Spring 2017

Cultures of Survival in the Twentieth Century

Listed in: , as COLQ-345


Ellen R. Boucher (Section 01)


The destructive capabilities of war weapons expanded exponentially in the twentieth century, from the advent of aerial bombing and gas attacks through the threat of nuclear annihilation. As the targeting of civilians became accepted military practice and the lines between battlefield and home front blurred, the question of how ordinary people could prepare for the unimaginable became the focus of heated public debate. This Mellon research seminar investigates the changing ways in which survival, both individual and societal, was conceived, defined, and practiced in Britain and the United States during the twentieth century. It follows the theme of survival through a variety of topics, including science fiction accounts of future wars, civilian responses to aerial bombing and gas warfare, civil defense programs, campaigns for nuclear disarmament, and popular forms of survivalism. In addition, it will engage with the methodologies and theoretical insights emerging from new scholarship on the history of emotions, seeking to trace the impact of certain collective emotional states – such as fear, anxiety, or paranoia – on politics, society, and culture. This course contains a significant research component designed to introduce students to the concepts and skills involved in archival analysis. It is part of a model of tutorials at Amherst designed to enable students to engage in substantive research with faculty. 

Open to sophomores and juniors interested in research. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 6 students. Spring semester. Professor Boucher.

If Overenrolled: Preference will be given to students likely to engage in senior honors or independent research projects.


Attention to Research


2021-22: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017