Sample History Essay Paper on United States and the Soviet Union

Question One: History of America in the Post-War Era
The early postwar era was characterized by an ensuing cold war with capitalism,
communism, democracy, and totalitarians being at the core of the conflict between the United
States and the Soviet Union. From 1945, both these regions were determined to acquire
significant influence around the world, which formed a foundation for conflict (Shi, 2019).
Notably, the substandard wartime alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union had
buckled in 1945. Moreover, with the successful abolition of German Nazism, the relationship
between both nations was characterized by fierce rivalry, and even in the simplest matters; the
realization of a consensus or understanding proved a difficult task. Some of the areas that fueled
the friction between the two included human rights, individual liberties, democratic elections,
and religious freedom. For instance, the disintegration of Nazism was followed by the USSR’s
imposition of military control and a communist political system on the countries of Eastern
Europe, particularly those it had freed from Nazi control as explained by Shi (2019). These
actions did not sit well with both Churchill and Truman who were keen on overcoming such
practices and ensuring the victim nations acquired democratic governments. Such rifts between
the USSR and the United States followed the period between 1945 leading to the 1950s.
The United States always maintained somewhat of an independent position based on its
self-perception of a power that would influence and lead developments around the world,
especially in assisting the less powerful nations. President Harry Truman claimed that the most
paramount matter following the war was the decision between tyranny and freedom.
Consequently, Shi (2019) explains suspicion towards each other and the increased efforts to
acquire influence over ‘nonaligned’ countries contributed to the further distancing between the

United States and the Soviet Union. The power vacuums left in Europe and Asia influence an
international contest over influence and control with both nations deeming themselves capable of
leading the war. An additional highlight of the early postwar era was the prevalence of anti-
colonial liberation movements that were against conforming to the suggested global empires
(Shi, 2019). Similarly, the advent of the People’s Republic of Communist China in 1949
influenced further complications to international politics and the dynamics surrounding the cold
The instability characterizing the early postwar world and the global tensions influenced
both domestic politics and foreign relations. The United States had a growing concern over
internal security, which led to the formulation of the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 and the
National Security Act of 1947 according to Shi (2019). As elaborated by Truman, the United
States’ role to influence freedom around the world made the country a target for their rivals
hence the need to instill advanced measures and infrastructure to bolster internal security. Still,
the fear over internal security led to the formulation of the National Security Agency, the Central
Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Council. More so, the increased talks of atomic
weapons also contribute to the tension with leaders such as Truman acknowledging the need for
such preparations given the possibility of subsequent warfare (Shi, 2019). On the other hand,
affluence and consumer culture were also among the key concerns in domestic policies.
Primarily, the postwar era in the United States was characterized by substantial economic
growth. The American economy had not only survived the great depression but also entailed an
impressive rise in the spending power of Americans. The growth in jobs, wages, and the lack of
consumer goods during the war influenced increased spending during this period. Resolutely, the

early postwar era was definitive to the United States as it instituted national, regional, and
international legacies that would see it develop into a world-leading power.
However, while the issue of production had been resolved, the impact of the affluent
society and the increased production of goods by profit-seeking organizations prompted a
developing belief that America was becoming too conformist. Americans were accused of falling
play to bureaucratic structures that were robbing citizens of their spontaneity and individuality.
These criticisms were valid. First, the increased production motivated profit-seeking corporations
to stimulate the desires of consumers through marketing, which in turn made them think that
their desires were being met according to Shin (2019). Second, the success realized after a long
time of economic hardship and war did not only encourage consumption of goods but also
formed a foundation for mass production. Consequently, unknown to most Americans, the
country quickly turned into a materialist society with more people becoming other-directed
instead of relishing individualism. Consuming goods and interacting with other people based on
comparable activities were the key highlights that making it hard for Americans to thrive in
spontaneity and individuality (Shi, 2019). Nonetheless, the early postwar era has always been
imperative to the United States given a range of connected historical influences led to the
apparent uniformity in the subsequent American cultures.
Question 3: 1960s – The Decade of Protest
The 1960s are considered as a ‘decade of protest’ primarily due to the extraordinary
social turbulence and liberal activism that took place then. Key events alluding to tragic
assassinations, painful trauma, youth rebellion, cultural conflict, civil rights, and civil unrest all
contributed to the reference. Notably, Shi (2019) states that the most significant developments in
domestic life during the 1960s took place in civil rights. After the election of JFK, racial

