History | On the Brink of Destruction: America and the Cold War 1945-1991
A379 | 8909 | Seaver
Above class open to undergraduates and EDUC MA's only
From the end of World War II until just around the time that most of
you were born, the United States and the Soviet Union found
themselves locked in a bitter test of wills unlike any war the world
had ever seen. People around the globe went to bed each night with
the fear that the Cold War could "turn hot" in a matter of hours,
and that millions could be dead by morning. In numerous instances
during the second half of the twentieth century, it seemed as though
American society was on the brink of destruction.
So how, then, was it that the United States "won" the Cold War when
the Soviet Union ultimately collapsed two decades ago? Was this
victory a foregone conclusion? What critical (mis)calculations
along the way by multiple players acting on the world stage brought
us to this point? Most importantly, how did the nature of the Cold
War shape American culture--and vice versa--during this era? We
will attempt to answer these questions by examining a number of
political, military, and diplomatic developments during the
twentieth century, mindful all the while of how those developments
were perceived and experienced by ordinary people like you and me.
Our investigation will touch upon several key themes, including the
ways in which nuclear weapons altered the nature of the conflict;
the increased emphasis upon espionage, surveillance, and technology
at home and abroad; the symbolic and literal importance of proxy
wars and skirmishes in Korea, Vietnam, and elsewhere; the gendered
nature of Cold War rhetoric and popular culture; and the tension
between patriotism and dissent in a democratic society.
In addition to broadening your knowledge of twentieth-century
American and world history, this class will help you to hone your
skills as a critical thinker, speaker, and writer. Students will be
evaluated based upon active participation, two short papers, in-
class quizzes and assignments, a midterm exam, and a final exam.