Green illustrates changes in patterns of work and play, in family interaction, in the ways Americans cooked thier food and cleaned their homes. These everyday changes, visible to those who live through them, are often less noticed by historians by the "larger" changes in politics. But these changes are no less significant; in fact, one could argue as they affect all people living in a society, they may be even more significant than the more-chronicled political changes that often receive more notice in histories of the period.
2) Does Green, in your opinion, see uncertainty as a negative state? What evidence can you gather from his book to support your opinion?
3) By reading Green's footnotes, you can construct an overview of the historiography--the ways historians have written about--this period of history. What are the major turning points in that historiography? How does Green support and challenge interpretations that have come before his?
4) What were the significant turning points during the period from 1914 to 1945, according to Green? Does he discount any events that you feel were more significant than he does? Does he overstress any events you believe were less significant?
5) What are the themes around which Green organizes his history?
6) How does Green present the changes in work patterns in the chapter he entitles, "Work, Struggle, Intolerance"? Does he see the major direction of these changes as positive or as negative? Who are the heroes, and who the victims, of this chapter?
7) To what does Green attribute the stock market crash in 1929? How does his perspective fit with or challenge other historians' views of the causes of the crash? What, according to Green, was the "triumph" of Franklin Roosevelt's presidency?
8) How did ideas about family change during this period, according to Green? Why did these changes take place? What were the particular uncertainties to which these changes sought to respond?
9) One of the themes of Green's history is that the pace at which everyday life changed sped up dramatically during the period from 1914 to 1945. What altered the pace of social change?
10) Historians often use a "synecdoche," or a small part which represents the whole, to tell a larger story. Green uses influenza and the crusade against it as a synecdoche for larger struggles and crusades. What is the usefulness of using such a synecdoche? How successfully does Green use it?
11) In this course, we will spend some time focusing on popular culture, which was transformed by and itself transformed American society during this period. Drawing on Green's argument, why did films have such a broad appeal during this period? What can we, as historians, learn from popular entertainments--radio and film especially--when we try to reconstruct what happened in the past? What important information gets left out, and how can we fill in those gaps?
Prepared by Professor Catherine Lavender for History 339 (Themes in U.S. History, 1914-1945), The Department of History, The College of Staten Island of The City University of New York. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Fall Semester 1997. Last modified: Thursday 23 October 1997