HST6088: New York City and the End of the 20th Century

HST6088 Welcome to Fear City

15 credits

Module Leader: Dr Sarah Miller-Davenport

Module Summary

'How did New York go from 'Fear City' to 'Capital of the World,' from 'Mean Streets' to 'Sex and the City'? This module will examine a one of the most significant periods of change in the history of New York, when financial capital and real estate development transformed the economic, political, and social landscapes of America's largest city--and now the most unequal place in the U.S. We will study these changes from a range of disciplinary perspectives, with particular attention to the ways in which New Yorkers served as both agents and subjects of late-20th century globalization.' Dr Sarah Miller-Davenport

This module explores the dramatic transformations to New York City in the late-20th century. It will begin with the city's near-bankruptcy in 1975 and end with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In between New York went from a symbol of urban crisis and national decline to the world’s leading centre for international finance and global culture, with profound consequences for the city's mostly poor and working class residents. Readings will be interdisciplinary and will include historical works as well as a wider social science literature covering how globalization, gentrification, immigration, and new racial and class formations changed New York’s spatial and social landscapes.

Module aims

This module aims to:

  1. Help you to develop mastery in a particular scholarly literature;
  2. Help you to develop their reading and research skills at MA level;
  3. Work with you to improve your level of historical analysis;
  4. Expose you to interdisciplinary approaches;
  5. Improve your ability to verbally articulate their ideas;
  6. Improve your historical writing skills.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, you should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge of a set of related scholarly texts within the field late-20th century New York (Aims 1, 2);
  2. Demonstrate a broader understanding of New York’s relationship to wider changes in the late-20th century, including financial globalization, immigration from the Global South, and increasing inequality (Aims 1, 2);
  3. Identify and compare different interdisciplinary interpretations of the same developments (Aims 1, 2, 4);
  4. Articulate authors’ key claims and identify points of scholarly debate (A4);
  5. Offer your own original analysis of those developments from a historical perspective (A3);
  6. Translate critical reading into analytical writing (A5).


Learning hours
Seminar hours Tutorial hours Independent Learning
10 1 139

The module will be taught in five, two-hour classes. Each will address a particular moment in late-20th century New York City history (LO1, LO3). Readings will bring together multiple interdisciplinary perspectives to allow for a fuller appreciation of the nature of New York’s transformation in this period (LO3). Students will be responsible leading class discussion yourselves (LO1, LO3, LO4). Throughout the term we will spend a portion of each discussion addressing the writing process (LO5). You will, in addition, have individual tutorial contact with the module leader in order to discuss your written work for the module.



Assessment methods
Assessment % of final mark Length
Coursework 100% 3000 words

You will write a research paper of their own design on a specific topic that engages the themes of the course (LO2, LO4, LO5, LO6).


Selected reading

  • Vincent J. Cannato, The Ungovernable City: John Lindsay and His Struggle to Save New York (New York, 2001)
  • Joshua Freeman, Working-Class New York: Life and Labor Since World War II (New York, 2000)
  • Miriam Greenberg, Branding New York: How a City in Crisis Was Sold to the World (London: Routledge, 2008)
  • Kim Moody, From Welfare State to Real Estate: Regime Change in New York City, 1974 to the Present (New York, 2007)
  • Jack Newfield and Wayne Barrett, City for Sale: Ed Koch and the Betrayal of New York (New York, 1998)
  • Suleiman Osman, The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn: Gentrification and the Search for Authenticity in Postwar New York (New York, 2011)
  • Sam Roberts, America’s Mayor: John V. Lindsay and the Reinvention of New York (New York, 2010)
  • Kim Phillips-Fein, Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics (New York, 2017).
  • A. K. Sandoval-Strausz and Nancy H. Kwak, eds., Making Cities Global: The Transnational Turn in Urban History (Philadelphia, 2017)
  • Daniel Sargent, A Superpower Transformed: The Remaking of American Foreign Relations in the 1970s (New York, 2015)
  • Aaron Shkuda, The Lofts of SoHo: Gentrification, Art, and Industry in New York, 1950–1980 (Chicago, 2016)
  • Jonathan Soffer, Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City (New York, 2010)
  • Sharon Zukin, Loft Living: Culture and Capital in Urban Change (New Brunswick, 1989)



*The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.