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COURSE NAME: "The American 20th Century"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2023

INSTRUCTOR: Andrea Lanzone
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 3:00 PM 4:15 PM
PREREQUISITES: Co-requisites: EN 110; Recommended: Junior Standing, One previous history course

This seminar examines the history of the United States from the closing of the frontier to the present. Although the analysis of the 20th century will generally be chronological, an attempt will be made to trace the importance of key experiences and ideas that have shaped US society during the last 100 years. Special attention will be paid to such topics as the closing of the frontier, immigration, World War I, the Great Depression, the impact of American literature, World War II, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Sixties, and to ideas such as democracy, freedom, “American Identity” and the “American Dream.”

Satisfies "Modern History" core course requirement for History majors.


This Seminar is designed to give students a broad overview of the History of the United States. Students’ active participation in discussions is absolutely necessary to making the course work well. The very high percentage of the final grade will be based on class participation. Lectures will be followed by questions and discussion. Students should come to lectures prepared. All assigned readings should be completed before each class meeting. 


The American 20th Century provides the student with a deep and critical understanding of United States of America in terms of historical events, social systems, economic processes and ideologies. One of the aims of the course is to enhance student's skills in critical thinking and reading. To this end, students shall investigate one key event in the recent history of the United States of America (group discussions will be a central part of the course structure) and develop their abilities to:

  • Formulate a research question about a historical subject.
  • Evaluate primary and secondary sources.
  • Respect academic integrity and ethical standards.
  • Communicate and develop information and ideas.
    Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
    A People's History of the United States of AmericaHoward ZinnHarper Perennial978-1-4000-6457-1  
    The American CenturyHarold EvansKnopf0-375-70938  
    America DividedMaurice Isserman, Michael KazinOxford University Press019516047-9  

    Paper # 1Students will develop a seven-page paper on one of the issues discussed in class and will analyze its dynamics, problems and prospects.20%
    Paper # 2Students will develop a seven-page paper on one of the issues discussed in class and will analyze its dynamics, problems and prospects.20%
    FinalEssay-based exam in which students critically engage with the materials and debates presented in class lectures, discussions and readings.20%
    Attendance and ParticipationAttendance is mandatory. Participation is graded based on the student's comments, questions, active note-taking and general active engagement in class discussions and activities 30%
    Group ProjectStudents will work in a team of 4/5 members on a project referred to a specific decade. Through the project, students will be able to analyze various issues pertaining the 20th American Century in all its aspects. 10%

    AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the cou
    BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
    CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
    DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
    FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

    More than two absences will have a negative effect on the grade, the more absences, the negative-er the effect
    As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
    John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


    week 1: The Closing of the Frontier

    week 2: America Moves to the City

    week 3: The Phenomenon of American Immigration

    week 3: Progressivism and the Republican Roosevelt

    week 4: Wilsonian Progressivism Home and Abroad

    week 4: World War I: The War to end all Wars

    week 5: American Life in the Roaring Twenties

    week 6: The Great Depression and the New Deal

    week 7: World War II in Europe

    week 7: America in World War II

    week 8: The 1940s

    week 9: The Eisenhower Era 1952-1960

    week 10: Kennedy’s New Frontier

    week 10: Civil Rights and Vietnam

    week 11: The Seventies

    week 12 The Eighties

    week 13 The Nineties and the New Millennium

    Final exam