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The American Revolution promised to forge a new Republic founded on the radical idea that all men were created equal. Yet, the founding of the United States cemented racial slavery in its economic and social systems, and slavery grew dramatically within the young nation in the nineteenth century. This subject examines the historical significance of these tensions between the promise of freedom and the subordination of certain groups within American society from the Revolution through to 1945, when the US emerged as a major world power. The subject explores the consequences of the existence of slavery in a free society, including the fighting of a terrible civil war. It also considers the nineteenth-century movements of enslaved and free Black people, women’s rights advocates, and Native Americans, to expand the circle of full citizenship. The dynamics and consequences of growth is the second major theme: topics include the emergence of a market economy, the frontier and the fate of indigenous Americans during the decades of westward expansion. Finally, the subject traces the emergence of an internationally influential modern mass society and culture in the early twentieth century – topics here include Prohibition, the Great Depression and New Deal, film and broadcasting, the segregated South, immigration, and the two world wars. Here again we examine the tensions between the promises of new freedoms and the constraints facing particular groups in American society. The subject blends social, cultural and political history, attending to the histories of ordinary people, leaders of social and political movements, and presidents, including Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Intended learning outcomes
Students who successfully complete this subject should be able to:
- Understand some of the major issues in US history 1776-1945 and the significant changes in US society over this period
- Understand the social, political and cultural context of events in US history 1776-1945
- Demonstrate an ability to research a topic in US history 1776-1945 using primary sources
- Have an enhanced understanding of some of the major interpretive arguments made by historians of US history 1776-1945
- Demonstrate an ability to communicate historical arguments in writing and orally.
Last updated: 8 December 2023