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“The Quest for Peace and Justice:” Pacifism and Peace Activism in Twentieth Century America


Admission requirements

BSA norm and a pass for both first year Themacolleges


The course explores the development of pacifist theories and practices in twentieth century America. Although geographically centered on the U.S., the course pays particular attention to the transnational dimension of the American peace movement as a whole and for this reason it fits particularly well the theme of the Kerncollege “Global Connections” (sem II).

The course examines two interconnected elements of American peace activism. The first one is represented by the ideals inspiring such an activism, i.e. religious beliefs, anti-imperialism, anti-militarism, internationalism, non-violence, feminism, social justice, and environmentalism. The second element is represented by the living embodiments of these ideals in the form of organized social movements. In particular, the course emphasizes the contribution of religious bodies, women’s organizations, youth movements, single-issue campaigns, and radical groups to the establishment of a long-lasting pacifist tradition in the United States. By combining these two frames of reference, the course aims to illustrate the most important cultural, social, and political achievements – as well as the most conspicuous failures – of the American struggle for peace.

By the end of the course, students will have a more solid understanding of the enduring legacies left by the American peace movement. At the same time, students will be able to study peace as a pertinent historical subject. Deeply embedded in the history of American radicalism, its opposition to the staus quo, and its resistance to the traditional distribution of power (both socially, and politically), American pacifism will offer students an original perspective thorugh which to explore several historiographical fields including intellectual, cultural, social, and political history.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

  • 1) carry out a common assignment

  • 2) devise and conduct research of limited scope, including
    a. searching, selecting and ordering relevant literature:
    b. organising and using relatively large amounts of information:
    c. an analysis of a scholarly debate:
    d. placing the research within the context of a scholarly debate.

  • 3) reflect on the primary sources on which the scholarly literature is based;

  • 4) write a problem solving essay and give an oral presentation after the format defined in the first year Themacolleges, including
    a. using a realistic schedule of work;
    b. formulating a research question and subquestions;
    c. formulating a well-argued conclusion;
    d. giving and receiving feedback;
    e. responding to instructions of the lecturer.

  • 5) participate in discussions during class.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialization

  • 6) The student has knowledge of a specialisation, more specifically in the specialisation General History : of the place of European history from 1500 in a worldwide perspective; with a focus on the development and role of political institutions; in the track American History: of American exceptionalism; the US as a multicultural society and the consequences of that for historiography; the intellectual interaction between the US and Europe.

  • 7) Knowledge and insight in the main concepts, the research methods and techniques of the specialisation, more specifically in the specialisation General History: of the study of primary sources and the context specificity of nationally defined histories; in the track American History: of exceptionalism; analysis of historiografical and intellectual debates.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this specific seminar

The student:

  • 8) acquires the analytical tools to study peace as an independent historical subject;

  • 9) assesses the social, cultural, and political impact that peace movements have had on U.S. history;

  • 10) is confronted with the historical relevance of radical ideologies and transational movements;

  • 11) delves deeper into the interconnections between social and political history.


The timetable is available on the BA History website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (attendance required)

This means that students have to attend every session of the course. If a student is not able to attend, he is required to notify the teacher beforehand. The teacher will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If specific restrictions apply to a particular course, the teacher will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, they will be excluded from the seminar.

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours

  • Lectures: 26 hours

  • Preparation for classes (including oral presentations): 24 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 80 hours

  • Writing a paper (including literature study): 150 hours

Assessment method


  • Written paper (5000-6000 words, based on historiography, including footnotes and bibliography)
    measured learning objectives: 2-4, 6-7, 9-11

  • Individual oral presentation
    measured learning objectives: 3-4, 6-7, 9-11

  • Participation
    measured learning objectives: 5

  • Group presentation
    Measured learning objectives: 1, 8


  • Written paper: 60%

  • Oral presentation: 20%

  • Participation, including group presentation: 20%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average, with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.


Written papers should be handed in within the given deadline as published in the corresponding Blackboard course.


The written paper can be revised, when marked insufficient.

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organised.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • publication course outline

  • communication of deadlines for assignments and papers

  • submitting final paper through Turnitin.

Reading list

  • C.F. Howlett, R. Lieberman, For The People: A Documentary History of The Struggle for Peace and Justice in the United States (Charlotte: Information Age Publishing, 2009), 376 pp. (To be purchased via Bol, Amazon, Bookdepository, etc).

  • Additional literature is to be announced in class and/or on Blackboard


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Dario Fazzi