Second Essay –20th Century

Due April 1, 2022

On Friday, April 1, students will submit a 3-5 page typed, double-spaced essay on a mid-twentieth-century topic (through early Cold War) provided to them near the beginning of that week.

Please choose ONE of the follow essay topics:

  • Why did a powerful new civil rights movement emerge in the United States during the two decades following the end of the Second World War?


  • Why did the first decade or so of the Cold War represent such a profound transformation of American foreign policy traditions?


  • Please open your essay with a descriptive title and your name (byline).
  • Relevant reading assignments for this essay include several chapters from American Yawp, H.W. Brands’ American Dreams, and selected student-produced oral history projects.  Make sure to include at least some references to Brands.
  • Make sure to address a question and devise a thesis statement that can be effectively argued in a short paper.  Consult the Methods Center handout on How to Write a Thesis Statement 
  • In total, spend about 3 to 5 pages (typed, double-spaced), illustrating your points in general chronological order, employing information and details from BOTH primary and secondary source material embedded in the Brands book, the online Yawp textbook or from any resources located at the course site. You may incorporate outside research if you choose, but that is not required or encouraged. Wherever you get your information, please use Chicago-style footnotes for all quotations and for any source-specific information, such as statistics. But perhaps most important, make sure to present your answers in ways that demonstrate respect for complexity and historical context. 
  • Make sure you are using and formatting your footnotes correctly.  Provide footnotes for all quotations and any highly specific information. See this methods handout on How to Use Footnotes and consult as needed with the library’s Chicago-style guide, but make sure to use sample footnote models for formatting and NOT bibliography examples.
  • Prof. Pinsker will comment on full or partial drafts over email until Thursday evening.  You may also consult with the Writing Center for help with your essay.  Do not work with other students in the course on your answer.

Sample Footnotes

According to H.W. Brands, George Kennan was the “most influential member” of the Soviet experts in the U.S. State Department. [1]  He became identified with the doctrine of containment in 1946 and 1947. [2]

[1] H.W. Brands, American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 (New York: Penguin Books, 2010), 33.

[2] Brands, 33-34.

Essays will be graded on depth of analysis, use of evidence, and quality of prose Late essays will be penalized up to 5 points each day.

  • Take to care to evaluate your sources as you deploy them in your essay.  See this methods post on Evaluating Sources for a helpful overall framework.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of integrating your quoted evidence with some degree of fluidity.  Awkwardly inserting quotations is one of the hallmarks of mediocre undergraduate essays.  Consult this handout from the methods center for a range of good tips.
  • Also, please guard against plagiarism.  Remember our discussion from the very first day of the semester.  Never write your own words while looking directly at your sources, especially secondary sources –unless you are quoting them.
  • And finally, always remember to proofread your work by printing it out and reading it aloud, slowly. See our methods handout on How to Proofreed [sic]