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HST 212: Recent American History, 1945-1980

Course Prefix

Course Number

Course Title


Credit Hours



Recent American History, 1945-1980



Course Description

Provides students with a comprehensive analysis of the critical period 1945-1980 in American history. Incorporates politics and culture of the Cold War, the revival of liberalism, the Civil Rights movement, the rise of the New Left in the 60’s, the social and political history of the Vietnam War, the counterculture, Watergate, the personalization of political activism in the 70’s, the women’s movement, and the resurgence of conservatism. Emphasizes social history and cultural trends as well as political and economic history.

Topical Outline

  1. Years of Opportunity
  2. The Hardening of the Cold War and Domestic Politics During the Truman Years
  3. The Politics of Fear
  4. Hidden-Hand Presidency or the Politics of Inertia?
  5. The Way We Really Were
  6. Patient No Longer
  7. The Two 60’s - Idealism Turns Into Rebellion 
  8. Success and Fragmentation Within the Civil Rights Movement
  9. The Civil Rights Movement, and A Great Society
  10. Rumor of War
  11. Vietnam and Democracy in the Streets
  12. The Protest Movement and the Counterculture
  13. Rancor and Backlash - Richard Nixon and the “Silent Majority”
  14. Recession and the Wars of Watergate
  15. “The Personal is Political” and the Presidency of Jimmy Carter 
  16. The Election of 1980

Method of Presentation

  1. Lecture
  2. Discussion
  3. Films

Student Outcomes (The student should…)

  1. identify and evaluate the variety of political, economic, and social trends of the period 1945-1980. 
  2. comprehend the significance of the United States’ victory in World War II.
  3. explain the origins of the growing intensity of the Cold War after World War II.
  4. identify and apply the significance of the philosophy of containment in the formation of American foreign policy in the period 1945-1980.
  5. explain and evaluate the two major historical interpretations of the presidential performance of Dwight D. Eisenhower.
  6. identify and explain the manner in which trends in popular culture both reflected and shaped the period 1945-1970.
  7. comprehend the evolution of idealism into rebellion during the 1960’s.
  8. explain and evaluate the combination of liberal idealism and “cold warrior” ideologies that personified the presidency of John F. Kennedy.
  9. identify and explain the factors that led to the rise of the civil rights movement.
  10. synthesize the factors that reveal the civil rights movement as a period of success and fragmentation in the years 1954-1970. 2
  11. identify and evaluate the origins of American involvement in the Vietnam War.
  12. explain and evaluate Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society domestic plan and his foreign policy decisions regarding the Vietnam War.
  13. synthesize the many factors that led to the rise of the New Left and the radicalization of the protest movement in the period 1965-1972.
  14. comprehend and relate both the dissimilarities and parallels between the protest movement and the counterculture in the period 1965-1972.
  15. synthesize the many factors that led to a high level of domestic violence in the period 1965-1972.
  16. explain and evaluate the presidential performance of Richard Nixon in the areas of personal style and domestic and foreign policies.
  17. identify and explain the rise of the personalization of political activism in the 1970’s.
  18. explain and evaluate the presidential performance of Jimmy Carter.
  19. identify the factors that led to the rise of the “New Right” and Ronald Reagan’s victory in the election of 1980.
  20. synthesize the ways in which the period 1945-1980 has influenced contemporary American culture.

Method of Evaluation

  1. Critical and interpretive writing form the foundation for evaluation of student learning in History 212. Three essay exams
  2. One 5-6 page critical review of a supplemental book of their choice, that they have read on the period. 
  3. Multiple-choice quizzes
  4. Cooperative learning exercises
  5. Various supplemental readings will also be assigned and discussed.


Moss. Moving On. 3rd edition. Prentice Hall, 2005.

Caputo. Rumor of War. 1996.

Anderson. The Sixties 3rd edition. Longman, 2004.

Prepared by: Thomas DePalma, Fall, 2008