HIST 1850 Thinking about History with the Manson Murders (also AMST 1850) (HA-AS) (HNA)
Tuesday and Thursday: 10:10-11:25
Professor Claudia Verhoeven
This course introduces students to historical theory and practice through the examination of a single criminal case: the Manson Murders. On August 9-10, 1969, ex-convict, musician, and charismatic leader Charles Manson is said to have ordered his so-called Family to brutally murder a few of LA's rich, white, "beautiful people" and leave clues implicating black radicals. The idea was to trigger an apocalyptic race war he called "Helter Skelter" (after a Beatles song). Today, these murders stand as the most infamous in twentieth-century U.S. criminal history and have spawned a veritable Manson Industry in the popular realm. This course analyzes the history of the Manson murders as well as their incredible resonance in American culture over the past half century. Who was Charles Manson and who were the members of the Family? What was the Family's relation to Hollywood, Vietnam, the Black Panther Party, and environmentalism? How do the Manson murders into the history of apocalyptic violence and terror? And what does it mean that the Manson murders have occupied our collective imagination for fifty years? To answer these and other questions, we will analyze sources including television and newspaper reports, trial transcripts, true crime writing, memoirs, interviews, novels, films and documentaries, podcasts and pop songs.