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The Wars Within: Patriotism, Protest, and Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America

This course is expected to run but has not yet been scheduled.

Course Description

Why do Americans go to war? How do conflicts abroad shape politics at home? In this course, students will study debates concerning freedom of speech, civil rights, and political repression during the two World Wars, the early Cold War, and the Vietnam era. Reading a range of primary sources, including political speeches, journalism, and literature, discussions will reflect on such larger issues as the meaning of citizenship in wartime and the place of dissent in a free society.

Over the term, students will explore how war provided a context for debates about freedom and citizenship in twentieth-century America. Each class meeting will consider these themes by looking closely at a different episode from the historical record: the imprisonment of Eugene V. Debs during World War I for sedition; the campaign to end racial discrimination in industry and government during World War II; the rise and fall of McCarthyism in the 1950s; and the emergence of a broad anti-war coalition during the Vietnam era. Along the way, we will also spend time learning about the different tools college students and historians use to study the past, such as reference volumes, magazine collections, and electronic newspaper databases. The course will conclude with each student delivering a short presentation on a wartime topic he or she has researched at the Rockefeller Library at Brown University.

By the end of the term, students will be able to read and interpret primary sources; evaluate arguments about the past; and think critically about the history of wartime politics in America during the twentieth century. These skills will serve students as they prepare for AP exams in U.S. and European history and in college-level history and government classes.

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