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Aims and Assessment


By the end of this module students will:

  • Understand the multiple ways in which gender is imbricated with war mobilisation, combat motivation, and postwar reconstruction

  • Critically assess how gender norms have evolved over time in the United States and how pivotal a role war has played in shaping these constructs

  • Carefully analyse a range of both secondary and primary source materials

  • Appreciate the ways in which class, race, gender, and sexuality intersect to complicate different individuals’ and groups’ wartime expectations and experiences

  • Make robust arguments, orally and on paper, using evidence to sustain an analytic interpretation


  • seminar participation (10%). Please note that no self-assessment document is required. The mark is based on my observation of your contributions to seminars and, more broadly, your engagement with the module over the course of the term. Your participation will be graded after the module has ended.
  • 1 x 1,500 word source-based assignment (40%) due week 5

  • 1 x 3,000 word essay (50%) due week 10

Notes on the first 'source assignment' (1500 words)

This exercise, due in week 5, encourages you to engage with either a primary or secondary source in a more hands-on way than is often the case when writing essays that synthesise multiple primary and/or secondary sources. You have two options to choose between, and we will discuss in more detail in the seminars how to undertake this exercise. But here are some preliminary pointers.

Option A. Thinking like an instructor: a primary source study guide

Select one of the primary sources that are assigned as core reading/viewing for this module-- one that you think lends itself especially well to classroom purposes. To expand the range of possibilities, you could also pick a visual image that I've included in the lecture PowerPoint slides. (Please consult me for guidance about your selection before you set to work.) Imagine that you are a history instructor working with GSCE level students, and you want to introduce a primary source into your analysis of whichever US war your source pertains to. Your task is to produce a 'study guide' that will help students critically analyse this source and place it in a textured historical context that's especially attentive to the workings of gender in wartime. The study guide must contain ALL the following elements: a) a very brief historical overview of the war in question that situates this document; b) some contextualising information about the source itself (who produced it/when/for whom etc); c) a set of discussion questions (about 6) that will prompt students to analyse the document thoughtfully, including (in italicised parentheses) your own answers to the questions you've supplied and an indication of why you posed these particular questions; d) brief suggestions for further reading. This should be laid out attractively and may include illustrations if you wish. If you do include maps/photos/cartoons/charts, please be sure to give them captions and provide a reference to the location where you found them. The text of the study guide itself must amount to no more than 1500 words.

Unless you quote from other sources, your study guide does not need footnotes. But please ensure that you write an original text (i.e. entirely in your own words) that doesn't import verbatim any phraseology from other sources. Your suggested readings should be "level-appropriate" (i.e. readings that a 15 year old could understand). If you used other sources to inform your study guide, you can add a separate bibliography at the end. The latter will not be included in the word-count.

SpecimenLink opens in a new window (kindly supplied, with permission, by a student who took the module in 2019-20).

Option B. Thinking like an editor: a report on a secondary source manuscript

Select one of the secondary sources from the module that you found especially provocative and/or problematic. This could be either an essay published in a scholarly journal or a book chapter. Imagine that you are an academic reviewer who is sent this essay in draft form by an editor who is keen to hear your scholarly opinion on it prior to publication. You will produce a report on the essay/chapter that covers ALL the following: a) a brief summary of what you understand the author's argument and purpose to be; b) an evaluation of how original and how important you think this essay is, situating it in the context of existing scholarship in the same field; c) an appraisal of how effectively the author has handled primary source material; d) recommendations for how you feel this piece might be improved, in both terms of style (how engaging is the prose?; how well structured is the analysis?) and the substance (could the argument be strengthened to make the essay more persuasive?). The text of your report should amount to no more than 1500 words.

When you refer to and/or quote other sources, please be sure to reference those properly, using either the MHRA guidelinesLink opens in a new window or the Chicago Manual of StyleLink opens in a new window. You may select the style you prefer. But please do pick one or the other, and be sure to use it consistently! Your report should include a list of sources consulted at the end. This bibliography does not count towards the 1500 word limit.

Notes on the essay (3000 words)

In week 10, you'll submit an essay answering a question of your choosing that interrogates a specific aspect of gender and/or sexuality and war in the US. Please ensure that your essay has an analytic focus rather than being purely descriptive. In other words, your goal is to explain why (not just how) ideas about gender and sexuality are so consequential in wartime.

Sample question: "Why during the two world wars did the US government and military devote so much attention to disciplining mothers?"

Essay topics should be agreed with me in writing by Friday of week 7. (Email me your proposed topic/title earlier in week 7, or sooner if you wish.) Here are the requirements for the essay:

  • Your essay can focus on the content of one week's seminar material, or it can draw together material from across more than one week of the syllabus. But please make sure your essay doesn't repeat the same material as your first assignment.
  • Your essay should include discussion of at least two different wars that we've studied this term (the Civil War; the Spanish-American War; and the two world wars). However, you can devote more space in the essay to one particular conflict if you wish.
  • Your essay should synthesise both primary and secondary sources, and it should include some primary source materials that you've located independently, not just those assigned as required reading/viewing
  • The essay must be properly footnoted and include a full bibliography of all primary and secondary sources consulted. (The notes and bibliography are not included in the 3000 word limit for this essay)
  • The essay should be presented in 12 point type and double-spaced
  • If you include illustrations, please include a caption and credit line.

Deadlines for these assignments are set centrally by the History Department.