Politics of Reform in the United States since 1890 - HIS00060C

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. David Huyssen
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2018-19

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2018-19

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To give an intensive introduction to an unfamiliar period and/or approach to the study of history;
  • To offer experience in the use of primary source materials;
  • To develop skills in analysing historiography; and
  • To develop core skills such as: bibliographical search techniques; source analysis; essay writing; giving presentations; and, undertaking independent research.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Acquire an insight into historical study of an unfamiliar period and/or approach to the study of history through intensive study of an aspect of the period and/or an approach to it;
  • Gain experience of analysing primary source materials;
  • Be able to evaluate an historical explanation;
  • Have practiced core skills identified in the Autumn Term Making Histories module, including historical analysis, note-taking, essay writing, presenting to groups, and leading discussions in seminars: and,
  • Have delivered advanced level historical work in essays, demonstrating a thorough understanding of the module topics.

Module content

This course examines disparate reformers and reform movements advocating for social or legislative change in America, from the Progressive Era to the present day. In various areas of public debate – inequality, public morality, race relations, sexuality, and educational policy, to name just a few – it will probe the relationship between reform, radicalism, and mainstream discourse, clarifying not only what role reform and reformers have played in transforming the United States, but also the limits to what “reform” can achieve.

Each week in seminar, in addition to discussing readings and situating them within broader historiographical debates, we will collectively examine primary documents relevant to the main assignment, integrating conversations about historical practice and method in preparation for your writing assignments. We will also brush up on the basics of university-level writing.

Teaching Programme:
Teaching will be in weekly 2-hour seminars taught over eight weeks. Each week students will do reading and preparation in order to be able to contribute to discussion.

A likely seminar programme is as follows:

  1. The Populist movement
  2. Anti-lynching reform
  3. Progressive Era urban reform
  4. The labour movement and the New Deal
  5. Jim Crow and conservative reform
  6. Civil rights and “second-wave” feminism
  7. Welfare reform of the 1990s
  8. Contemporary educational reform


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 2000 Words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

During the autumn term students will be tasked with finding and researching their own primary source or sources in pairs or small groups, on which they will give a group presentation for formative assessment in one or more sessions during weeks 4-7.

Students will then submit 2,000-word assessed essay for summative assessment in week 10.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 2000 Words
N/A 100

Module feedback

The formative assessment is a group presentation and verbal feedback will be provided by the tutor in class followed by a written summary to each student within 10 working days. Students will have a 15 minute one-to-one tutorial to discuss the formative assessment and prepare for the summative assessment. 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 on Assessment.

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Should you wish to do any preliminary reading, you could look at the following:

Fraser, Steve. Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2015.

Strunk Jr., William and White, E.B. The Elements of Style. 4ed. New York: Pearson, 1999.

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.