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.

Overview

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

Reviews

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John Bolton

Enjoyed Prof. Kaufman’s discussion on the future and how the present influences our thinking of it. Imagine one day technology will be developed that can influence or dramatically change climate forces ie. hurricanes, earthquakes etc. It would seem those countries (or companies) with the means could control the rest of the world via Mother Nature. Is that not happening in some way now vis a vis nuclear weapons (or its threat), etc? Concerning given how humans are unable to agree on basic right and wrong. Still optimistic.

3 months ago
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