History 377: American History, 1940-1965
112 Rutherford Physics Building, Mondays and Wednesdays, 9:35-10:25;
Conferences Wednesdays and Fridays (sign up on Minerva), starting January 9 and 11.
Movie Nights (Optional):
selected Wednesdays, 7-9 pm
Dr. Heather Murray
(please expect 24 hours for a response).
Wednesdays 12:30-2:00 (I will stay longer if more students are visiting)
and by appointment in Leacock 630.
This course will explore how the United States developed politically, socially, and
culturally during the Second World War and the early Cold War Era. Our central focus
will be to understand how Americans have responded to warfare and crisis on moral,
political, cultural, and private levels. Accordingly, we will explore the emerging presence
of the United States in the Second World War and its subsequent international relations
during the Cold War; the developing civil rights movement; the bourgeoning consumer
culture; the development of science and technology, including the social sciences and the
emergence of television; evolving perceptions of ideology, especially totalitarianism and
democracy; the changing shape of American liberalism and political dissent; the
emergence of an American ‘postmodern’ artistic, writing, and musical culture; and the
tenor of social and private life during a complex, contradictory historical moment of both
profound uncertainty and unprecedented bounty. Unifying themes of the course include
conformity and nonconformity, as well as deception and authenticity.
I hope that you will emerge from this course feeling more conversant with an array of
primary sources, or original documents, and their relation with broader historical
contexts. I also hope that this course will acquaint you with some of the major arguments
to surface in the historiography, or historical interpretations based on primary sources, of
this period and that you will feel more confident to suggest new lines of historical
inquiry. Finally, I hope that this course will help you to cast aside, forever, any
preconceived notions you might harbour of the 1950s as a bland, prissy, repressive,
stagnant era, to see it for the fascinating, eventful, and rich period that it is!
There are seven required books for this course, along with several online readings of
primary sources and the occasional J-STOR article. All of these books are at the McGill
Bookstore, as well as on reserve at the library. Some of these books are easily shared, and
it should be possible in many cases to find cheaper copies of the books online or at used
bookstores or to get extra copies in the library.