Course: HIS 383
Instructor: Kevin M. Kruse
F 2018

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

Across the twentieth century, there were monumental debates in America on the most fundamental of questions: Who is "American"? What should the national priorities be? What role should the federal government play in addressing them? Which groups should be able, or even allowed, to take part in defining America? This course examines the many ways Americans struggled with these questions as their nation evolved. This course will explore the making of modern America through analysis of the Roaring '20s, the Great Depression, the Second World War, Cold War and McCarthyism, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the sexual revolutions, and the Watergate crisis. Individually, these are fascinating stories. Taken together, they form an even more important story about how America transformed itself into the nation we know today. You will have a midterm and a final exam generally consisting of identifications and essays, weekly readings between 200-300 pages, and a short paper due on Dean’s Date. The class meets twice a week for 50-minute lectures and once a week for a 50- minute precept.

Learning From Classroom Instruction

You learn most of the material from lectures and precept discussions, so it is very important to attend all precepts and lectures to be able to take notes. Readings are a complement to lectures and provide extended learning to deepen the understanding of lecture topics. Most readings spoken about in precept are not mentioned in lecture, however, some are mentioned quickly in immediate connection to a lecture topic.

Learning For and From Assignments

You are tested on primarily lecture topics and themes, so it is incredibly important to attend lecture, take detailed notes, and stay engaged during lectures. The final paper is a great way to take a different and individual approach on a speech given between 1920 and 1974 and construct your own definition of what it means to be an American and how it has changed over time. Assessments are partly memorization of names and laws/policies/etc. and partly essay compositions, so it is very important to look back at lecture notes and develop big ideas/ central themes in order to prepare for the exam. Assigned precept readings are a great way to deepen knowledge for exam identifications and essays and provide great evidence to create and back up your claims.

External Resources

  • Allen, Only Yesterday
  • Polenberg, The Era of Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Raines, My Soul Is Rested
  • Schrecker & Deery, The Age of McCarthyism (3rd ed.)
  • Schulman, Lyndon B. Johnson (2nd ed.)
  • Story & Laurie, The Rise of Conservatism
These sources are best used and understood through careful reading and annotation, preceptors are great resources for guidance on historical reading analysis.

What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection

Students should look forward to a comprehensive course about American history between 1920 and 1974. Lectures are incredibly detailed, and Professor Kruse does a great job of making lecture more “real” through introduction of direct quotations, jokes, fun facts, and YouTube videos. This course also introduces the skills of independent research in the final paper and which resources to go to for help. There were no hidden expectations or demands in this course, however, it is expected that you complete readings before precept and pay attention during lectures. Time commitment outside of class is dependent on reading that week, generally anywhere between 2-3 hours. After this course, you will have a better understanding of what it means to be an American, how important every vote is during elections, and you will gain an appreciation for historical analysis in order to drive future societal/political/economic progress.
The United States, 1920-1974

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