The United States since World War I

Course Material 2023/24

The presence of the United States is felt around the world. Its foreign and economic policies affect the lives of people in virtually every country, its values are both cheered and resisted the world over, and its popular culture plays an intimate part in the lives of millions. Supporters and critics alike even equate globalization with Americanisation. Yet the recent history of the United States remains poorly understood, subject to inaccurate generalizations and misleading assumptions.

Through an exploration of U.S. history since 1917, students will come to a better understanding of this dynamic, complex, and changing society. In 1917, the United States entered the First World War; in 2016, it fought its most divisive election campaign since the Civil War. These two events bookend the history of the modern United States: if 1917 marked the emergence of the USA as a world power, 2016 seemed to many observers to mark the end of the ‘Pax Americana’ .

This course will examine the rise of the United States as an economic, political, cultural, and strategic powerhouse. It will also trace the exercise of US power overseas and the challenges the American government faced in the world as well as from within its own society. The course will take a broad approach to American history, studying how political and economic crisis, as well the United States’ wars and other international entanglements, impacted the lives of its people. Along the way, students will learn about how American capitalism evolved, explore the country’s long struggle to achieve racial equality, examine the profound changes in attitudes toward gender and sexuality, and ponder the impact of mass culture on the lives of ordinary Americans.