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History: North America


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies.

Limited places are also open for exchange students. Please note: this course takes place in The Hague.


This lecture course introduces students to both an overview of the main historical developments in North America from 1945 to the present, and ways in which historical method allows us to interpret the past in different ways. Attention will be given to both domestic and foreign policy to cover the major developments with the United States during the Cold War and beyond. Although Canada and Mexico will be discussed, the emphasis of the course falls upon the United States.
The course begins with an overview of some of the central themes that are present in any consideration of US history: Freedom, Manifest Destiny, and American Exceptionalism. The course is thereafter loosely framed around two themes which are used to consider different periods and events from the 1950s to the 2000s: Freedom and Fear. Freedom is widely seen as the defining character of American life – the wish, if not the right, to live as a free individual. Yet this is always closely associated with the fear that something (e.g. the government) or somebody (e.g. the communists) is going to take this freedom away. Freedom and Fear are therefore two defining features of American life, and they provide the basic structure for this course.

Course objectives

Students will be able to understand the most important historical developments in North America since 1945 and place them in their correct context. The course focuses on the recent history of the United States, but also highlights details of the relations between Mexico, Canada, and the United States, and how these relations have changed over time.
Students will learn to make connections between politics, economics, international relations, and society/culture, and to understand how the United States of today has been formed by various forces for change through history.
Students will attain a basic understanding of historical methods and their application in interpreting and understanding the past from different perspectives. This will involve encouraging students to investigate the historical background to today’s events, and to appreciate the value of history for making sense of the present.
Specific objectives are the following:
1. To familiarize students with the fundamental trends and developments in the history of the United States since 1945
2. To familiarize students with historical methods, to enable them to conduct basic research
3. To familiarize students with the connections between the United States, Mexico, and Canada, and how to conceive of a history of North America in political, economic, and social terms.


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction

One two hour lecture per week; bi-weekly tutorials.

Attending lectures and tutorials is compulsory. If you are not able to attend a lecture or tutorial, please inform the tutor of the course. Being absent without notification can result in a lower grade or exclusion from the final exam or essay.

Course Load

A brief calculation of the course load, broken down by:

5 EC x 28 hours = 140 hours

  • Hours spent on attending lectures: 2 hours per week x 12 weeks = 24 hours

  • Hours spent attending tutorials: 6 meetings of 2 hours each = 12 hours

  • Hours spent covering the reading material: Approx. 500 pages = 50 hours

  • Hours spent preparing for exams, presentations, and writing the course paper: 54 hours

Assessment method

  • Tutorials 30%

  • Midterm Exam 30%

  • Final Exam 40%

If the final grade is insufficient (lower than a 6), there is the possibility of retaking the full 70% of the exam material, replacing both the earlier mid- and endterm grades. No resit for the tutorials is possible.

To complete the final mark, please take notice of the following:
the final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average


Blackboard will be used. For tutorial groups: please enroll in blackboard after your enrolment in uSis

Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

H.W. Brands, American Dreams (2011)
Other reading materials will be added to Blackboard


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Prof.dr. G.P. Scott-Smith, email