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The Presidency of Dwight Eisenhower, 1953-61

4. Socio-Cultural Change in the 1950s

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About this Lecture


In this module, we take a step back from the Presidency of Eisenhower to consider the widespread social and cultural changes that were taking place in 1950s America. In particular, we think about: (i) the traditional view of life in post-war America, i.e. families living in comfortable suburban homes with white picket fences, rising living standards, etc.; (ii) some correctives to this view, e.g. the fact that the 1950s was a decade with three recessions, living standards were not evenly distributed across American society, etc.; (iii) the emergence of the sexual revolution, including: the Kinsey Reports, the rise of Marilyn Monroe, and the founding of Playboy magazine; and (iv) the emergence of youth culture, including: the first rock and roll stars (Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard) and the youthful rebellion of writers such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, and of characters such as Holden Caulfield (Catcher in the Rye).


In this course, Professor Mark White (Queen Mary, University of London) explores the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower (1953-61). In the first module, we think about Eisenhower’s rise to power and the central aspects of his foreign policy. In the second, we think about his later foreign policy, including: his use of the CIA to overthrow foreign governments in Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954), the beginnings of US involvement in Vietnam, and his dealings with Nikita Khrushchev and the Soviet Union. In the third module, we think about Eisenhower’s response to the civil rights movement, before turning in the fourth to consider the ways in which American society and culture changed in the 1950s more generally. Finally, in the fifth module, we explore Eisenhower’s changing reputation over the years, thinking in particular about where Eisenhower has been unfairly maligned – and when he has been rightly criticised.


Mark White is Professor of History at Queen Mary, University of London, specialising in US foreign policy in the Cold War and the US presidency since 1945. His recent publications include Against the President: Dissent and Decision-Making in the White House (2007) and The Presidency of Bill Clinton: The Legacy of a New Domestic and Foreign Policy (2012)

Cite this Lecture

APA style

White, M. (2020, January 08). The Presidency of Dwight Eisenhower, 1953-61 - Socio-Cultural Change in the 1950s [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

White, M. "The Presidency of Dwight Eisenhower, 1953-61 – Socio-Cultural Change in the 1950s." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 08 Jan 2020,