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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%)
  • 1 x 1,500 word source-based assignment (40%)

  • 1 x 3,000 word essay (50%) 

Notes on the first 'source assignment'

This exercise, due in week 8, 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. (Feel free to 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; 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 reference to the location where you found them. The text of the study guide itself must amount to no more than 1500 words. (No footnotes/bibliography required.)

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. (No footnotes/bibliography required.)

Notes on the essay

In week 10, you'll submit an essay answering a question of your choosing. 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 topic should relate to one of the three thematic blocs into which the module is divided (i.e. dealing with either preparations for war; gendered war work during times of hostility; or the aftermaths of conflict)
  • Your topic should include discussion of at least two different wars that we've studied this term
  • 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)

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