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The City in American Political Life 1776 – Present (NCHHI511)

30 Credits

This course examines the role played by cities in American political and social life from the Revolutionary era to the present day. Students are introduced to the main contours of American history while being challenged to consider how cities have both reflected and influenced local, national and international historical processes. Consequently, central themes of the course include debates about republicanism and democracy; mass immigration, industrialisation and mass production; notions of race, ethnicity and gender; social movements and political change; the relationship between city, state and federal branches of government; national anxieties during globalisation and de-industrialisation.

The course explores the role played by cities in the Early Republic – where they were variously seen as a destabilising ‘mobbish’ threat to republican virtue and as bastions of a burgeoning participatory public democracy – before examining the role of the industrialising north in exacerbating sectional tensions. Focusing on cities in the first half of the twentieth century will illuminate how transformative processes of mass production, migration and consumer culture fed into the emergence of the ‘New Deal order’. In the postwar period, the course will assess how social conditions in cities shaped, and were in turn transformed by, the emergence of civil rights militancy and Black Power politics. Finally, the course examines how processes of suburbanisation, deindustrialization and the growth of an urban ‘Sunbelt’ set the stage for the rise of the New Right, before interrogating how polarised understandings of declining post-industrial cities reveal fault-lines within modern American politics and society.