Cal Poly Pomona

History 347 United States History since 1945


Instructor: Zuoyue Wang                                           Office: Building 94, Room 335

Fall Quarter 2013                                                       Office Hours: MW11-12 & Appt      

MW 4:00-5:50pm                                                       Classroom: Building 5, Room 104


Course website: 


Learning Objectives: In this course on the history of the United States since 1945, we will explore two major themes in this period: the impact of the Cold War and the transformation of American society, especially the civil rights movement.  Indeed, the connections between these two aspects of American history—the international and the domestic—will be a central focus.  We will examine a number of pivotal events from the Truman to the Barack Obama presidencies: the atomic bomb, the end of World War II, the origins of the Cold War, the Korean War, McCarthyism, Sputnik, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the struggle for women's rights, the environmental movement, the end of the Cold War, the rise of new technologies, 9/11, the Iraq War, the debate over global warming, and the Great Recession.  How have international and domestic developments affected each other?  Did technology drive American history in this period?  What has changed and what has remained the same in the United States from 1945 to 2012?  Through readings, lectures, discussions, videos, and writing exercises, we will not only try to answer these questions but also learn to collect and interpret historical evidence, sharpen our critical thinking, and improve our written and oral communication skills. 


How Do You Succeed in This Class?


Read the Textbooks: They provide the core facts and theories in the class, and therefore it’s most important to “get them done” thoroughly before moving to other sources relevant to the class.  Yes, you can pick up facts on individuals and events from the web, such as wikipedia, but often they come in as isolated pieces of information without the proper context that is developed in the textbooks.  It’s also important to relate your term paper with arguments from the textbooks.  You do not necessarily need to agree with these arguments; in fact the best papers tend to revise the accepted views as represented in the textbooks.  But, whether you agree with the textbooks or not, you need to relate your main argument with theirs, either as a confirmation or as a revision.


Engage in Informal Learning: Read the Los Angeles Times or New York Times or other news publications, listen to NPR, and watch PBS, especially its American Experiences, Frontline, or Charlie Rose programs.  These will help keep you intellectually stimulated and keep you informed of current debates over major political, social, and technological issues, which in turn would help you better understand the dynamics of historical changes in the past.


Talk to Others about What You Are Learning in the Class: Trying to explain something to someone else will help you better understand what you are trying to explain.  Questions from your audience are usually very helpful in giving a new way of looking at the problem.  Often you will find that you do not quite “get it” yourself, but that’s fine.  This discovery will motivate you to read the texts again or to discuss the problem with your instructor.


Communicate with Your Instructor: Professor Wang encourages you to raise questions at any time in class and to talk to him, in class or in his office during office hours, on any issue related to this class.  You can best contact him outside of class via email.


Use Resources on Campus and Work on Your Writing: Make use of reference librarians to help with your research and the Writing Center (Library 2919, phone 909-869-5343) to improve your writing skills.  Go to campus events and lectures.


Required Books Available at Bronco Bookstore:

William Chafe, The Unfinished Journey: America since World War II, 7th edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010). Also on reserve for 2-hour check out at the library.

Robert Griffith and Paula Baker (eds.), Major Problems in American History since 1945, 3rd edition (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2007).

Richard Marius and Melvin Page, A Short Guide to Writing about History, 6th edition (New York: Longman, 2007). Also on reserve for 2-hour check out at library under HST 408.


Assignments: There will be weekly work sheets, presentations on papers and books, a midterm exam, a term paper, and a final exam.  Attendance, timely completion of reading assignments, active participation in both group and whole class discussions, and good writing count in this class as we aim to improve not only our historical knowledge but also our written and oral communication skills. 


Reading Worksheet and Group Discussion: You must complete the reading assignments in Chafe and Griffith/Baker and fill out a worksheet (click this link to get a copy of the form)—typed, not handwritten—before the start of each session (except, of course, for the first session).  In class we will use the completed worksheet as a basis for group discussions.


Video Reviews: We will watch relevant documentary videos in class and students will write a one-paragraph review of the video—not a summary of the program but what’s new and striking to you—as a basis for discussion following the video.


Term Paper: You are required to write a paper on a topic related to the class and approved by Prof. Wang in advance.  During the first two weeks, try to thumb through the texts to get an overview of the topics we will be studying and think about what topics you would like to write on.  Try to decide on a general topic first, e.g., Vietnam War, and then narrow it down so you can go deeper, e.g., “Cal Poly Pomona and the Vietnam War.”  You are required to submit and discuss with Prof. Wang the topic and outline of your paper by the end of the third week of class.  The paper is to be between 5 to 8 pages long, double-spaced, with one inch margin on all sides, printed on plain paper using a laser-jet or ink-jet printer, stapled at the upper-left corner.  Put your name, class, title of the paper on the first page of the paper (no plastic cover or binding please).  For style, including footnotes, consult one of our texts, Marius/Page’ Short Guide.  Save your notes and drafts in case the instructor wants to see them.


A good paper will have a clear thesis statement, a brief (e.g., 2 paragraphs) historiographical review (what have the top two scholars writing on your subject have argued?), a narrative built on a variety of evidence but especially primary sources such as newspaper articles.  For most papers, you should make use of the following sources: at least two scholarly books or scholarly articles on your topic—use our library’s JStor database to find articles—for your historiography; some newspaper articles from our library’s Historical New York Times and Historical Los Angeles Times databases; credible information on the web (see a list of links on my webpage: and other primary sources.  You are strongly discouraged from citing wikipedia—use it as a starting point, not an ending point, as Jimmy Wales, founder of wikipedia, urges students.  The paper can describe an event or individual, but should explain how that event or individual related to the general themes of this class.  The paper is due in class on the last day of class.  Here are links to two sample term papers on “Hiroshima Maidens” and on “Edward Teller.”


