HIST 2110: Origins of American Settlement

For Wednesday’s class, we are going to be discussing how people got to the Americas in the first place. Be sure to get the textbook (Give Me Liberty by Eric Foner) and read pages 1-37. Also, read Ursula K. Leguin’s story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” and come to class prepared to discuss it.

You might also find this Crash Course video on the settling of the Americas useful to review the material before class:

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HIST 2110 and HIST 8030: Welcome to the New Semester

20th century flyer

This website is designed for use by students in Dr. Cummings’s HIST 2110 (Survey of US History) and HIST 8030 (Twentieth Century US Research Seminar) courses.  Here you will find assigned online readings, videos, and a place to upload writing assignments (for students in HIST 8030).  

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HIST 3220: Final Exam Study Guide, Part 2

Questions similar to these will appear on Monday’s final exam.  Please also refer to the list of terms to review for the test here.

In what ways did television change American politics since the 1950s?  Discuss at least three instances in which television influenced major political struggles, such as elections or movements for political change.

Explain the origins of the containment doctrine, and describe how the United States intervened beyond our borders to curb Communist influence.  What was the impact of containment on US foreign policy, and how did our approach to international affairs change from the 1950s through the collapse of the Soviet Union?

What did the Great Society hope to achieve, and was it a success?  Discuss at least four distinct policies enacted during the administration of Lyndon D. Johnson and describe their intended goals.

Discuss the goals and tactics of the postwar civil rights movement.  What did the movement accomplish, how did it do so, and what kind of opposition did it engender, both in and outside of the South?

How do you account for the failure of St. Louis’s Pruitt-Igoe public housing project?  Drawing on the film The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, use references to specific policies to explain why the project fell so far short of its original promise, and discuss the impact of Pruitt-Igoe on the ways Americans thought about government programs and housing policy.

What factors contributed to the rise of the New Right in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s?  How did conservatives with different concerns and ideological orientations unite to achieve far-reaching political influence?

When did the War on the Drugs begin, and what effect has the effort to suppress the distribution and use of illegal substances had on American life — politically, socially, economically?

Discuss how American thinking about gender roles changed over the course of the late twentieth century.  How did the lives of women change since World War II, and how did conflicts over work, the family, and sexuality increasingly define the course of American politics?

What does Daniel Rodgers mean by a “wrinkle in time” in his book Age of Fracture?  How does Rodgers link constitutional law, economic theory, and the collapse of Communism to convey a changing sense of time in the 1990s?

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HIST 3220: Blog #5

free time cat

The final post of the semester asks you to look at the big picture.  How did we get from the “Search for Order” to the “Age of Fracture”?

Write 500 words on what you believe are the three major themes of American history in the 20th century.  Look at all of our readings and lectures over the course of the semester and think about the big processes that transformed American life from 1900 to the present day.  These processes could be social, political, economic, or cultural changes.  The post should be written a clear, grammatically correct style; it should discuss specific events, people, and concepts and cite evidence from at least three of the assigned readings.  The blog should be uploaded as a reply to this post by 8AM on Wednesday morning, December 4th.

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HIST 3220: Final Exam Study Guide

Sample essay questions are coming soon — in the meantime, review these terms for the final exam.

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Blog #4: The Voguing Rights Act of 1985


We will watch How to Survive a Plague in class on the 18th.  Please watch the film Paris Is Burning (1990) outside of class.  Write a 500 word post about the differences between the two films—how do they differently portray gay life in the 1980s and early 1990s?  What separates the characters in the two films, and how do they see the world?

Various copyright holders have recently forced Google to remove the full-length Paris Is Burning documentary that previously streamed for free on YouTube, but the film is available to rent through YouTube and Amazon; it is also on reserve at the GSU library and can be viewed through Netflix’s online streaming (if you have a Netflix account).

Update: a member of the course has highlighted the following free streaming of Paris Is Burning (in several installments; be sure to watch the entire series of videos) at Daily Motion:


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HIST 8030- Age of Fracture by Daniel Rodgers

In Age of Fracture, Daniel T. Rodgers traces the fragmentation of American society in the last quarter of the twentieth century.  In this tumultuous age, “intellectual assumptions that had defined the common sense of public intellectual life since the Second World War were challenged, dismantled, and formulated anew,” (2).  It was “an era of disaggregation, a great age of fracture” in which “struggles of books and mind changed the ways in which social reality itself would be imagined,” (2-3).  Age of Fracture is about a modal shift of emphasis from the one to the many.  Holistic language yielded to particularized notions of “individuals, contingency, and choice,” (5).  Ideas about economics, identity, and power became highly pluralized as the nation experienced a “historic intellectual shift,” (11).  Rodgers’ task is not an easy one.  As Tony Judt noted in Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century (we read the intro for week one), “the recent past is the hardest to know and understand,” (Judt, 2).  Rodgers acknowledges his temporal proximity to the late twentieth century (14), but plunges forward to explore “how it was that a vocabulary of social thought unexpectedly became outmoded and passé, and another way of thinking, for an era, made claim to its place,” (14).  In my own humble opinion, Rodgers succeeds with flying colors.

