Brad Simpson, Ph.D.
Fall 2010 History 380 The U.S. and the World - 1898 to the present
Time: Tues-Thurs 10:00-10:50, McCosh 50
Instructor: Brad Simpson
Office: 112 Dickinson Hall
Office Hours: TTh 11-12 or by appointment
Precepters: Neil Young (email@example.com), Matt Backes (firstname.lastname@example.org), Alden Young (email@example.com)
Who and what are the people and forces that have shaped the United States’ foreign engagement with the world during the twentieth century? How do we describe the U.S. role in the world (are we an empire, a hegemon, a superpower, or something else?) What are the sources of American power, and how has the U.S. wielded that power over the last hundred years? Why did the United States go to war in Europe (twice!), Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf (twice!), intervene throughout Central America and engage in a Cold War with the Soviet Union and China? Are Donald Duck and Coca Cola agents of U.S. hegemony? How did the international system, America’s conception of its role in the world and U.S. foreign policy change with the end of the Cold War and the events of September 11, 2001?
In exploring the rise of the United States to global superpower status over the span of "the American Century," we will consider these and other questions. Some of the themes we will explore are traditional topics of diplomatic historians: ideology, national security, trade politics, and policymaking. But we will also investigate themes emphasized by a new generation of international and transnational historians, including race and gender, Orientalism, social movements, non-governmental organizations, immigration, development, and popular and consumer culture, phenonema that transcend state-to-state relations. We will emphasize the Cold War and post-Cold War eras and U.S. relations with the USSR and with the so-called Global South - those nations of Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, many of which became independent only after the second world war.
Lectures will provide some narrative and chronological structure, as will course readings, but class participants are strongly cautioned against thinking that there is a correct “narrative” of US foreign relations history. There is not. Rather, the emphasis in this course is on exposing students to the wide range of approaches and sources that historians use to apprehend, research and write about U.S. foreign relations. This course should therefore help students refine their abilities to compare, contrast and evaluate often conflicting interpretations of important events and problems, and in the process come to a better understanding of why they hold the conclusions that they do.
Some Questions We Will Explore
Students will have an opportunity to work on a weekly basis with colleagues to discuss documents and readings online and in precept. Students will learn from working collaboratively to explore important central questions using recent scholarship and evidence, understanding and evaluating arguments they hear in class, constructing arguments, drawing conclusions, defending those conclusions, and receiving feedback on their thinking. With several significant developments, students will use the case method to explore some of the challenges U.S. officials faced in understanding a complicated world with incomplete information.
Dennis Merrill and Thomas Paterson, Major Problems in American Foreign Relations, Volume II: Since 1914, 7th Edition (2009).
Louis A. Pérez Jr., The War of 1898: The United States and Cuba in History and Historiography (Chapel Hill, 1998).
Akira Iriye, The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations, Volume III: The Globalizing of America, 1913-1945 (Cambridge, 1995)
Fred Logevall and Andrew Campbell, America's Cold War: The Politics of Insecurity (Harvard, 2009)
Dang Thuy Tram, Last Night I Dreamed of Peace: The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram (Three Rivers Press, 2008)
Andrew J. Bacevich, American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy (Cambridge, 2004).
Next you will want to go to the Blackboard site for this class. Almost all other readings and case studies will be available on blackboard and can be accessed by going to the "Course Documents" section and clicking on each week's readings. For each week you should go to the blackboard site and click on the link on the left hand side of the page. There you will find a description of the week's themes, readings, readings to be found on blackboard, as well as any learning opportunities. You can also read, in the 'learning and assessment materials' folder, descriptions of
In order to read some of each week's readings you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader 6.0, which can read the PDF files online readings will be stored in. If you are using your home computer and don't have Adobe, click on this link.
You may also want to purchase (if you have not done so already) a copy of Strunk and White, The Elements of Style; a good dictionary if you do not already have one (e. g., The American Heritage Dictionary. College Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, most recent edition); and a good world atlas.
