Twentieth-Century U.S. historiography hinges on the year 1945. Everything after V-J Day is lumped together as “postwar,” while everything before it is, too often, treated merely as a prelude to the “American Century” it inaugurated. Yet WWII itself usually gets bracketed as an exceptional and discrete moment, a dramatic but fleeting mobilization for a singular global war, whose roots in the interwar period and long-term ramifications get short shrift. This seminar will explore the new perspectives that appear when this oversight is rectified, and WWII is given its due, and considered as more than a black box from which the modern US emerges. We will focus mostly on social, economic, institutional and political developments on the homefront, while also touching on the intellectual and cultural history of the period. Although it will not be a major subject of reading or discussion, military history will also be taken into consideration as it pertains to these domestic transformations.
Seminar led by James Sparrow, University of Chicago