segregation continued to be firm throughout the South. Similar to his predecessors Franklin D.
Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, President Kennedy acknowledges the issue of racial equality
but never promoted it until he experienced external force. JFK and his closest adviser eventually
succumbed to the growing pressure and decided to support the civil rights movement. However,
the promise to do so came with conditions and the application of unorthodox approaches. For
instance, JFK appoint a special presidential assistant for civil rights and told them to ensure
progress in what he considered as the nonsense of racial discrimination (Shi, 2019). Moreover,
he advised on the utilization of minimum civil rights legislation and the use of maximum
executive action, which prompted a substantial backlash. Nonetheless, the decision to support
civil rights movements was largely influenced by African American activists and groups focused
on ending the need to counter racial injustice.
The rise of activists such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. acted as the
foundation for civil rights and influenced the demonstrations and protests aimed at countering
racial injustices. Martin Luther King Jr was labeled an inspirational example of resilience and
dignity as indicated by Shi (2019). Consequently, through people such as King Jr., the African
American community showed unity in confronting brutality and oppression, which subsequently
altered the dynamics of political power and social change. Physical protests and demonstrations
were also a common occurrence during the 1960s thus contributing to the decade’s reference.
For instance, the civil rights movement acquired impetus when four African American college
students entered an all-white restaurant, sat down, and ordered coffee and doughnuts. Similarly,
after President Kennedy presented the civil rights bill and it was blocked by southern Democrats;
it sparked increased uproar among African American leaders. However, the comprehensive
reaction showed unity in protest with more than 250,000 Americans, both black and white

marching down in Washington as they demanded equality (Shi, 2019). Historical evidence
depicts the march as the largest political demonstration in American history.
Still, the ‘decade of protest’ label was also influenced by the assassinations, subsequent
trauma, and participation of the United States in foreign activities such as the war in Vietnam.
The 1960s show the assassination of some of the significant leaders including John F Kennedy,
Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Robert F. Kennedy (Shi, 2019). Even so, the death of
these important figures did not affect the idealistic commitment to improving the quality of life
among Americans. For instance, the successor of Kennedy, Lyndon B Johnson instated a war on
poverty with his energy and legislative savvy contributing to a plethora of programs that
addressed multiple social issues that had been ignored for decades. Most issues raised by JFK,
King Jr., and X were addressed as Johnson made civil rights for people of color, equality for
women, medical insurance, and aid to the poor national concerns.
On the other hand, the expanding involvement of the United States in Vietnam,
particularly its role in the war, prompted national outrage with Americans showing solidarity in
their advocacy for the cessation of the association between the two countries. The Vietnam War
(1964-973) contributed to division among Americans as young idealists instigated a rebellious
countercultural movement as highlighted by Shi (2019). Multiple Americans were killed with
tens of thousands being jail or leaving the US to avoid being sent to participate in the war. The
emotional stress fueled opposition as college campuses became centers of opposition with the
primary argument being that the US had no right to act as the intervener in other countries’ civil
wars. Still, others were concerned with how the war negatively affected the US economy,
especially with the government’s willingness to raise taxes to pay for the war (Shi, 2019). The

unleashed cycle of inflation and relative materialism that characterized US society during the
time prompted antiwar protests.
Resolutely, the successes of the Civil Rights and the antiwar protests in the 1960s acted
as a firm foundation for the emergence of other protests. The energy from young idealists and
other widely involved groups encourage different communities to utilize comparable approaches
to address multiple overdue social reforms as indicated by Shi (2019). For instance, the
Women’s Liberation Movement proved to be the biggest outgrowth of the Civil Rights and
antiwar protests. The women in the movement advocated against gender discrimination informal
settings including the employment market and education. Still, they pushed for more control of
their roles in the family and the collective process of reproduction. Similarly, the Gay Liberation
Movement also acquire inspiration from the Civil Rights and antiwar protests. The prevalence of
the ‘Gay Power’ phrase and the Stonewall Riot took place in the 1970s and aimed at influencing
the inclusion of sexual orientation as a protected category in civil rights statutes (Shi, 2019).
Assertively, the protest over the war and support of the Civil Rights Movement was imperative
in strengthening a range of other movements in American history.



Shi, D. E. (2019). America: A narrative history, Vol.2. WW Norton & Company.

Course Lectures and Notes
I. Dwight D. Eisenhower from Farewell Address (1961)
II. Martin Luther King Jr. from Letter from a Birmingham Jail (1963)
III. Abbey Lincoln from Who Will Revere the Black Woman? (1966)
IV. Malcolm X from “The Black Revolution” Speeches (1964)
V. Stockely Carmichael from Black Power (1966)
VI. The Struggle for Freedom and Justice: African-Americans and the Push for Civil Rights,
VII. Through the Picture Window: Image and Reality in the Early Postwar Era, 1945-
VIII. What does it mean to be a ‘Good Citizen’? Popular Protests and Conservative
Reactions, 1965-1975