Post-World War II America

History 102

Web Module # 4

Post World War II America

Exploring the Culture and Politics of the United States 1945-1980

          Citizens of the United States in the years between 1945 and 1980 struggled to cope with a wide variety of changes taking place throughout the world and at home. The unchanging certainties of culture and politics, which many erroneous believed characterized the years prior to World War II, seemed to dissolve in an ongoing debate over a host of issues rarely visited in any meaningful way in the past. Dominating the three and a half decades after the World War II was a new war described as “Cold,” which had a disturbing tendency to get hot in parts of the world only remotely familiar to most Americans. This threat of nuclear war and the ongoing tensions between the two Super Powers dominated international relations and reshaped American politics. At a more fundamental level, many Americans began to question assumptions and values which most regarded as unquestionable. Race relations, patriotism, consumer culture and even the relationship between parents and their children all underwent the scrutiny of public debate. For most of the period it seemed that there was nothing that could not or should not be debated in the American marketplace of ideas. For some who lived through the Great Depression and the war, the postwar era of a growing and prosperous Middle Class was a vindication of the triumph of established attitudes and values. For other Americans, often economically left behind or marginalized by the larger society, economic change, international instability, and the questioning of traditional points of view generated a fear and frustration which would be manifested in a wide variety of efforts to maintain the status quo. For still others America failed to deliver on its promise of freedom, equality, and open access and was mesmerized by a culture of consumption gone wild. Words associated with this time period all have the ability to conjure very diverse attitudes and emotions. To this day reference to Red Scare, Vietnam, Counter Culture, Beats, Civil Rights, Affirmative Action, Korea, Watergate, Cuba, Nixon, Woodstock or any of a long list of groups or events evokes a wide range of responses. Yet there is one thing most agree: to a varying degree all of these have had a role in reshaping, for good or bad, contemporary America.

Web Module Exercise:

          This web module is designed to give students wide latitude to explore a topic of interest closely associated with the era of the Cold War.  It will also give students the opportunity to locate and evaluate historical documents available on the World Wide Web and to draw conclusions about the historical significance of the event being studied.  The exercise is to be carried out in the following way.

    1. For the primary analysis report:

      1. Decide on topic to be explored.
      2. Identify web sites and documents to be used in exploring your topic.
      3. Evaluate the content and value of the documents to be used in your group project.

    2. For the final draft each Web Module Analysis Group must submit a single paper that analyzes and explains what the materials taken together tell us about the topic under consideration and the history of the Cold War Era.
        The final draft must contain evidence to support your generalizations.
      1. Be sure to use complete citations to indicate the sources of your information.
      2. What is the historical significance of the topic you have researched?

    Selecting and Event:

    1. Decide which decade (The Forties, The Fifties, The Sixties, or The Seventies) your group wishes to understand more about.  Use a web search engine such as Yahoo or Alta Vista to determine what materials are available on the World Wide Web for the decade you are interested in.  or…
    2. Select a cultural or political event in your group’s decade of interest that you want to analyze and use your search engine to locate web sites on that topic.

    3. Select two or more web sites that contain primary documents relating to the topic you have chosen.

    4. Select the primary documents from each web site that best inform you about the event and analyze their content.

    Preparing the Report:

    1. Evaluate the quality of the web site and the documents contained on that site.
    2. Who authored the web site and what was the authors purpose for creating the site?
    3. Are the documents sufficient to understand the event you are researching?
    4. What do the primary documents tell you about the event?
      1. What caused the event or activity?
      2. What happened?
      3. Who was involved?
      4. When did it happen?
      5. What was the outcome?
    5. Draw a conclusion as to the event’s historical significance and to its impact on the future.

    Web Sites of Interest:

    1. The Forties:  

    2. The Fifties:  or

    3. The Sixties:

    4. The Seventies: 

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