Timeline of Diplomacy

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 11231

Like a great never-ending, global soap opera, the story of international relations goes on and on. Learn about the most important events in the history of U.S. diplomacy and make your own predictions!


United States

learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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There were two foes, the two great world powers of the day. They had thousands of nuclear warheads pointed at one another, and had fought numerous wars using other countries as pawns in their game. One false move and it could have meant the end of the world.

Then, suddenly, the unexpected happened. Kids were dancing on the very symbol of the division between the two sides, the Berlin Wall. The Cold War was over. Check out The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, courtesy of No Comment TV (below), and imagine what it must have been like!

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The unexpected will happen in your lifetime, too. Reflect on the following questions and discuss with a parent or teacher:

  • What predictions can you make about the future of your world?
  • How will relations between nations change for the better or worse in your lifetime?
  • What do you hope for?
  • What do you fear?

Diplomatic history is being made all the time.

Just in the last few years (as of 2016), the U.S. has reached a major treaty with Iran, has negotiated over the Syrian Civil War with Russia, and signed a major agreement with India over atomic energy. Each of these has been controversial in its own way, but the impact of each of these events cannot be denied!

Let's get an overview of the greatest events in U.S. diplomatic history. Browse the list of historical events on the page, U.S. foreign policy/Timelines, from Citizendium.

Select the top ten events you think were most important to U.S. history. Write them down in a notebook or on a piece of paper. For each, write a short statement about why you think that event deserves a spot on the "top ten" list.

Plot out the events you selected on a visual timeline. Then, share your timeline and your written justifications with a parent or teacher. Reflect on these questions and discuss:

  1. What makes a particular diplomatic event "important"?
  2. How do these top ten events impact us in the present?
  3. What events in international relations happening now will impact our future?

Countries can become important in diplomatic history because of different factors: threats they pose, resources they hold, long-lasting friendships they represent, and others.

Next, in the Got It? section, you will take a focused look at one country you think is especially important in the history of American diplomacy.

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