The United States in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (SS) HIST4221

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 60
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Runs Throughout Semesters 1 and 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: No

Short Description

This course examines how the United States responded to the two great crises it faced in the first half of the twentieth century: the Great Depression and the Second World War. Focusing chiefly on domestic developments, we will look at how these crises altered America's political, social and cultural landscape, making use of a wide range of primary sources from films, songs, and photographs to political speeches, legal documents, and radio addresses.


3 hours per week over two semesters as scheduled in MyCampus

Requirements of Entry

Successful completion of Junior Honours in history

Excluded Courses




Coursework - two essays (2,500 words) (10% each); two seminar papers ( 800 words) (6% each); seminar participation (4% each)

Examination - two exams each of 120 minutes duration (30% each)

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? No

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

The following aims are shared by all History special subjects:

1. to prepare students for independent and original analysis of a complex range of evidence, including source materials, thereby developing intellectual skills which will be of benefit in a wide range of careers.
2. to show students how a professional historian works.
3. to familiarise students, through source-criticism, with a wide range of problems of interpretation arising from different usages of language underlying meanings and intensions, differing standards of objectivity, and the variety of purpose and intent associated with historical evidence (written, visual or other).
4. to ensure, through student-led discussion, that the relative validity of alternative historical interpretations is fully recognised.
5. to encourage students to develop the confidence, imaginations, skills and self-discipline required to master a similarly demanding brief in the future, whether in historical research or in any sphere or employment where these qualities are valuable

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

1. be familiar with the debates about the significance of the twin crises of the Great Depression and Second World War for understanding modern US history;

2. to demonstrate a clear understanding of the political, social, and cultural history of the period, demonstrating familiarity with a range of methodological approaches to the study of US history in the period 1929-1945;

3. to demonstrate the ability to approach the study of the Great Depression and Second World War with an awareness and clear understanding of the range of historiographical positions adopted by historians of the period 1929-1945 and be able to discriminate between them, in this way demonstrating critical ability and independence of mind;

4.  be able to critically analyse and engage with a variety of sources (primary and secondary) in a number of forms (textual, visual, web-based) requiring different means of interpretation;

5. be able to demonstrate your ability to present your findings (in essays and seminar papers) in grammatical, effective prose or verbal argument.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.