A-level Topic Guide: USA in the 20th century

By HA, published 6th September 2019

The twentieth century in the USA was an eventful period of wars, civil rights movements and political, social and economic developments that shaped the USA into the country it is today. AQA, Edexcel, OCR and WJEC all offer units covering aspects of twentieth-century American history. Whichever board you are studying with and whatever the focus of your study unit on the USA, the resources in this unit will support you as you develop your subject knowledge, write essays and revise.

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  • Introduction


  • Introduction
  • President Lincoln and the American West
  • Lyndon Johnson and Albert Gore: Southern New Dealers and the Modern South
  • Nixon and Watergate
  • President Reagan
  • Resisting Reagan
  • President Barack Obama and the State of the Union Address
  • Populism, progressivism and Trumpism

Domestic Politics

  • Introduction
  • The American Civil War
  • After the Civil War: the rise of an economic power
  • The American Trade Union Movement
  • The USA in the 1920s
  • The Great Depression
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal
  • Eleanor and Franklin: Women and the New Deal
  • What impact did the Cold War have on the lives of the ordinary British and American family?
  • The long winding road to the White House
  • Film: The Kennedys and the Gores

Foreign Politics

  • Introduction
  • The American diplomatic tradition
  • The rise of American empire, 1865–1920
  • The British government's Confidential Files on the USA
  • The Versailles Peace Settlement
  • War Plan Red: the American plan for war with Britain
  • The League of Nations
  • Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  • Ideology and the Cold War
  • The significance of atomic and nuclear weapons
  • The Korean War
  • John F. Kennedy and the Vietnam War
  • Cold War Germany
  • What was the significance of the Cuban Missile Crisis?
  • Comparing the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Jameson Raid
  • Bertrand Russell's role in the Cuban Missile Crisis
  • Iconic images of war: photographs that changed history
  • What was the impact of the Cold War on Africa?
  • What was the impact of the Cold War on Latin America?
  • What was the impact of the Cold War on the Middle East?
  • What brought about the era of 'Détente' between the superpowers in the 1970s?
  • Why did the Cold War come to an end in the 1980s?
  • What did the end of the Cold War mean for American power?

Social Change

  • Introduction
  • Polychronicon 138: The Civil Rights Movement
  • Booker T. Washington
  • Power, protest and music in the USA
  • First Wave Feminism in the US
  • Second Wave Feminism in the US
  • Women in the US Peace Movement
  • The origins of the LGBT Movement in the USA
  • The AIDS crisis in the USA
  • The US LGBT Movement from the 1990s
  • Capone's lost lair: the Lexington Hotel, Chicago

Interpretations Films

  • Introduction: Interpretations
  • Film: An introduction to the African-American Civil Rights Movement
  • Film: Key individuals in the African-American Civil Rights Movement
  • Film: Key groups in the African-American Civil Rights Movement
  • Film: The African-American Civil Rights Movement - a discussion

Revision & Reading

  • Reading list
  • Timeline
  • Revision Quiz
  • Mind Maps
  • Past Exam Papers