Module HGH-3118:
The United States, 1877-1945

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Alexander Sedlmaier

Overall aims and purpose

  1. To acquaint students with the main events in United States history in the period 1877-1945
  2. To introduce students to rival interpretations of the period and equip them to judge between them
  3. To encourage them to synthesize their understanding of the period as a whole
  4. To encourage them to take a specialized interest in particular aspects of the period
  5. To enable them to interpret primary sources from the period and to integrate them in historical argument

Course content

The period 1877–1945 saw the United States transformed from a predominantly rural nation to a dynamic, diverse and industrialised world power. During this era, the U.S. became overtly active in foreign policy; the character of its population changed dramatically as new immigrant groups came from Eastern and Southern Europe and beyond; many strong challenges were mounted to the status quo as disadvantaged, marginal and minority groups – including working people, black Americans, and women – pressurised for rights and recognition; and the nation involved itself in two world wars and survived a crippling economic depression. The first half of the twentieth century saw the making of ‘modern America’, and many of the changes undergone by the country in this era continue to have repercussions today. This module will provide students with an in-depth understanding of the events and themes of this eventful era, introduce them to competing historical interpretations, and encourage them to study specific aspects of the era in which they take particular interest.

Assessment Criteria

threshold

Threshold students (D range) will demonstrate an appropriate range or depth of knowledge of at least parts of the relevant field, and will make at least partially-successful attempts to frame an argument which engages with historical controversies.

good

Good students (B range) will show a solid level of achievement in all of the following criteria:scope of reading; content (the depth of knowledge displayed); the focus and clarity of argument; analysis (the ability to judge between interpretations and back arguments with evidence); presentation; and the ability to use references and bibliography appropriately [see Study Skills Handbook and Style Sheet]. Answers will be expected to show detail of knowledge about the topic discussed and to engage with current historiographical controversies where relevant.

excellent

Excellent students (A range) will show this solid achievement (see previous paragraph) across the criteria combined with particularly impressive depths of knowledge and/or subtlety of analysis.

Learning outcomes

  1. Demonstrate a wide-ranging knowledge of the overall development of the United States in the period 1877–1945

  2. Illustrate a detailed knowledge of specific aspects of the period

  3. Judge between alternative historical interpretations of the period, including current historiographical positions

  4. Synthesise historical arguments about long-term developments in the United States, 1877–1945, and present detailed historical arguments about specific aspects of the period.

  5. Use primary sources as an integral part of historical argument.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
ESSAY 3000 word essay

Essay questions will test knowledge and understanding of the overall development of the period. Answers will be graded by considering scope of reading; content (the depth of knowledge displayed); the focus and clarity of argument; analysis (the ability to judge between interpretations and back arguments with evidence); presentation; and the ability to use references and bibliography appropriately. Answers will be expected to show detail of knowledge about the topic discussed and to engage with current historiographical controversies where relevant.

60
EXAM Two-hour two-question exam

Questions in the examination will test knowledge and understanding of specific aspects of the period. Answers will be graded by considering content (the range of knowledge displayed); the directness and clarity of the argument; analysis (the ability to judge between interpretations and back arguments with evidence); and presentation. Answers will be expected to draw examples and evidence from across the period, but to analyse the evidence they use with care; and to engage with current historiographical controversies. One part of the degree examination will require students to comment on primary sources (‘gobbets’) drawn from the primary documents of the course. Comments will be graded by considering their ability to set the passage in context and to analyse how it can help historians understand aspects of the period and/or can be used in historiographical debate. Comments will be expected to demonstrate a precise knowledge of the context of the passage; to focus tightly on the significance of the precise passage set (and not drift into general comment on the document from which it was drawn); to reflect upon their qualities as evidence; and to demonstrate how the source could be used as part of a historical argument (for example how it helps to judge between interpretations).

40

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Hours
Private study

Knowledge of specific aspects of the period will be gained through directed reading (the bibliography is divided into closely defined sections).

175
Seminar

Awareness of competing historical interpretations will be fostered through seminar discussions. The ability to judge between interpretations will also be promoted by discussion and testing of judgements in seminars. Feedback on coursework will also further student skills in this area. The ability to form and present historical arguments, and to back them with evidence, will be promoted by student practice in seminars. The ability to use primary sources as an integral part of historical argument will also be practiced during seminars.

5
Lecture

Knowledge of the overall development of the period will be gained through lectures, which will discuss both specific developments and their longer-term consequences.

20

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • problem solving to develop solutions to understand the past
  • understanding the complexity of change over time; in specific contexts and chronologies
  • being sensitive to the differences, or the "otherness" of the past, and the difficulty to using it as a guide to present or future action
  • producing logical and structured arguments supported by relevant evidence
  • planning, designing, executing and documenting a programme of research, working independently
  • marshalling and critically appraising other people's arguments, including listening and questioning
  • preparing effective written communications for different readerships
  • making effective and appropriate use of relevant information technology
  • making critical and effective use of information retrieval skills using paper-based and electronic resources
  • appreciating and being sensitive to different cultures and dealing with unfamiliar situations
  • critical evaluation of one's own and others' opinions

Resources

Resource implications for students

none, other than perhaps the purchase of a few books

Reading list

Kristofer Allerfeldt, Crime and the rise of modern America: a history from 1965–1941 (2011) John M. Blum, The Progressive Presidents: Roosevelt, Wilson, Roosevelt, Johnson (1980) Paul S. Boyer et al., The enduring vision: a history of the American people (several ed.) Alan Brinkley, The Unfinished Nation: A Concise History of the United States (3rd ed. 2000) [esp. chs 17–28] Alexander DeConde et al. (eds), Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy, 3 vols (2nd ed. 2002) Carl N. Degler, Out of Our Past: the Forces that Shaped Modern America (3rd ed. 1984) Leon Fink (ed.), Major Problems in the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era: Documents and Essays (1993) Eric Foner, Give me Liberty! An American History, vol 2: From 1865 (several edn.) Eric Foner (ed.), The New American History (rev. and exp. ed. 1997) [esp. chs 5 & 6 by McCormick and Brinkley] Colin Gordon (ed.), Major Problems in American History, 1920–1945: Documents and Essays (1999) Andreas Hess, American Social and Political Thought: a Concise Introduction (2000) Maldwyn A. Jones, The Limits of Liberty: American History 1607–1980 (1983) Gordon Martel (ed.), American Foreign Relations Reconsidered, 1890–1993 (1994) George D. Moss, America since 1900 (7th ed. 2012) Edward Pessen, ‘Mobility, Social and Economic’, in E. Foner et al. (eds), The Reader’s Companion to American History (1991) Edward Pessen, Three Centuries of Social Mobility in America (1974) Michael Schaller et al., Coming of Age: America in the Twentieth Century (1998) Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States: from 1492 to the present (2nd ed. 1996)

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: