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The Presidency of Ronald Reagan, 1981-89

6. Foreign Policy

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about Reagan’s foreign policy, focusing in particular on: (i) Reagan’s approach to the Cold War and his hard-line attitude towards Communist regimes around the world; (ii) the invasion of Grenada in 1983; (iii) the Iran-Contra affair; (iv) Reagan’s meetings with Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva (1985) and Reykjavik (1986) and their negotiations regarding arms controls, including Reagan’s ‘Strategic Defence Initiative’ (SDI); (v) the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991; and (vi) the ways in which historians have thought about Reagan’s impact on the Cold War, including the historians Thomas Paterson, John Lewis Gaddis and Fred Halliday.


In this course, Dr James Cooper (York St John University) explores the presidency of Ronald Reagan (1981-89). After a brief introduction in which we think about Reagan’s legacy today, the subsequent five modules explore five key questions relating to his presidency: (1) How successful were Reagan’s economic policies? To what extent were the benefits spread fairly across American society?; (2) To what extent did Reagan reduce ‘big government’?; (3) What was the nature and extent of social change during Reagan’s presidency?; (4) To what extent did Reagan ‘revitalise’ the presidency and US politics in general?; and (5) How successful was Reagan’s foreign policy?


James Cooper is Senior Lecturer at York St John University, specialising in American history and Anglo-American relations. His recent publications include Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan: A Very Political Special Relationship (2012) and The Politics of Diplomacy: U.S. Presidents and the Northern Ireland Conflict, 1967-98 (2017).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Cooper, J. (2019, November 17). The Presidency of Ronald Reagan, 1981-89 - Foreign Policy [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Cooper, J. "The Presidency of Ronald Reagan, 1981-89 – Foreign Policy." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 17 Nov 2019,