Please note that this module was available
until 2015, but has since been
withdrawn and is no longer available.
This module is a 30 CATS undergraduate final-year Special Subject, which with the addition of a 30 CATS Dissertation can account for half of your final year work. Special Subjects involve the intensive study of a tightly focused set of topics or problems using a large quantity of primary sources. It is, above all, through the Special Subject that you will acquire hands-on experience of the skills involved in working with primary sources.
This module offers students the opportunity to explore in depth an important decade in C20th US history, focusing in detail on key themes both new, and those opened up in other single-weighted options, particularly ‘North America: Themes and Problems (AM102)’ and ‘Reform, Revolt and Reaction in the US (AM211)’. These options are not prerequisites, and no prior knowledge will be assumed.
This module explores the social and cultural history of America in the 1950s, and challenges the prevailing image of this decade as a dull and conservative period preceding the more colourful and rebellious 1960s. Instead it will offer a detailed analysis of the sometimes contradictory social and cultural experiences of the period and, in particular, the growth of an affluent, conformist mainstream, and the rise of new ‘dissident’ cultural forces which offered a different set of social values. The main themes are McCarthyism; suburbia and the affluent society; the rise of the teenager; gender; television and film; the beat counterculture; Elvis Presley and the birth of rock and roll; the modern jazz revolution; Abstract Expressionism; and the early Civil Rights movement. There is an expanding secondary literature on this period, which students will use alongside a range of primary sources, ranging from official printed documents to cultural sources, particularly fiction and film.