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Righteous Might: American Politics & Society since 1877 - HIS00004I

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Edd Mair
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • See module specification for other years: 2021-22

Module summary

The long twentieth century in American history could be described as an age of contradictions: a time in which Americans have expanded their influence overseas in the name of liberation and self-determination, enacted and enforced laws of racial segregation even as they spoke for progressivism, and came to see the individual pursuit of a higher Standard of Living as a way to express patriotic passions. Such processes, while seemingly distinct, actually reinforced and clashed with one another as the US rose to a position of unprecedented global hegemony. This module will survey the twentieth century US from the struggles of the Great Depression through the promise of a consumer’s republic, from the aftermath of Reonstruction, through the movements for racial and gender equality, to the rise of White Power under Trump, and from the era of the Cold War concensus into the age of political and social fractures as laid bare in the Pandemic. Throughout our lectures and discussions we will pay particular attention to the way domestic and transnational structures and processes shaped one another as the US transitioned from relative isolationism to political, economic, cultural, and military involvement throughout the world.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To introduce students to important specific historical themes and topics with a clear chronological or geographical focus;
  • To enable them to work on those topics by combining access to the specialised expertise of staff through lectures with their own close study and discussion of issues and reading;
  • To deepen students’ understanding and appreciation of a range of historical subjects and issues; and
  • To support students’ progression from the broad chronological and conceptual work undertaken at Stage 1 of their programme to more detailed and rigorous study of particular topics.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Have a broad overview of specific historical themes and topics with a clear chronological and geographical focus;
  • Be able to evaluate different interpretations of the subject matter and approaches to it;
  • Gain a critical awareness of the primary material and secondary works used in these interpretations and approaches; and
  • Be able to synthesise information from lectures, discussion groups and reading to make evidence-based arguments both orally and in writing

Module content

Teaching Programme:

This 20-credit module consists of sixteen twice weekly lectures delivered in weeks 2-9, plus one round-up session in week 10 and eight 90 minute discussion groups.

Seminar topics are subject to variation, but are likely to include the following:

  1. Introduction

  2. The Gilded Age

  3. Jim Crow and Spanish-American War: Violence, Legal and Ilegal

  4. The Progressive Movement

  5. The Wilsonian Moment at home and abroad

  6. The Shock of Depression - Populism and the Dust Bowl

  7. The New Deal

  8. US in World War II

  9. The American Century?

  10. Emergence of the Cold War outside and within

  11. The Black Freedom Movement in the 1960s

  12. Choosing Vietnam

  13. From Saigon to Watergate

  14. The Neoconservative Project

  15. The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

  16. From Obama to Trump


Task Length % of module mark
2,000 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will be required to write a 2,000-word procedural essay for formative assessment, due in either week 5 or week 7 of the autumn term. They will then complete a 2,000-word essay for summative assessment, due in week 1 of the spring term.


Task Length % of module mark
2,000 word essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will typically receive written feedback that will include comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission.

Work will be returned to students in their discussion groups and may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their procedural work with their tutor (or module convenor) during student hours. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 20 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

Gilmore, Glenda and Thomas J. Sugrue. These United States: A Nation in the Making, 1890 to the Present. New York: W.W. Norton, 2015.

Sparrow, James. Warfare State: World War II Americans and the Age of Big Government. New York: Oxford, 2011.

Kerber, Linda. No Constitutional Right to be Ladies. New York: MacMillan, 1998.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.