America and the Cold War World

📚 syllabus by Peter Sachs Collopy, University of Southern California, August 25, 2016

This is a syllabus for America in the Cold War World, 1945–1991, a course offered in fall 2016 as HIST 465 at the University of Southern California. This is a course on the political and cultural history of the United States in its global context. We’ll seek to understand how the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union shaped how Americans lived their lives and exercised power, paying particular attention to American science, technology, media, popular culture, and family life, as well as to Americans’ engagements with the rest of the world.

The course will meet on Thursday afternoons, 2:00 to 4:50, from August 25 to December 1 in Verna and Peter Dauterive Hall room 107. It will be a discussion-based seminar, though I will punctuate it with occasional presentations. I will be available for office hours on Wednesdays from 3:00 to 5:00 in Social Sciences Building room 281, and encourage you to come by and talk.


As a seminar, this course is primarily based on learning by discussing the required readings (listed below), so it’s essential that you read and think about them before each class meeting. Each week I will expect you post a short reaction to the reading the day before class using Blackboard’s blog feature. You can use this as an opportunity to raise questions, to comment on arguments you found particularly surprising or compelling, or to suggest ways the reading might relate to previous readings or forthcoming assignments.

Your first larger assignment will be to develop your own analysis of a film in the context of the Cold War, and to present it in a short paper of about five pages. Your second assignment will be a contribution to an online exhibit on America in the Cold War that we’ll produce together as a class. A final assignment will require you to develop your own historical analysis of an event, person, or cultural or political phenomenon, and to present an argument about how your subject shaped, and was shaped by, America in the Cold War world. That final project, which may build on your work for either of the earlier two assignments, may take the form of a traditional research paper of 15–20 pages, or you may speak with me about presenting it in another medium; in either case, you will have the opportunities to get feedback on a short proposal and a brief presentation as you work on your project. Your grade for the course will be based 20% on your film analysis, 20% on your contribution to the online guide, 30% on your final project, and 30% on your reading responses and engaged and insightful participation in discussions.


Please purchase the following three books, or plan to borrow them from Leavey Library’s circulation desk, where they will be on reserve. The first two are available at the USC Bookstores; The Culture of the Cold War is out of print, so please seek out a used or library copy.

All other readings will be available through links below. If you prefer print to reading off a screen, though, you may still want to buy or borrow a few more books. The ones we’ll be reading substantial chunks of, which will also be available on reserve at Leavey, include:

Boxes like this one contain suggestions for additional reading. You might want to read beyond the assigned reading based on your curiosity, as research for an assignment, or ideally for both reasons, as you use an assignment to pursue your own interests.


Subjects: capitalism, communism, conservatism, liberalism, politics, race, radicalism, socialism, war
Category: teaching