you might find in the New York Times taking a position on the conduct of U.S. foreign policy in the Bush/Obama years.  You are free to choose any issue or line of argument you like, but be sure to keep a tight focus on a specific issue or set of events.  The reading material for the May 4 class will help orient you about the range of possible issues and the writing style usually featured in editorial writing.

Curriculum Vitae

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