Past Futures: One Hundred Years of Looking Forward

Francis Marion University

Scott Kaufman is a Board of Trustees Research Scholar and chair of the Department of History at Francis Marion University. He is the author, co-author, or editor of twelve books on American military, diplomatic, and presidential history. A number of those works are on Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, including The Presidency of James Earl Carter, Jr., 2nd ed. (co-authored with his father, Burton I. Kaufman), Plans Unraveled: The Foreign Policy of the Carter Administration, A Companion to Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter, and Rosalynn Carter: Equal Partner in the White House.


Americans have long envisioned their future, but those future visions were (and are) oftentimes influenced by the times in which they appeared. Drawing on a wide array of material since the turn of the twentieth century, including: books such as Homer Lea’s Last Days of the Republic, Nevil Shute’s On the Beach, and Richard Condon’s The Manchurian Candidate; movies such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Day After, and I Robot; TV shows like The Jetsons, Star Trek, and The Six Million Dollar Man; and scenes from the Army-McCarthy hearings, this class will demonstrate that when looking to tomorrow and beyond, Americans could not escape their present.

Recommended Reading:

Voices Prophesying War: Future Wars, 1763-3749, by I.F. Clarke

Yesterday’s Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future, by Joseph J. Corn and Brian Horrigan

War Stars: The Superweapon and the American Imagination, by H. Bruce Franklin

Gendering Science Fiction Films: Invaders from the Suburbs, by Susan A. George

Hollywood Science: Movies, Science and the End of the World, by Sidney Perkowitz



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