Peter Sachs Collopy
America in the Cold War World, 1945–1991
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.
- Robert J. McMahon, The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction (2003).
- Jeremi Suri, Power and Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Detente (2003).
- Stephen J. Whitfield, The Culture of the Cold War, second edition (1996, revised from 1991 original).
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.
August 25: Introduction
September 1: The Atomic Age
- Eric Schlosser, “Almost Everything in Dr. Strangelove Was True” (2014).
- Michael D. Gordin, Five Days in August: How World War II Became a Nuclear War (2007), chapters 1, 3, and 6–7.
- Naomi Oreskes, “Science in the Origins of the Cold War,” in Science and Technology in the Global Cold War, edited by Naomi Oreskes and John Krige (2014).
- Paul Boyer, By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age (1985), chapters 1 and 26–27, and epilogue.
- For more on Cold War science, see Audra J. Wolfe, Competing with the Soviets: Science, Technology, and the State in Cold War America (2013) and its bibliography. On nuclear weapons in the context of the U.S. military, see Eric Schlosser, Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety (2013), and Alex Wallerstein’s blog Restricted Data.
September 8: Soviet and American Systems
- Robert J. McMahon, The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction (2003), chapters 1–2.
- Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (2005), introduction and chapters 1–2.
- Raymond Williams, “Capitalism,” “Communism,” “Democracy,” “Imperialism,” “Liberal,” and “Socialist,” in Keywords: A Vocabulary for Culture and Society, revised edition (1983, revised from 1976 original).
- David F. Ruccio, “Capitalism,” in Keywords for American Cultural Studies, edited by Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler (2014).
- Nikhil Pal Singh, “Liberalism,” in Burgett and Hendler, Keywords for American Cultural Studies.
- John Lewis Gaddis, The Cold War: A New History (2005) is a standard history of the Cold War as a bipolar conflict. The Cambridge History of the Cold War, edited by Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd Arne Westad (2010), is an extensive, three-volume (Origins, Crisis and Detente, and Endings) collection of essays. For more on the cultural Cold War, see Audra J. Wolfe’s introductory bibliography.
September 15: Anticommunism and the Domestic Cold War
- Stephen J. Whitfield, The Culture of the Cold War, second edition (1996, revised from 1991 original), chapters 1–2, 4, 6, and 8–9.
- Starting places for additional reading include Ellen Schrecker, Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America (1998); Thomas Doherty, Cold War, Cool Medium: Television, McCarthyism, and American Culture (2003); and David K. Johnson, The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government (2004).
September 22: Nuclear Families
- Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (1985), chapters 13–14.
- Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era, revised edition (2008, revised from 1988 original), introduction and chapters 1, 4, and 6–7.
- For more on redlining and segregation, see chapter 11 of Crabgrass Frontier and Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations” (2014). Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Home is Where the Hatred Is” (2014) is a bibliography. On how experts changed cities during the Cold War, see Jennifer S. Light, From Warfare to Welfare: Defense Intellectuals and Urban Problems in Cold War America (2003).
September 29: The Global Cold War
- McMahon, The Cold War, chapters 3–5.
- Westad, The Global Cold War, chapter 3.
- Greg Grandin, The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America in the Cold War (2004), preface and introduction.
- Jacob Darwin Hamblin, Arming Mother Nature: The Birth of Catastrophic Environmentalism (2013), chapter 6.
- There are many directions to go for additional reading, but for samples of recent essays see Environmental Histories of the Cold War, edited by J. R. McNeill and Corinna R. Unger (2010), and The Cold War in the Third World, edited by Robert J. McMahon (2013). The Korean War is conspicuously absent from cultural histories of the Cold War, but for diplomatic and military history see Bruce Cumings, The Korean War: A History (2010), Wada Haruki, The Korean War: An International History, translated by Frank Baldwin (2014), and Allan R. Millett, The Korean War, The Essential Bibliography Series (2007).
October 6: Black Liberation Movements I
October 13: Black Liberation Movements II
- Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line, chapters 5–6, and epilogue.
- Van Gosse, Rethinking the New Left: An Interpretive History (2005), chapter 9.
- Ryan J. Kirkby, “‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’: Community Activism and the Black Panther Party, 1966–1971” (2011).
- Chapters 4 and 9 of the bibliography of Rethinking the New Left are important starting points for further reading, as is the #blackpanthersyllabus, compiled by Keisha N. Blain, Ashley Farmer, and Dara Vance (2016). Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin, Jr., Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party (2012) is a detailed narrative history of the BPP.
October 20: The Vietnam War
October 27: Detente and New Radicalisms
Monday, October 31: Contribution due to online exhibit
November 3: New Conservatisms I
November 10: New Conservatisms II
- McGirr, Suburban Warriors, chapters 5–6, and epilogue.
- Corey Robin, The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin (2011), pages 3–17.
- Daniel T. Rodgers, Age of Fracture (2011), prologue and chapter 1.
- Other starting places for reading on Cold War conservatism include Rick Perlstein’s trilogy Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (2001), Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America (2008), and The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan (2014), as well as Trump Syllabus 2.0, compiled by N. D. B. Connolly and Keisha N. Blain (2016), and Sean Wilentz, The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974–2008 (2008).
Monday, November 14: Final project proposal due
November 17: Ends of the Cold War and Beyond
- McMahon, The Cold War, chapter 8.
- Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History?” The National Interest, Summer 1989.
- John Lewis Gaddis, We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History (1997), chapter 10.
- Jon Wiener, How We Forgot the Cold War: A Historical Journey across America (2012), introduction, chapters 1 and 21, conclusion, and epilogue.
- Appy, American Reckoning, chapter 11.
- Few historians have yet written extensively about the 1980s and beyond, though Age of Fracture and The Age of Reagan are important exceptions. For more historiography of the Cold War, see Cold War Triumphalism: The Misuse of History after the Fall of Communism, edited by Ellen Schrecker (2004), and Uncertain Empire: American History and the Idea of the Cold War, edited by Joel Isaac and Duncan Bell (2012).
November 24: No class for Thanksgiving
December 1: Final project presentations
December 8: Final project due