What Is Contemporary American History?

Contemporary American history refers to the events, trends, and social changes that have taken place in the United States since the end of World War II. This period is characterized by significant developments across various fields, including politics, economics, society, and culture.

Political Developments

One of the most notable political developments in contemporary American history is the Civil Rights Movement. The movement aimed to end racial segregation and discrimination against African Americans in the United States. It culminated in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Another significant event was the Watergate scandal that occurred during President Richard Nixon’s administration in 1972. The scandal involved a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington D.C. and resulted in Nixon’s resignation.

Economic Trends

The post-World War II era saw significant economic growth in America. This period was marked by a shift from an industrial-based economy to a service-based one. The country experienced a surge in consumerism as people had more disposable income and access to credit.

However, this period also saw economic inequality grow as wages for working-class Americans stagnated while those for executives and top earners increased significantly.

Social Changes

In contemporary American history, there have been several social changes that have impacted people’s lives. One major development was the rise of feminism and women’s liberation movements in the 1960s and 1970s. These movements fought for equal rights for women, including reproductive rights and equal pay.

Another significant social change was the LGBTQ+ rights movement that gained momentum during the 1980s and 1990s. This movement aimed to end discrimination against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Cultural Shifts

Contemporary American history has also seen several cultural shifts. In the 1950s, rock and roll music emerged as a popular genre, and artists like Elvis Presley became cultural icons. The 1960s saw the rise of counterculture movements, including the hippie movement, which challenged traditional values.

The 21st century has seen significant changes in American culture with the advent of technology and social media. The rise of smartphones and social media platforms has revolutionized communication and how people consume information.


In conclusion, contemporary American history is a period marked by significant political, economic, social, and cultural developments. From the Civil Rights Movement to the rise of social media, these changes have shaped America into what it is today. Understanding these developments is crucial for anyone looking to understand modern-day America.