British Association for American Studies


HOTCUS ‘Teaching America’ Introduction

HOTCUS bannerWhen the idea was initially pitched during a committee meeting that the Historians of the Twentieth Century United States (HOTCUS) could produce a series for U.S Studies Online outlining how the history of the United States was being taught at universities the hope was to showcase both the breath and diversity of research and teaching currently taking place in academic institutions in the U.K. and abroad. I am delighted to say that this has been achieved.

‘Teaching America’ was designed by HOTCUS as a teaching resource for postgraduate and early career researchers in the American Studies community. The series consists of a number of posts written by academics from a range of historical disciplines, discussing pedagogical trends, methodological approaches, module design, and the challenges faced when teaching the history of the United States. By collaborating with U.S. Studies Online we hope to establish an open online resource that researchers in their early career could freely consult as they begin to think about teaching their first seminar, creating their first module, or preparing for their first academic interview. In doing so HOTCUS hopes to support postgraduate and early career researchers and contribute to U.S. Studies Online’s continuing efforts to provide professional skills and advice to the American Studies community.

In ‘Teaching America’ readers have an invaluable resource offering advice from leading historians in addition to a broader pedagogical discussion on U.S. history in higher education. The posts consider the sometimes uneasy relationship between history as a discipline and the university as an institution in the age of neoliberalism. How can I sustain student engagement? Which topics are ‘popular’? What historical events should be included or excluded? What historical questions are ‘important’?

HOTCUS ‘Teaching America’ video teaser featuring HOTCUS Postgraduate Secretary Tom Bishop

The series opens with a post from Dr Kate Dossett (University of Leeds) on “Teaching U.S Women’s History in British Universities: a Personal and Political History”. Dr Dossett reflects on her own experiences of designing a course on U.S. women’s history, and how she has encouraged British undergraduate students to consider how their own gender identity shapes their approach to the study of history. With questions of identity at the forefront of academic teaching Dr Christopher Phelps (University of Nottingham) in “Teaching Radicalism” invites us to consider how the history of radicalism can allow students to challenge the concept of society itself.

From radical to intellectual history Dr. Andrew Hartman in “U.S. History as Myth-Busting” (University of Illinois) details how students need to engage with America as an idea in order to understand its history. A theme followed in a post by Professor Raymond Haberski (University of Indianana) who discusses the connections between teaching the intellectual and the religious history of the United States in “Religion and Intellectual History”.

The series continues with a post by Dr Nicholas Grant (University of East Angela). Dr Grant offers advice based on his own experience of the challenges of teaching a module on African American anti-colonialism. The post talks to the advantages of a global/transitional approach to U.S. history, a theme continued by Dr Louis Mazzari (University of Bogazici) in his post “On Jefferson in Istanbul” which discusses how he has approached history and gender in a class composed of Muslim students.

One of the themes Dr Mazzari highlights is the importance of how seminar design influences audience engagement. Dr Malcom Craig (University of Edinburgh) in his post “More Bang for Your Buck: Teaching Nuclear History” outlines how innovate methodically approaches and teaching resources can encourage students to engage with both the political and cultural impact of the atomic bomb. In Designing and delivering the Online Distance course ‘A history of the Blues’Dr Christian O’Connell (University of Gloucestershire) explores the challenges and rewards of teaching outside and beyond the classroom.

There is no final post in the series as yet. We are in the fortunate position to continue welcoming posts over the next few weeks as the series launches and stimulates interest. HOTCUS would like to encourage contributors to continue to send in submissions throughout the series until the 21st of September to usso@baas.ac.uk. We hope the posts will inspire other researchers to share their advice, experiences and expertise.

‘Teaching America’ is just one of the more visible ways HOTCUS has collaborated with academic networks, organisations and communities this year. Collaboration is the theme of the joint BAAS/HOTCUS Postgraduate conference at the University of Glasgow on the 4th-5th of December and welcomes submissions up until September 25th. Keep on top of other HOTCUS events on the HOTCUS events webpage: www.hotcus.org.uk/Events/Events.html.

About the Author

Tom Bishop is a PhD candidate at the University of Nottingham. His research focuses on the relationship between nuclear survival, shelter culture, and masculinity during the Early Cold War. He holds a BA in History and an MA in American History from the University of Sheffield. He is currently constructing a fallout shelter in his garden and awaiting the inevitable apocalypse.