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BA Art History and History / Course details
Year of entry: 2021
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Course unit details:
From Reconstruction to Reagan: American History, 1877-1988
|Unit level||Level 1|
|Teaching period(s)||Semester 2|
|Offered by||English and American Studies|
|Available as a free choice unit?||No|
In 1876 Americans celebrated the country’s first century. Within a year, political chicanery would end Reconstruction in the South, and one of the largest strikes, the Great Railroad Strike, would unfold in cities from Baltimore to Chicago. These events mark the start of this module, and help to frame the context of the later nineteenth century, which was characterized by profound economic transformations, new ideas about government and politics, and persistent questions about race and citizenship. In the century or so that followed, and which is surveyed by this module, the US would change in even more dramatic ways, becoming the world’s dominant economy, a global power of considerable military and diplomatic force, and a leading cultural influence. This course is intended to offer students a broad overview of the economic, cultural, political, and intellectual history of the US in the period from the end of Reconstruction to the end of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Students will encounter this history through both primary and secondary sources, and the course will help to develop skills for interpreting and synthesizing these varied materials.
- To introduce students to major themes in American history between 1877 and 1988;
- To encourage students to consider the value of American literature, art, music, film and other forms of culture for studying the history of this period;
- To acquaint students with a variety of secondary and primary sources appropriate for the study of this topic;
- To introduce students to some of the most important historiographical debates in this field.
On completion of the course successful students should be able to demonstrate:
- An understanding of the main developments and themes in American history from 1877-1988;
- An appreciation of the ways in which those developments and themes were expressed in, and shaped by, American cultural productions;
- A capacity to find and use a variety of primary and secondary source materials relating to American history during this period;
- Familiarity with some of the important historiographical debates relating to this topic.
- Analytical skills
- Students taking this unit will be able to analyse and evaluate arguments and texts. Above all, committed students will emerge from this course unit with an advanced capacity to think critically, i.e. knowledgeably, rigorously, confidently and independently.
- Group/team working
- Students taking this unit will be able to work courteously and constructively as part of a larger group.
- On this unit students are encouraged to respond imaginatively and independently to the questions and ideas raised by texts and other media.
- Students on this unit must take responsibility for their learning and are encouraged not only to participate in group discussions but to do so actively and even to lead those discussions.
- Project management
- Students taking this unit will be able to work towards deadlines and to manage their time effectively.
- Oral communication
- Students taking this unit will be able to show fluency, clarity and persuasiveness in spoken communication.
- Students on this unit will be required to digest, summarise and present large amounts of information. They are encouraged to enrich their responses and arguments with a wide range of further reading.
- Written communication
- Students on this unit will develop their ability to write in a way that is lucid, precise and compelling.
|Primary document analysis exercise||40%|
* Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty: An American History (latest edition, 2014)--Purchase
* Jackson Lears, Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920 (New York: 2009).
* John Lewis Gaddis, The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1941-1947 (2000)—ebook
* Adam Fairclough, Better Day Coming: Blacks and Equality, 1890-2000 (London: Penguin, 2001)
|Scheduled activity hours|
|Assessment written exam||2|
|Independent study hours|
|Andrew Fearnley||Unit coordinator|