Module Convenor: Dr Lydia Plath
When the first British settlers arrived in North America at the turn of the seventeenth century, they could not have imagined that they had taken the first step towards founding a country that would become one of the most powerful nations in the modern world. The United States has forged a path of prosperity and unparalleled global influence, but undercutting this narrative of progress is a more complicated story of racial oppression, economic inequality, and political turmoil. This 30 CATS first-year option module charts the ebbs and flows of the history of the United States by exploring the meanings, conditions and boundaries of American “freedom”. The module uses case studies to examine how race, class, gender, society, culture, and politics have both made freedom a reality and kept it a mythic ideal, and it challenges us to understand the contemporary United States through a historical lens. With an emphasis on social and cultural history, at the heart of the module are those Americans who have continually strived to fulfil the promise of American freedom.
In this module, through lectures, reading, preparation for and participation in seminars, and preparation for and writing assignments, students will:
- Develop their study, writing, and communication skills; this course will be an important part of their practical introduction to university-level work and study.
- Gain an understanding of significant themes in United States history, and of patterns of change and continuity over four centuries, including understanding the US in the present.
- Gain an awareness of the contributions of different historical sub-disciplines (including social, cultural, and political history, and the histories of race and gender) to interpretations of this subject matter.
- Be introduced to some key primary documents in US history, and to gain experience of reading such documents for the meanings and evidence that they contain.
- Through the use of web-based resources, be introduced to means of using electronic means of finding and retrieving relevant source material and bibliographic references.
- Through the independent preparation and writing of 3000-word essays, to choose and frame for themselves a topic worthy of analysis; to construct their own bibliographies of source materials from books, articles and websites; to gather evidence and use it to shape a cogent and coherent extended analytical discussion; and where appropriate to deploy evidence from primary sources and/or historiographical discussions.