Rodgers acknowledges two key limitations in his method.  First, Age of Fracture is not a complete history of American fragmentation, but, rather, only a part.  Rodgers focuses on “the fields where the heaviest public intellectual ammunition of the era was mobilized, where academic thought and public policy met with the sharpest implications for each other,” (13).  Second, Rodgers pays “scant attention to the parallel debates that swept across the world outside the United States,” (13).  These limitations are certainly understandable, given the enormity, if not impossibility, of writing a comprehensive history of late twentieth-century fragmentation and disaggregation.

Age of Fracture is a complex work that transcends simple categorization.  One could simultaneously label the book as a work of intellectual, cultural, political, or economic history, without any contradiction of terms.  Rodgers addresses a different theme in each chapter.  In “Losing the Words of the Cold War,” he examines the changing rhetoric in presidential speeches.  More than any other president, Reagan changed the language of American politics, as he abandoned conceptual, combative structures in favor of a personalized, conversational approach.  In chapter two, Rodgers discusses the economic fragmentation of the age, in which the free market emerged into a “socially detached array of economic actors, free to choose and optimize, unconstrained by power or inequalities, governed not by their common deliberative action but only by the impersonal laws of the market,” (76).

Chapter three details the ways in which power “fragmented and diffused,” as its vocabulary became “less graspable, less easy to employ,” (110).  In chapter four, Rodgers explains the complexity of racial issues in the United States that led to its fragmentation.  In the post-Civil Rights era, varying attitudes about its implications emerged, which resulted in a “certain amnesia” about racial history (137).  Chapter five is devoted to the fragmentation of gender and sexuality in relation to the culture wars of the late twentieth century.  In chapter six, Rodgers shows the ways in which political theorists began to favor and emphasize localized, fragmented communities.  These theorists imagined society as smaller, more voluntaristic, fractured, easier to exit, and more guarded from others,” (220).  Chapter seven is a fascinating examination of changing conceptions of time and history.  Competing versions of American history emerged in the late twentieth century, resulting in fragmented interpretations and understandings of the Constitution’s meaning and applicability.  The age of fracture made it possible for one to conceive of time and history in more privatized ways.  Liberals and conservatives alike framed American history within their own respective eschatological mentalities concerning the origin and destiny of the nation.

In the epilogue, Rodgers explores the implications of the age of fracture for twenty-first century America.  He argues that although American society has resembled the Cold War period in the post-9/11 era, the disaggregation of the last quarter of the twentieth century fundamentally and permanently altered the nation.  In the understatement of the century, Rodgers suggests that President George W. Bush was not a gifted orator (262).  Nonetheless, President Bush, with the help of his talented speechwriting staff, called for a “new civic culture,” that emphasized service and community (264).  While this rhetoric resembled the language of the Cold War, Rodgers assures us that it would be economically impossible for such a culture to emerge in a fractured society in which “markets and politics” had “become radically intertwined,” (265).  Furthermore, the changes that emerged in the age of fracture became imbedded in the U.S. foreign policy and power structures.  Rodgers makes this point more eloquently on the last page, stating, “Pieces of old and new social paradigms filled the air, full of promise and full of danger.  They formed fragments out of which the new century’s debates would be constructed…The age of fracture had permanently altered the play of argument and ideas,” (271).  Thus, fracture still persisted, even if it hid behind a veil of rhetoric.

Also, here is an interesting interview with the man himself, Daniel Rodgers, about Age of Fracture.


1.) As the title suggests, Age of Fracture explores the disaggregation of many components in American society (e.g. race, power, sex, economics, conceptions of time).  In what ways were their fragmentations intertwined?  For example, how did the fracturing conceptions of power intersect with the changing notions of gender and sexuality?

2.) In chapter two, “The Rediscovery of the Market,” Rodgers attributes the appeal of supply-side economics in the early 1980s to its simplicity.  He argues that the “supply-siders spoke to a widespread public weariness with being hectored with hard choices and uncertain forecasts,” (73).  Supply-side economics accounted for “the hunger for self-administering economic rules, and the rising stock of simple ideas,” (73).  However, Rodgers’ evidence appears to be relatively thin, as he does not expand upon this idea for the remainder of the chapter. Do you believe that Rodgers is correct in his claim that supply-side economics won support, in whole or in part, because of its simplicity?  Are Americans in 2013 attracted to simplicity in seeking answers for complicated issues?

3.) According to Rodgers, as power “fragmented and diffused” in the 1980s (110), it was viewed with skepticism in the academy and with optimism by the masses.  Has this trend endured into the twenty-first century?

4.) In the great age of fracture, Americans struggled to make sense of the language and meaning of race.  Conservatives disliked strategies, such as Affirmative Action, that showed preferential treatment based on race.  Instead, they preferred a “colorblind” approach that, theoretically, evaluated people, regardless of race, within the same set of qualitative criteria (129).  Do you believe the push for a “colorblind” America is an example of racecraft?  Would Barbara and Karen Fields view it as such?

5.)  Rodgers devotes a significant amount of space to Presidential rhetoric, detailing the manner in which America lost the language of the Cold War, only to gain the language of the War on Terror in 2001.  Do you believe this ebb and flow of national language is a continuing trend in American history or is it unique to the age of fracture, existing parenthetically between two wars (one cold and one quite hot)?


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