Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2010-2011 (archived)


Department: History


Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2010/11 Module Cap 50 Location Durham


  • A pass mark in at least ONE level one module in History.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • HIST2831.


  • To introduce students to an understanding of mid and late 20th century American history, and particularly of its role as the preeminent global power.


  • This module will enable students to gain an understanding of major themes in US history through the half-century commencing with its emergence as the greatest of the world powers and ending with its emergence as the undisputed (but not untroubled) hyperpower during the unipolar moment of the early 1990s.
  • Much of the emphasis will be on international relations and military affairs. The period covered embraces the breakdown of the wartime alliance, the origins of the Cold War, and a series of international crises and limited wars thereafter - the Berlin Blockade and Airlift, the Korean War, the Suez Crisis, the Indochinese and Vietnam Wars, the second Berlin crisis, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars, the conflicts with the Soviet Union and its proxies in the "Third World" in the later 1970s and 1980s, and the first Gulf War - to name just a few of the major incidents. We will not just study the surface of international affairs, we will encounter and explain the changing ways in which American policymakers understood and responded to perceived threats to U.S. interests and security.
  • But almost equal time will be given to the domestic transformations America experienced in this period, which embraced the beginnings of the "Golden Age of American Capitalism," McCarthyism, the encounter with mass consumption in the 1950s, the cultural ferment of the 1960s, and the renewed conservatism of American politics and society that followed. Students will have the opportunity to read about, discuss, and write essays on a wide range of these issues, and the lectures will aim to provide a framework for understanding which concentrates on national politics and policy as reflections of and forces making for social change. Particular themes will include the incomplete revolution in the civil rights of African-Americans between the 1940s and the 1970s, and the ascendancy of the "New Deal Order" in American politics and policy between the 1940s and 1960s, as well as its collapse in the 1970s and the rise of neoconservatism and other elements in modern Republicanism.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Understanding of Americans' and successive administrations' pursuit of power, prosperity, and security in a changing world, and appreciation of American historians' and international relations scholars' approaches to explaining these changes.
  • Understanding of the contours of change in public policy and American Society during this period, and appreciation of American historians' approaches to explaining these changes.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Subject specific skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/
Key Skills:
  • Key skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Student learning is facilitated by a combination of the following teaching methods:
  • lectures to set the foundations for further study and to provide the basis for the acquisition of subject specific knowledge. Lectures provide a broad framework which defines individual module content, introducing students to themes, debates and interpretations. In this environment, students are given the opportunity to develop skills in listening, selective note-taking and reflection;
  • seminars to allow students to present and critically reflect upon the acquired subject-specific knowledge, methodologies and theories, and to identify and debate a range of issues and differing opinions. The seminar is the forum in which students are given the opportunity to communicate ideas, jointly exploring themes and arguments. Seminars are structured to develop understanding and designed to maximise student participation related to prior independent preparation. Seminars give students the opportunity to develop oral communication skills, encourage critical and tolerant approaches to reasoned argument and historical discussion, build the students' ability to marshal historical evidence, and facilitate the development of the ability to summarise historical arguments, think in a rapidly changing environment and communicate in a persuasive and articulate manner, whilst recognising the value of working with others and, occasionally, towards shared goals.
  • Assessment:
  • Unseen Examinations test students' ability to work under pressure under timed conditions, to prepare for examinations and direct their own programme of revision and learning, and develop key time management skills. The unseen examination gives students the opportunity to develop relevant life skills such as the ability to produce coherent, reasoned and supported arguments under pressure. Students will be examined on subject specific knowledge;
  • Summative essays remain a central component of assessment in history, due to the integrative high-order skills they develop. Essays allow students the opportunity to recognise, represent and critically reflect upon ideas, concepts and problems; students can demonstrate awareness of, and the ability to use and evaluate, a diverse range of resources and identify, represent and debate a range of subject-specific issues and opinions. Through the essay, students can synthesise information, adopt critical appraisals and develop reasoned argument based on individual research; they should be able to communicate ideas in writing, with clarity and coherence; and to show the ability to integrate and critically assess material from a wide range of sources.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 21 Weekly in Terms 1 & 2; introductory lecture in term 1; revision lecture in term 3 1 hour 21
Seminars 7 3 in Term one, 3 in Term two; revision seminar in term 3 1 hour 7
Preparation and Reading 172
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essays Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
essay 1, not including footnotes and bibliography 2000 words 50%
essay 2, not including footnotes and bibliography 2000 words 50%
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
unseen examination 2 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative benefits from the summative assessments, plus one or more short assignments delivered orally and discussed in a group context.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University