Faculty of Arts


Making Sense of the Sixties: the USA 1954-1973


"The Sixties will probably be spirited, articulate, inventive, incoherent,

turbulent, with energy shooting off wildly in all directions. 

Above all, there will be a sense of motion, of leadership, and of hope."

--Historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., 1960

Organised thematically and chronologically, this course examines the history of the 1960s in the United States. Several ideas shape the way we approach this historical topic.

  • The decade of the 1960s was "pivotal" for the United States, a decade when some fundamental changes occurred which marked the end of one era and the beginning of another
  • The idea of the "long sixties" is used, dating from the Civil Rights Movement’s victory with the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown Board of Education to the end of US military involvement in Vietnam and the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon after the Watergate scandal by 1974
  • The era was not only an important period for political liberalism and radicalism but also for conservatism
  • The 1960s cannot be seen simply as a decade of decline, with the early "good" sixties devolving into the late "bad" sixties; this "declension model" only fits some developments during the era and misses many others
  • All of the key conflicts in American history re-emerge in the 1960s—individual versus community, state’s rights versus federal power, ideals of equality versus reality of inequalities by race, class, gender and sexuality, and the US as a peace-seeking versus warmongering nation—thus making this era one of the most significant in US history

Overall, the course aims to shed light on why the 1960s were so important in the USA and on today’s polarised scholarly—and political—debates about the larger meaning and legacy of "the sixties". 

This course is taught concurrently with HISTORY 341, and students share a lecture time. However, HISTORY 241 differs from HISTORY 341 in that students have separate tutorials and different assessment. 


Coursework plus Exam

Availability 2020

Not taught in 2020


Coordinator(s) Dr Paul Taillon
Lecturer(s) Associate Professor Jennifer Frost

Recommended Reading

Terry H. Anderson, The Sixties.


Tutorial assignments, approximately 1000 words, worth 20%

Essay of 2,000 words, worth 40%

Final examination (2 hours)


HISTORY 241: 15.0 points


15 points at Stage I in History and 30 points passed



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