The United States in the Age of Polarisation, 1960-Present HIST4290

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 60
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course will examine the reasons for, and the extent to which, American society, culture, and politics polarised in the years after 1960. To do so, it will examine a wide range of issues, such as: race relations, LGBT+ rights, socioeconomic policy, abortion, gun rights, US foreign policy, the shifting media landscape, the modern American presidency, and the increased partisanship between Democrats and Republicans.


20 3-hour weekly seminars as scheduled in MyCampus. This is a final-year special subject in History and may not run every year. The options that are running this session are available on MyCampus

Requirements of Entry

Available to all students fulfilling requirements for entry in Senior Honours History and Senior Honours joint degrees with History.

Excluded Courses





Two Exams (2-hour duration) - 60%

Two Essays (2,500 each) - 20%

Two Seminar Presentations (10 minutes each) - 12%

Seminar Contribution - 8%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. Where, exceptionally, reassessment on Honours courses is required to satisfy professional/accreditation requirements, only the overall course grade achieved at the first attempt will 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

This course aims 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.

■ Familiarise students, through source-criticism, with a wide range of problems of interpretation arising from different usages of language, underlying meanings and intentions, differing standards of objectivity, and the variety of purpose and intent associated with historical evidence (written, visual or other).

■ Ensure, through student-led discussion, that the relative validity of alternative historical interpretations is fully recognised.

■ Encourage students to develop the confidence, imagination, 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:


■ Explain the key political, social, and cultural developments in the United States (1960-2020).

■ Relate how these developments contributed to polarisation in the United States

■ Employ an interdisciplinary approach to the modern history of the United States, incorporating economic, social, intellectual, and cultural histories, as well as literary and statistical sources

■ Analysis a variety of source materials (primary and secondary) on this subject in essays and examination

■ Deploy a broad range of communication skills, including debating, roleplay, presentation, and general class participation.

■ Exhibit an ability to conduct individual research online for relevant materials including: photographs, cartoons, film and television clips, music, or other relevant sources.

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.