Examinations: There will be a take-home midterm, which covers the first half of the class, and a take-home final exam, which covers the second half as well as the whole class.


Class Ground Rules to Create an Optimum Learning Environment and Useful Information:

  1. Late works will be penalized by 1/3 letter grade per day, e.g. B to B- if one day late.
  2. Please turn off cell phones and all electronic device, including earphones, during class period.
  3. Use of laptop computers with permission of instructor only.
  4. Avoid late entry or early exit without instructor's prior authorization.
  5. Activities not directly related to the class are prohibited once the class starts.
  6. Plagiarism—copying other people’s writings or ideas as one’s own without proper acknowledgment or citation—is a grave academic offense and is against university policy.  It can often be easily detected and will bring serious consequences for the offender.  If you have any question on this matter, please check with the instructor.  Also see Cal Poly Pomona Catalog regarding university policy against plagiarism.
  7. You can purchase Microsoft and other software at a greatly discounted price at Bronco Bookstore.



Attendance, Participation in Discussions, Worksheets, Oral Presentations, Video Reviews: 25%; Midterm: 25%; Term Paper: 25%; Final: 25%


Topics and Reading Assignments (Subject to Change):

The lectures will cover only a few major events in depth but the students should read both texts to gain a comprehensive understanding of developments in this period.


Week 1

9/30     Introduction

            Videos: Billy Joel “We Didn’t Start the Fire”; Charlie Rose interviews with Thomas Friedman/Michael Mandelbum on 9/7/2011 (7:00-13:20) and with Simon Schama 9/16/2011 (first 10 minutes). 

10/2     The Atomic Bomb: The End of World War II or the Beginning of the Cold War?

Video: Hiroshima (ABC);

Chafe, chapters 1-3.


Week 2

10/7     Early Cold War at Home and Abroad: the Korean War and McCarthyism

            Video: Korean War: 1949-1953  (CNN).

            Chafe, chapter 4; Griffith/Baker, chapter 2.

10/9     American Society in the 1950s

            Video: Happy Daze (1953-1960) (ABC);

            Chafe, chapters 5-6; Griffith/Baker, chapter 3.

Recommended: Rebecca Grant, “Dien Bien Phu,” Air Force Magazine 87, no. 8 (August 2004); Joseph Margulies, “Invoking God in America,” Los Angeles Times, August 13, 2013, A11.


Week 3

10/14   JFK, LBJ, Liberalism, and the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s

            Video: Poisoned Dream (1960-1964) (ABC);

            Chafe, chapters 7-8; Griffith/Baker, chapter 5.

            Term Paper Outline due

10/16   No class meeting. Read Marius/Page book and write a one-page review of what’s new and useful to you in regard to selecting a topic and writing the term paper.

            Marius/Page, the whole book. 

Due at the time of the next class meeting: one-page review of Marius/Page.

Week 4

10/21   The Cuban Missile Crisis

Video: Cuba: 1959-1962 (CNN);

Griffith/Baker, chapter 4.

10/23   The Vietnam War

            Video: Vietnam: 1954-1968 (CNN);

            Chafe, chapters 9-10; Griffith/Baker, chapter 9.


Week 5

10/28   America Radicalized

            Video: Unpinned (1965-1970) (ABC);

            Chafe, chapters 11-12; Griffith/Baker, chapter 7.

10/30   The Nixon Years

            Video: Approaching Apocalypse (1971-1975) (ABC);

            Chafe, chapter 13.


Week 6

11/4     Rachel Carson and the Origins of the Modern Environmental Movement

            Video:  Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (PBS);

Chafe, chapter 14-15; Zuoyue Wang online article, “Responding to Silent Spring.”

Handout Midterm Exam.

11/6     Library and Internet Research; Citations—Meet in Our Own Classroom

Re-read Marius/Page book. Bring Your Laptop or Tablet to Class.

Complete the special reading worksheet and turn it in the next class.


Week 7

11/11   Veterans Day—No Class

11/13   The Reagan Years

            Video: Star Wars: 1980-1988 (CNN);

Chafe, chapter 16; Griffith/Baker, chapter 10.

Midterm Exam due


Week 8

11/18   The 1990s

            Video: Hot Politics

            Chafe, chapter 17; Griffith/Baker, chapter 11.

11/20   The 2000s: September 11, the “War on Terror,” and Obama’s Election

            Video: Bioterror (PBS) (optional for watching at home: The Anthrax Files)         

Chafe, chapter 18 and epilogue; Griffith/Baker, chapter 14


Week 9


11/25   The New Military Industrial Complex

            Video: Top Secret America

            Reading: PBS interview with Dana Priest related to the program

11/27   Peer Review of Term Paper Drafts; Writing

            Bring Drafts to Class

            Sample term papers on “Hiroshima Maidens” and on “Edward Teller.”


Week 10

12/2     The New Technological Revolution; Presentations of Term Papers

            Video: Digital Nation

            Kevin Boone, “How to Give a Presentation

Reading: PBS introduction and interview with Sherry Turkle related to the program; Zuoyue Wang, “China, Sputnik, and American Science.”

12/4     Presentations of Term Papers; Course Evaluations

            Term Paper Due

Due: Term Paper (in class and via email)

            Hand out: Final Exam Questions; Due Wed. 12/11/2013 by 6pm via email and in box inside office (94-335) through window