History MA/MA(SocSci)

Shining City Upon A Hill: American in the 1980s HIST4265

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

In this course we will explore the key political and social developments in the United States during the 1980s - an era dominated in the historical imagination by President Ronald Reagan. The module will cover a variety of themes, including: the 'Reagan Revolution', the final years of the Cold War, the HIV/AIDS crisis, the War on Drugs, the Culture Wars, rising inequality, and a host of other contentious issues that emerged in the 1980s and continue to have relevance for those seeking to greater understanding modern American politics and society.


14x1hr lectures, 6x1hr seminars over 10 weeks as scheduled in MyCampus. This is one of the Honours options in History and may not run every year. The options that are running this session are available on MyCampus.

Excluded Courses





Essay (3,000 words) - 50%

Examination (60 minute duration) - 40%

Presentation (10min) - 10%

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. 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:

■ Develop the intellectual interests and analytical skills acquired by students during their first two years;

■ Study previously unfamiliar methodological approaches, chronological periods and geographical areas by offering a wide choice of options;

■ Develop skills in historical computing, as well as basic IT awareness;

■ Introduce complex historical debates and interpretations, to develop skill in interpreting primary sources where appropriate, and to inform the discussion with new ideas derived from lecturers' current research;

■ Encourage the development of transferable skills by fostering individual initiative, personal choice, group discussion and, where appropriate, problem-solving team work.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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

■ Explain the key political and social developments in the United States during the 1980s and comprehend why these developments still have resonance for twenty-first century America.

■ Critically appraise the narrative that the 1980s were a transformative and ultimately successful years for the United States

■ Show an ability work with a variety of source materials (primary and secondary) on this subject in essays and examination

■ Express a broad range of communication skills through class participation.

■ Exhibit an ability to conduct individual research online for relevant materials including: newspapers, 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.