Digital History>Teachers>Modules> Topic
Learn About America
at the End of the Twentieth Century
The last quarter of the 20th
century was shaped by three fundamental challenges that arose in the
late 1960s and early 1970s. The first was a crisis of political leadership.
Public cynicism toward politicians intensified, political party discipline
declined, and lobbies and special interest groups grew in power.
The second challenge involved wrenching economic transformations. Economic
growth slowed, productivity flagged, inflation soared, family income stagnated,
and major industries faltered in the face of foreign competition.
The third challenge involved growing uncertainty over America's proper role
in the world. A major challenge facing policymakers was how to preserve the
nation's international prestige and influence in the face of mounting public
opposition to direct overseas interventions.
In the late 1970s, many academic authorities suggested that the United States
was in decline, that such societies as Japan and West Germany were growing faster
and were beginning to dominate cutting-edge industries such as consumer electronics
and luxury automobiles. As the 21st century began, the United
States had reasserted its economic, military, and cultural supremacy.
It was the world’s sole superpower. It dominated not only the Internet and computer
software and hardware, but also film and television production. Still, the United
States was also faced by new threats, especially from terrorist organizations.
Reagan, Moscow State University, May 31, 1988
Handouts and fact sheets:
and Figures for the New Century
Back to Move Forward
Using Primary Sources to Examine Significant 20th Century Events
Your Knowledge About the America at the End of the Twentieth Century
Halberstam, War in a Time of Peace: Bush, Clinton, and the
One of the country's foremost investigative reporters and
authors examines American foreign policy in the post-Cold War
Joe Klein, The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of
A prominent journalist evaluates the strengths and weaknesses
of the Clinton presidency.
This documentary film, which charts the rise and fall of an Internet
startup company that raised $60 million before going bankrupt,
captures the exciting of the stock market bubble of the late 1990s.
For comprehensive reviews, see:
The Cold War