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Unit information: The American Century in 2020/21

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Unit name The American Century
Unit code HIST10044
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Wallace
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The ‘American Century’ explores a remarkable period of history in the United States. The country transformed into one of the most powerful and wealthy nations the world has ever known, yet one that still grappled with fundamental questions over what kind of society it aspired to be at home. The unit explores this dynamic period through key themes such as American exceptionalism; race, ethnicity and immigration; gender and sexuality; government and politics; economy and society; popular culture and consumerism; and violence in all its forms. The unit examines social developments and political tensions that shaped the modern United States, including: visions of early century reform; the emergence of mass society and the ‘new woman’; the redefined role of the State in the aftermath of the Great Depression and in World War II; racial reform and the white supremacist backlash in the 20s and 60s; sexual liberation and counterculture in the 60s; the renewed power of Conservatism in the 70s and 80s; and the crises and culture wars of the late twentieth century.

Intended learning outcomes

Successful students will be able to:

  1. Identify and analyse key themes in the history of the United States during the twentieth century
  2. Discuss and evaluate the key historiographical debates
  3. Understand and interpret primary sources and select pertinent evidence in order to illustrate specific and more general historical points
  4. Present their research and judgements in written forms and styles appropriate to the discipline and to level C
  5. Assess the degree of continuity and change in U.S. social, political and cultural life over the course of the century.

Teaching details

Classes will involve a combination of long- and short-form lectures, class discussion, investigative activities, and practical activities. Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis. This will be further supported with drop-in sessions and self-directed exercises with tutor and peer feedback.

Assessment Details

1 x 3000-word Essay (50%) [ILOs 1-5]; 1 x Timed Assessment (50%) [ILOs 1-5]

Reading and References

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty!: An American History (2017)  Deborah Gray White, Too heavy a Load: Black Women in Defence of Themselves, 1894-1994 (1999)  Nathan Miller, New World Coming: 1920s &the Making of Modern America (2004)  Stephen Tuck, We Ain’t What We Ought to Be. The Black Freedom Struggle from Emancipation to Obama (2011)