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2021/22 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST2353 America and the Sixties

20 creditsClass Size: 39

Module manager: Dr Emily Brady

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2021/22

Module replaces


This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Few decades in American history have been as dramatic, divisive, and consequential as the 1960s. As civil rights activists faced down segregationists, and millions took to the streets to protest against the war in Vietnam, a burgeoning counterculture augured a new era of personal freedom and sexual liberation. Meanwhile, conservatives - stung by a series of bruising electoral defeats - launched a fierce counter-attack, determined to vanquish the liberal ascendancy that had held sway since the New Deal. In addition to exploring some of the key historical developments, and iconic moments, of the period, this module will encourage students to reflect critically on the historiography of the Sixties, and to consider why this era remains so controversial in contemporary America.


The objectives of this module are:
a) to explore and understand the major social, political and cultural developments that took place in America during the 1960s;
b) to introduce students to some of the key historical writings on the period;
c) to encourage students to express their ideas and arguments effectively in small-group discussions;
d) to help students to write clearly, and critically, when engaging with both primary source material and published scholarship.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students will:
1. Understand the complexity of American politics and society during the 1960s.
2. Be familiar with the main ways in which historians have sought to understand 'the Sixties'.
3. Be able to engage critically with original primary source materials from the period and draw out their wider significance.
4. Have developed an appreciation of the contemporary resonance of the 1960s for American politics and culture.

Skills outcomes
Enhances Common Skills listed below:

High-level skills in oral and written communication of complex ideas.
Independence of mind and self-discipline and self-direction to work effectively under own initiative.
Ability to locate, handle and synthesize large amounts of information.
Capacity to employ analytical and problem-solving abilities.
Ability to engage constructively with the ideas of their peers, tutors and published sources.
Empathy and active engagement with alternative cultural contexts.


Lectures will provide students with a general framework of understanding. Likely topics will include: America at the dawn of the 1960s; the civil rights movement; the New Left and participatory democracy; JKF and the New Frontier; LBJ and the Great Society; the war in Vietnam - at home and abroad; the counterculture; the rise of the New Right; the movements for sexual liberation; making sense of the 1960s.
Seminar classes will be used for more in-depth, student-centred discussion of key topics, and the interrogation of key primary sources. Indicative topics include: the New Left; the Civil Rights movement; the Anti-War Movement; Black Power; the women's liberation movement; the gay liberation movement; the conservative sixties; the global sixties. There will also likely be a source commentary workshop.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours180.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Students will be expected to read primary source extracts and secondary literature in advance of the seminars, as well as pursuing independent reading and research to prepare for class discussion and assessments.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Participation in class discussion.
Consultations on assessed work (e.g. via regular office hours, email correspondence).
Feedback on written work (feedback on the source commentary should prove helpful for students in preparing their assessed essay).

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay3000 word essay due by 12 noon Monday of exam week 160.00
Assignment2000 word primary source commentary, due by 12 noon Monday of week 940.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 14/12/2021


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