What Does the Course Promise You?
This class will consider some of the most controversial questions of twentieth century U.S. and international history. You will read scholars debating scholars and learn to analyze disagreements and agreements in a systematic manner. You should emerge from the course with a better understanding of some of the major developments of the twentieth century, events that have shaped all of our lives. You should emerge also with an enhanced ability to analyze arguments and to make tentative judgments about other people's judgments. Ideally, the course will help you become a more critically intelligent, creative, and curious person, capable of making rational decisions based on extensive and accurate information.
If you are concerned about how well you think, you should also be concerned with your ability to write. In order to fulfill the promises of this class you should expect to write every week – sometimes only a few sentences, sometimes in longer form. Regular writing will help you to develop and sharpen the kinds of analytical skills that historians employ on a regular basis.
You are responsible for keeping a copy of each paper or other materials you give me. Do NOT give me your only copy of anything! Save everything, even postings to your blackboard discussion groups.
Reading and Discussing
The major learning goal for the course is for all participants to develop a thorough knowledge and understanding of the thesis, arguments, and major pieces of evidence of the major interpretations we encounter; to be able to determine the ways in which these interpretations agree and disagree; to make well reasoned evaluations of those interpretations; and to develop some well reasoned, albeit tentative, conclusions of your own (with supporting evidence and arguments) in consultation with primary and secondary sources. In short, to begin reading, thinking and writing like a historian.
There is much to read about the United States and the world in the twentieth century and especially since 1945. You will want to read as much as possible and to discuss other items with your colleagues. I have identified a number of items that are (or will be) available to you on the Web and on Blackboard. From there, you can find the on-line syllabus that gives you the schedule for the class. I will also give you copies of some items. It is never wrong to identify additional reading on any topic. I have included additional books, articles, movies, documents and other sources for each week.
Learning Opportunities: You will find on the course web page more details about learning opportunities and evaluation. To achieve the promises of the course you will write three short arguments and a book review, participate in precept, and take a midterm and final exam. Occasionally, I will ask you questions about what I have explained in class and/or about a particular item you have read. You should take notes in class and on everything you read.
Working with Other Students on the Reading: Reading is the best way to learn, but it is better done in conjunction with writing and discussion. Each student will therefore be part of an online blackboard group with other students in their precept that will have a discussion "group page" in Blackboard. Most weeks you will be asked formally to respond to questions regarding course readings and documents posted in Blackboard in order to prepare for precept. It is important that you learn how to read critically and that you understand the arguments and major pieces of evidence we will encounter in class.
Your involvement with the class is extremely important. I will try to make class time valuable. You should come to every class and plan to participate. If you do not find class valuable, please let me know. There will be regular opportunities for you to provide both direct and anonymous feedback on how the class is going and how we can improve the learning environment for everyone involved.
Please do not simply skip class. If you already know you will miss more than one class this term, you probably should not take this class this quarter. If you miss too much, I will probably assume that you are no longer taking the class and I will probably drop you from the class. It is essential that everyone in the class attend all precepts.
Please be considerate of your colleagues and classmates.Turn off phones before class (if it rings I reserve the right to answer it). If you use a laptop, please use if for taking notes, not checking your facebook page, your email or browsing the internet. Doing these will make it harder for your classmates to learn and will hinder your ability to achieve course learning goals.
The final grade will assess each student's ability--as reflected in written and oral work--to draw and defend historical conclusions, to think historically, and to apply that thinking to the issues raised in the course.
This will break down roughly along the following lines:
Short Papers (including book review): 20%
Midterm exam: 20%:
Final exam: 30%:
The blackboard site contains several items which describe the thinking skills you should aim to acquire or improve over the course of the semester, the grading rubric, and other issues which will help you to better understand how we can assess our participation in the course. You will have multiple opportunities to receive feedback on your learning, and several opportunities to give feedback on how well the course is helping you to achieve the learning goals we set.