Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

American History Now: The United States and the Urgent Past HIST5168

  • Academic Session: 2022-23
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: No

Short Description

'This course introduces students to the history of the United States by examining public controversies over the meaning of the American past, exploring key historiographical questions in the process. Topics include the 1619 project and slavery, Confederate monuments, disputes over the content of high school history textbooks, and the Enola Gay exhibition at the Smithsonian Museum.'


1x2hr seminars per week over 10 weeks as scheduled in MyCampus

Requirements of Entry

Standard entry to Masters at College level.

Excluded Courses





An essay (3,000 words) - 60%


A critical evaluation (1,000) of a document, exhibition, memorial, film, novel, or other artefact related to the contested history of the United States (20%) 


An opinion piece (1,000 words) illuminating for a non-expert audience a public controversy about the meaning of US history (20%)

Main Assessment In: April/May

Course Aims

This course aims to:


■ prepare students to analyse debates about the contested meaning of the past with skill, confidence and imagination.

■ familiarise students with a range of methodological and theoretical approaches to studying the contentious meaning of the American past.

■ engage students with sources (documents, artefacts, films, or other primary materials) historians can use to probe and interrogate US history's place in public life.

■ develop in students the analytical skills required to contribute intelligently, and in an informed fashion, to public debates about contentious episodes, topics, and issues pertinent to the history of the United States in particular, and to the discipline of history more broadly.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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


■ analyse contentious public debates about the meaning of the American past.

■ appraise the variety of methodological and theoretical approaches historians adopt when studying US history's contested place in public life.

■ evaluate sources (documents, artefacts, films, or other primary sources) that shed light on US history's place in public life.

■ present well-evidenced and well-written analyses in a range of written forms, including those targeted at popular as well as scholarly audiences.

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.