Amh 4270 (Section 4691) U. S. Since World War II

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AMH 4270 (Section 4691)

U.S. Since World War II

Instructor: Joseph F. Spillane

Class Meets: Tuesday 4th period (10:40-11:30) and Thurs. 4-5th periods (10:40-12:35)

Classroom: Flint 111

Office Hours: Tuesdays 11:30-2:30, and by appointment (Flint 025)
Phone: 273-3355



In preparing this course, I did a little research in the UF undergraduate catalogs. I found out that this course (U.S. Since World War II) was first offered in the 1978-1979 academic year. Before that, there was a course called “U.S. Since the Great Depression” which had been regularly offered. So, the U.S. since 1945 course is celebrating its 30th birthday this year! Just think—almost as much time separates today from when the course was first taught (30 years) as separated the end of WWII from when the course was first offered (33 years). So, in effect, the amount of “history”—at least measured in terms of years—has very nearly doubled over the life of the course.

Consider all that has changed since the first time the course was offered. In 1978, President Carter was in the middle of his first (and only) term as President. Watergate and the end of the Vietnam war were only four and three years distant. Star Wars was a new film, the Cold War still continued, disco ruled, personal computers were yet to really hit the market in a meaningful way, and so on. The 20-year old college student who enrolled in the course in 1978 had been born at the end of the Eisenhower administration, could probably remember the JFK assassination as a youngster of 5, watched the first man on the moon on TV as an 11 year old, and started UF during the bicentennial year of 1976. Today’s 20-year old UF student was born at the end of the Reagan presidency, and could probably remember Bill Clinton becoming president when they were a youngster of 5, watched video of the Columbine High School massacre on TV as an 11 year old, and went from high school to college during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
You are each a part of the history of the United States since World War II. Hopefully, over the course of the semester, you’ll learn a great deal more about this history, and better understand your own relationship to this part of the U.S. experience.

Goals and Objectives

In addition to the very broad ambition of the Introduction, we’ve got some more specific goals and objectives that I’d like to lay out for you here.

  1. By the end of the semester, you will have gained a through and detailed understanding of the critical events in U.S. history since the end of World War II. You will be able to place these things in an accurate chronological order, and give an account of their significance.

  2. Successful students will be able to explain the interrelationship of critical events and trends in U.S. history since World War Two. Key areas such as civil rights, suburbanization, electoral politics, and social policy have interconnected histories—students should be able to develop these connections on course exams.

  3. Students will be able to present one aspect of this history in extensive detail, through the preparation of a class research paper. Students will learn how to research, organize, and write a significant paper on a topic of their choosing.

Academic Honesty—Please make sure to give proper credit whenever you use words, phrases, ideas, arguments, and conclusions drawn from someone else’s work.  Failure to attribute proper credit by quoting and/or footnoting is plagiarism. Please review the University’s honesty policy at 
Instances of plagiarism in this class may result in failure of the course.
Accommodation Policy—Students requesting classroom accommodation must first register with the Dean of Students Office ( The Dean of Students Office will provide documentation to the student who must then provide this documentation to the instructor when requesting accommodation.


There are several required reading for this course. You should make sure to get each, as you’ll be required to make extensive use of each—however, please bear in mind that most of them are available used and (except in the case of the main text) not terribly expensive. The texts include—
Your main text…
Robert Griffith and Paula Baker, eds. Major Problems in American History Since 1945, third edition. Houghton Mifflin Company. PLEASE make sure you’ve got the third edition! The others won’t work.
And five required supplementary texts…
George Chauncey, Why Marriage? (Basic Books, 2004)
Mike Davis, Magical Urbanism (Verso, 2001)
Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon, The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation (Hill and Wang, 2006)
Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums—please make sure you get the PenguinClassics edition that came out in 2006. It features an Introduction by Ann Douglas that is part of the required reading.
JoAnn Gibson Robinson, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It (Univ. of Tennesse Press, 1987)


Your grades for the course will be based on the following:
In Class Work: 25% (each week we’ll have something you turn in, so this isn’t just attendance)

Exam One: 25%

Exam Two: 25%

Final Paper: 25%

Note: The exams are given in the two-hour blocks, and will include some identification questions and two essays. The final paper should be 8-10 pages in length, and cover a topic of your choosing (that I approve).

Course Schedule
Week One (August 26 and 28)—Introduction and War’s Aftermath

Reading: Major Problems, Chapter 1

FILM: “Somewhere in the Night” (1946)
Week Two (September 2 and 4)—Origins of the Cold War

Reading: Major Problems, Chapter 2

Week Three (September 9 and 11)—Domestic Anti-Communism

Reading: None

Week Four (September 16 and 18)—Consumerism and its Discontents

Reading: Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums; and Major Problems, Chapter 3

Week Five (September 23 and 25)—Civil Rights, 1945-1963

Reading: Robinson, Montgomery Bus Boycott; and Major Problems, Chapter 5

Week Six (September 30 and October 2)—The U.S. Looks South

Reading: Major Problems, Chapter 4

FILM: “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962)
Week Seven (October 7 and 9)—Exam Review on Tuesday, EXAM ONE on Thursday
Week Eight (October 14 and 16)—The Vietnam War

Reading: Major Problems, Chapter 9

Week Nine (October 21 and 23)—The Great Society and the High Water Mark for Liberalism

Reading: Major Problems, Chapter 6

Week Ten (October 28 and 30)—“The Sixties”: Radical Politics and the Counterculture

Reading: Major Problems, Chapter 7

Week Eleven (November 4 and 6)—The Culture Wars: The Seventies to the Present

Reading: George Chauncey, Why Marriage?; Major Problems, Chapter 8, and parts of Major Problems, Chapter 10 (I’ll specify in class)

FILM: “Dog Day Afternoon” (1975)
Week Twelve (November 13)—Globalization

Reading: Major Problems, Chapter Eleven

Week Thirteen (November 18 and 20)—The New Immigration

Reading: Mike Davis, Magical Urbanism; and Major Problems, Chapter 12

Week Fourteen (December 2 and 4)—The 9/11 Attacks, Origins and Aftermath

Reading: Jacobson and Colon, The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation

FILM: “Three Kings” (1999)
Week Fifteen (December 9)—There’s no class meeting today, but your final papers are due today. Late papers will be penalized a letter grade for each day they are late!
FINAL EXAM—The final exam is scheduled for Thursday, December 18.

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