The Rights Revolution: The 20th Century US Supreme Court & Society - HIST6039

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2021 to 2022.


This course will look at the central theme of the "Rights Era"- the move in the U. S. from a customary deference to tradition and view of the mainstream to the enforcement of political equality with far less regard for mainstream views. It will examine competing views of what "equality" means and consider the numerous groups that have demanded it since 1945 and the way they both fought for their causes and created the turbulence and confrontation in American society after 1960. These groups include, but are not limited to, African Americans, Hispanic-Americans, women, the disabled, certain religious groups, those who have faced discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, as well as other groups that followed similar legal strategies, such as environmentalists and those who seek greater guarantees of property rights, free speech rights, and gun rights. This not only is an essential topic for understanding the modern United States but as UK is currently undergoing similar legal changes, it has meaning for contemporary Britain.

This course assumes no prior knowledge of American law or of the courts in the United States. It can also include subjects of interest to students not listed above, assuming sufficient materials are available on those topics. It aims to places this groups & their activities in the context of the time and show how the strategies worked (or failed) and the reaction of both elite and general opinion to the claims.


Contact hours

3 hours a week throughout the Autumn and Spring terms.


Please note that this module is only available to single-honours and joint-honours students on the BA History and BA War Studies/Military History programmes. It is not available as a Wild module, nor is it available to short-credit students.

Method of assessment

60% Exam, 40% Coursework

Indicative reading

Selected opinions of the American federal and state courts.
• O'Brien, David, Storm Center. (Any edition but the 7th is current)
• Roberts, Gene and Hank Klibanoff; The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle & the Awakening of a Nation.
• White, G. Edward; The American Judicial Tradition (3rd edition)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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