American History

Monash offers a rich and exciting program of American history units. From the colonial to the modern era, we examine the key events, actors and themes of the American past. You can study the American Revolution, the Civil War, expansion across the continent and abroad, the New Deal and WWII, the civil rights movement, and the Cold War. Our aim is not only to understand the complex historical forces which have shaped the United States, but also the history of a world which continues to be decisively affected by American influence and power.

Staff Research Areas

The History Program includes a number of staff working on topics in American History:

Clare Corbould Modern American history; urban history; sound and senses; performance; biography; race
Kat Ellinghaus Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Native American history; assimilation; gender; race; and interracial relationships.
Leah Garrett American Literature and Jewish American Studies.
Noah Shenker Holocaust and Genocide Studies; Trauma and Memory Studies; and Film and Media Studies.
Taylor Spence Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century American colonialism; colonial expansion
Tim Verhoeven Nineteenth-century American history; religious history; Church-State relations; history of gender and sexuality; trans-Atlantic history.

Undergraduate Units Offered

We offer a number of units in American history. See the handbook for a full list of units, but you might particularly want to consider the following

ATS2701
Colonial America: From Puritans to Revolutionaries
Offered Semester One of 2015. This unit will introduce students to the broad similarities and differences between Spanish, French, and British colonial endeavours in North America starting in the early 17th century. It will then focus on the major settler colonial centers of New England, Pennsylvania, and the Chesapeake, comparing and contrasting the evolution of these societies in terms of religion, politics, and economics. It will move to an in depth study of the American Revolution (1776-1783), as well as the formation of the United States under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (1783-1790). It will conclude with a contrasting case study of Haiti, a nation that experienced a revolution in 1790 which had profound impacts on the formative years of the United States.
ATS3616
Race and Rights in Twentieth-century America
Offered in Semester 2 of 2015. This unit explores the history of the United States through the optics of race and rights. Thematic rather than chronological, this unit will draw on the ideological and historical origins of the evolving conceptions of race and rights in America to better understand contemporary debates increasingly common to all liberal societies. Who can legitimately access rights in a society? What are the limits of individual liberties? How have so-called “minorities” broken down barriers to their claiming of rights in the United States? This unit will focus particularly on the struggles of African- and Native-Americans to attain their unique visions of self-determination in the United States, and will then use these paradigmatic social movements to look at the broad and ever-evolving range of rights struggles in American including of women, the LGBTQ community, conservatives, and even animals.
ATS3888
Race and Class in American Literature
Semester 1 2015. In the course students will read and evaluate novels, short stories, and poems that focus on the experience of being a member of an ethnic and class group in America. A number of different topics will be explored including: what does it mean to be an American; how does the American ‘melting pot’ model exclude or marginalize the experiences of Native and African Americans; how do writers use a variety of narrative styles to convey their experiences; how do different immigrant groups, such as Jews, Latinos, and Asians, describe the impact of racism and class discrimination in their writings; how does poverty influence the understanding of race and vice versa.
ATS3908
American Empire: From Colonies to Superpower
Not offered in 2015. This unit examines the history of the origins, processes, and manifestations of U.S. global power, asking how a federation of former colonies eventually became a political, military and cultural hegemon. A unit of great breadth that spans the entire arc of U.S. expansion, it also manages depth by focusing on the one idea of U.S. power, ideological, military, and cultural. The course engages with the justifications and critiques of imperialism, nationalism, and internationalism, explores the development of distinct foreign policy platforms in domestic politics, and covers such themes as U.S. relations with Latin America, cultural imperialism, the shaping of post-war world orders, and the use of covert and overt military interventions.
ATS2617
The American Civil War
Not offered in 2015. Considered the watershed moment in the development of the modern United States, the American Civil War was also a turning point in the global histories of liberal democracies, warfare, race, and gender. This unit gives students a broad grounding in the political, social, and cultural histories leading up to secession and civil war, narrates the parry and thrust of the war itself, and then analyses the crucial political war of Reconstruction in which the revolutionary promise to evolve a new nation where “All Men are Created Equal” devolves instead into the establishment of a new political and social order called “Jim Crow” – American apartheid – a nation unified around the idea of white supremacy, and the birth of an American Empire.
ATS2500
The “Great” American Novel
Semester 2 2016. This unit is an introduction to some of the major writers in American literature during the twentieth century, and an exploration of the concept of a national literary identity. The course will consider the historical background of the time period when the novels were set as well as the biographies of the authors in order to discover how writers from a broad range of regions and ethnic backgrounds described the particular traits of being American.