This course invites students to study the history of twentieth-century social movements through close primary source analysis and historiographic debate. We'll identify the precipitating events or crises that cultivate particular social movements, but we'll also examine their quieter dimensions, including their aftermaths, "half-lives," and influence on subsequent movements.
We begin by considering how historians define social movements, as well as theoretical frameworks that circulate between history and other disciplines to understand them. Through our close study of four social movements (and your own research) we'll explore the relationship between individual experience and collective mobilization. We'll ask how social movements have been received and reshaped by the institutions they target, and identify the means by which opponents resisted social movement claims. In so doing, we'll ask the following questions: How have scholars decided when a social movement begins and ends? How does periodization shape our understanding of their impact? How have changes in broadcast media and digital technology altered the organization, communication, and historical record of social movements? Do they pose particular interpretive challenges for historians? Throughout the course, we'll identify continuities in worldviews, moral commitments, narratives, and historical memory that have characterized social movement genealogies across the twentieth century.
Coursework will immerse students in historiographic debates and extend those conversations through assignments in which students identify and present primary sources to the class. We'll continue our collective preparation for primary source analysis through visits to Rauner Archive and Special Collections. The course will culminate with a 20-25 page research paper on a social movement of your choosing. Dist: TMV; WCult: W.
Major distributives (Class of 2023 and Before): US.
Major distributives (Class of 2024 and Beyond): US, modern.