The Making of Trump’s America, 1946-2018


When Donald Trump was born in 1946, the United States stood confidently on top of the world. At home, unprecedented prosperity and broad political consensus prevailed; abroad, the United States was the powerful, undisputed “Leader of the Free World”. Fast forward to 2018: the United States over which Trump improbably presides is riven by deep political, cultural and social divides; its international leadership is increasingly in question.

The making of Trump’s America did not occur overnight. This course offers a historical perspective on the major political, diplomatic, economic, social and cultural developments that lie behind the transformation of the United States and its role in the world.

Target audience:
This course is for anyone interested in recent American history, politics and foreign policy, particularly with respect to the longer-term forces that have shaped the contemporary United States and its controversial president, Donald Trump.

Learning objectives:
By the end of this course, you will:

  • Be familiar with major political, diplomatic, economic, social and cultural trends in the United States from 1946 to the present.
  • Understand how those trends culminated in the election of a controversial president like Donald Trump to lead the United States.
  • Appreciate the continuities, as well as the changes in, society, politics and diplomacy that underpin the characterisation of the contemporary United States as “Trump’s America”.
  • Be aware of the wider implications for the world of the changing character of American international leadership since World War II, especially in the current era.

Course outline:
Each session will include lecture presentation with time for questions and group discussion.

Session 1: The making of a liberal consensus, 1946-1968
Session 2: The breaking of a liberal consensus, 1968-1980
Session 3: The making of a conservative consensus, 1980-1992?
Session 4: On top of the world again, 1993-2008?
Session 5: America divided and the erosion of its global pre-eminence, 2008-2018

There is a short break halfway through each session and you are welcome to bring your own refreshments if you wish.

Roberto Rabel is a Professorial Fellow at the Centre of Strategic Studies at Victoria University. He is also an Emeritus Professor at Victoria, having retired in 2016 as Pro Vice-Chancellor (International Engagement) after 10 years overseeing the University’s internationalisation strategies and activities. He holds a BA Honours degree in History and International Politics from Victoria University and a PhD in History from Duke University, where he studied as a Fulbright Scholar. From 1986 to 2006, Professor Rabel taught about American and international history in the History Department and then held management roles at the University of Otago. He is the author and editor of over 40 books and articles, including an official history, New Zealand and the Vietnam War: Politics and Diplomacy (2005).

Relevant links:
School of History, Philosophy, Political Studies and International Relations

For further information:
Continuing Education, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140.
Phone 04 463 6556,  Email:

Please note: Courses need a minimum number of enrolments to go ahead. If your course doesn’t reach the number required, we’ll have to cancel it. If this happens, we’ll contact you by phone or email about a week before the scheduled start date and arrange a full refund. Please check your emails regularly.