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Module HGH-3137:
USA, 1945-2001

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Mrs Sarah Watson

Overall aims and purpose

This module focusses on the social, cultural and political history of the United States of America in the period from 1945 (the end of the Second World War) to 2001 (which witnessed the ‘9/11’ terrorist attacks on New York and Washington DC). The module is divided into two halves, the first focussing on domestic developments (the main theme of lectures) and the second on international developments and foreign policy (the main theme of seminars). Making extensive use of primary evidence [from printed material to television, film and popular music] the module aims to challenge some of the popular myths that inform popular understanding of US history during this period. The module will acquaint students with the historical and intellectual debates that surround many of the major events and issues. Lectures on the module will largely focus on domestic issues and the role of key individuals including the creation of an ‘affluent society’ in the 1950s; JFK; the impact of the Kennedy assassination; LBJ and the Great Society; the battle for civil rights; Martin Luther King and Malcolm X; Richard Nixon; Henry Kissinger; the Watergate scandal and its impact; crime and social dislocation in the 1970s; Jimmy Carter and the 'new' presidency; Ronald Reagan; the rise of new right in the 1980s; Bill Clinton; post-Cold war American society; George W. Bush and the 'stolen' election of 2000; 9/11 and its impact. Seminars on the module will largely focus on foreign policy developments including the origins of the Cold War; the Korean war; the Cuban Missile Crisis; the ‘race to the moon’, the Vietnam war; the politics of détente; the end of the cold war; and the road to 9/11.

Course content

Lectures on the module will focus on the social and domestic history of the United States and will include: Affluent society – America in the 1950s; The Kennedy assassination and its aftermath; LBJ and ‘the great society’; Civil Rights and the problem of ‘black America’; Nixon and the Watergate scandal; Crime and social dislocation; Ronald Reagan and the rise of Conservative America; Bill Clinton and post-Cold war American society; 9/11 and its impact. Seminars on the module will focus on foreign policy developments and will include: the origins of the Cold War; the Korean war; the Cuban missile crisis; the ‘race to the moon’; the Vietnam war and its aftermath; the politics of détente; Reaganism and the spectre of communism; the end of the cold war; the road to 9/11.

Assessment Criteria


Good students (B- to B+) will show a solid level of achievement in all the criteria of the paragraphs above.


Excellent students (A- and above) will show this depth of achievement across the criteria combined with particularly impressive depths of knowledge and / or subtlety of analysis.


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

Learning outcomes

  1. Analyse and assess the importance of primary evidence in understanding the principal developments of the period.

  2. Demonstrate a close familiarity with a range of primary sources

  3. Understand and master research methodology including the evaluation of specialist articles and literary reviews.

  4. Present clear, cogent, evidence-based argument in essays and examinations.

  5. Demonstrate a familiarity with the key concepts used in this area of study, including the concepts of Cold War, domino theory, civil rights, black power and Presidential power.

  6. Demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of the domestic and international developments in the history of the United States from 1945 to 2005.

  7. Demonstrate a detailed awareness of different and sometimes competing historical interpretations in this area of study and an ability to assess and evaluate their relative merits.

Assessment Methods

Teaching and Learning Strategy


Two 1-hour lectures per week for ten weeks


One seminar per week for eleven weeks

Private study 169

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • 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.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Management - Able to utilise, coordinate and control resources (human, physical and/or financial)
  • 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
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in

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
  • being sensitive to the role of perceptions of the past in contemporary cultures
  • 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
  • demonstrating a positive and can-do approach to practical problems
  • demonstrating an innovative approach, creativity, collaboration and risk taking
  • presenting effective oral presentations for different kinds of audiences, including academic and/or audiences with little knowledge of history
  • preparing effective written communications for different readerships
  • making effective and appropriate forms of visual presentation
  • making effective and appropriate use of relevant information technology
  • making critical and effective use of information retrieval skills using paper-based and electronic resources
  • collaborating effectively in a team via experience of working in a group
  • appreciating and being sensitive to different cultures and dealing with unfamiliar situations
  • critical evaluation of one's own and others' opinions
  • engaging with relevant aspects of current agendas such as global perspectives, public engagement, employability, enterprise, and creativity

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: