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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Peter L Nye
B CUSP 174
Bothell Campus

American Biography

Studies the biographies of Americans who made significant contributions during a particular era in American history. These biographies provide a platform for examining social, political and economic developments, as well as how those developments shaped American attitudes, identities, and institutions.

Class description

We will study the biographies of six Americans who made important contributions during the early Cold War era (1945 1975). These biographies will provide a platform for examining important social, political and economic developments. We will also explore how those developments shaped American institutions and attitudes of the current day. We will examine the following topics: Cold War domestic politics, the rise of the modern consumer society, origins of the civil rights movement, the evolution of civil liberties, the early environmental movement, and the enduring role of social protest in shaping American institutions.

Student learning goals

Students will critically read and discuss non-fiction, particularly historical biography.

Students will appreciate historical biography as a literary genre.

Students will be able to explain important social issues that Americans confronted in the 1950s and 1960s.

Students will understand how individual Americans have stimulated economic progress and promoted social justice.

Students will understand how political and social developments of the Cold War era shaped American institutions of today.

General method of instruction

Students will read three biographies and several biographical essays. In addition, we will view and discuss films that capture the lives and times of our six subjects. Short lectures will provide an historical context.

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

This is a seminar. Most class sessions will feature an animated discussion of the assigned readings. Students should be prepared to thoughtfully contribute to class discussion.

Grades will be based on class discussion, two essay exams and a biographical essay (term project).


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Peter L Nye
Date: 11/07/2012