APUSH Period 8 Review (1945-1980)

6 min readmay 9, 2022

AP US History 🇺🇸

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Period 8:  The Cold War (1945-1980)

In AP® US History, period 8 spans from 1945 to 1980 CE. The following guide will be updated periodically with hyperlinks to excellent resources. As you are reviewing for this era, focus on the key concepts and use the essential questions to guide you.
👉 Try using a study timer like the one in Fiveable rooms to maximize your efficiency when preparing for the exam!


🎥Live Stream Replay - Period 8 and 9 Review
STUDY TIP: You will never be asked specifically to identify a date. However, knowing the order of events will help immensely with cause and effect. For this reason, we have identified the most important dates to know.
1945-1991 - Cold War
1947 - Truman Doctrine
1950-1953 - Korean War
1950s - McCarthyism
1954 - Brown v. Board of Ed.
1955 - Montgomery Bus Boycott
1957 - Sputnik
1962 - Cuban Missile Crisis
1963 - March on Washington
1963 - JFK assassinated
1964 - Civil Rights Act
1968 - MLK killed, RFK killed
1968 - Tet Offensive
1968 - Chicago Convention
1969 - moon landing
1972 - Watergate break-in
1973 - Roe v. Wade
1979 - Iranian hostage crisis


STUDY TIP: Use the following essential questions to guide your review of this entire unit. Keep in mind, these are not meant to be practice essay questions. Each question was written to help you summarize the key concept.
  1. How did America foreign policy change and stay the same throughout the Cold War?
  2. What were the goals and achievements of liberal movements during the 1960s?
  3. How did post-WWII demographic shifts affect the United States?
Study Guide: Post-War Context

Past Essay Questions from Period 8

STUDY TIP: Content from the this era has appeared on the essays seventeen times since 2000. Take a look at these questions before you review the key concepts & vocabulary below to get a sense of how you will be assessed. Then, come back to these later and practice writing as many as you can!
*The APUSH exam was significantly revised in 2015, so any questions from before then are not representative of the current exam format. You can still use prior questions to practice, however DBQs will have more than 7 documents, the LEQ prompts are worded differently, and the rubrics are completely different. Use questions from 2002-2014 with caution. Essays from 1973-1999 available here.


*The following outline was adapted from the AP® United States History Course Description as published by College Board in 2019 found here. This outline reflects the most recent revisions to the course.

8.1. The Cold War

  1. US policymakers sought to contain the expansion of communism and create a free-market.
    1. After WWII, the alliance between the US and USSR dissolved and the US developed foreign policy that would protect non-Communist nations.
    2. The US engaged in military action abroad to contain Communism (Korea & Vietnam).
    3. The Cold War included direct and indirect action, then periods of coexistence.
    4. Decolonized nations were caught in between the US & USSR, with many nonaligned.
    5. Competition extended to Latin America where the US supported non-Communists.
  2. The Cold War sparked debate about means of pursuing goals while protecting liberties.
    1. Some policies were designed to expose Communists within the US.
      1. ☭ Study Guide: The Red Scare
    2. The Vietnam War inspired huge antiwar protests, unlike previous military actions.
    3. Debates over nuclear weapons, military-industrial complex, and the power of the President in pursuing military action dominated this era.
    4. US involvement in the Middle East increased.

8.2. Civil Rights & Liberal Movements

  1. Activists and leaders achieved slow progress toward equality.
    1. Civil rights leaders used the courts, direct action, and nonviolent protest tactics.
    2. All branches of government used measures including desegregating the armed forces through executive action, desegregating schools through the courts, and the legislative passage of the Civil Rights Act.
    3. Racial equality progressed slowly, which questioned the efficacy of nonviolence.
  2. The Civil Rights Movement inspired other liberal movements.
    1. Feminist and gay rights activists mobilized to achieve equality.
    2. Latino, American Indian, and Asian American movements demanded equality.
    3. Poverty became highlighted as a national problem.
    4. Environmental activists pushed for more regulations to protect natural resources.
  3. Liberalism influenced politics and court decisions, but was also attacked by the left & right.
    1. Liberalism as an anti-communist & pro-democratic policy reached high in the 1960s.
    2. Liberal ideas were expressed through LBJ’s Great Society and Supreme Court cases.
    3. Conservatives in the 1960s challenged liberal laws to limit the role of government.
    4. Some activists on the left rejected liberal policies as not transformative enough.
    5. Confidence and trust in government reached a low in the 1970s with scandals and crises dominating political conversations.
    6. Conservatives and liberals continued to clash over the power of government and movements for greater individual rights.

8.3. Economic & Demographic Shifts After WWII

  1. Economic and social changes after WWII created optimism in the postwar era.
    1. Economic growth after WWII spurred by technology, spending, and the baby boom.
      1. 💲 Study Guide: The Economy After 1945
    2. Social mobility because of higher education opportunities encouraged the migration of the middle class to the suburbs.
    3. New immigration laws led to new waves of migrants seeking opportunities.
  2. New demographics and Cold War anxieties led to divisive political and moral debates.
    1. ♀️ Study Guide: Culture After 1945 and Youth Culture in the 1960s
    2. Artists and intellectuals challenged conformity in the 1950s and 1960s.
    3. Feminists and the young counterculture rejected social and sexual norms.
    4. The evangelical Christian right grew substantially and became politically involved.


STUDY TIP: These are the concepts and vocabulary from period 8 that most commonly appear on the exam. Create a quizlet deck to make sure you are familiar with these terms!
Deep breath. This one of the most vocab heavy units.
  • American Indian Movement (AIM)
  • baby boom
  • Bakke v. U of CA
  • Bay of Pigs
  • beats
  • Berkeley Free Speech Movement
  • Black Panthers
  • Black Power
  • brinkmanship
  • Brown v. Board of Education
  • Camp David Accords 1979
  • Cesar Chavez
  • Chicago convention
  • CIA
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Clean Air Act
  • Cold War
  • containment
  • CORE
  • counterculture
  • Cuban Missile Crisis
  • decolonization
  • desegregation
  • detente
  • Dixiecrats
  • domino theory
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • ESEA
  • EPA
  • Equal Rights Amendment
  • Fair Deal
  • Feminine Mystique
  • freedom rides
  • gay liberation movement
  • Gerald Ford
  • GI Bill of Rights
  • Gideon v. Wainwright
  • Great Society
  • Griswold v. Connecticut
  • Highway Act
  • HUAC
  • Iranian hostage crisis
  • Iron Curtain
  • Jimmy Carter
  • John F. Kennedy
  • Julius & Ethel Rosenberg
  • Kent State
  • Korean War
  • Little Rock Nine
  • Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Malcolm X
  • Mapp v. Ohio
  • March on Washington
  • Marshall Plan
  • Martin Luther King Jr.
  • McCarthyism
  • medicaid & medicare
  • military-industrial complex
  • Miranda vs. Arizona
  • moon landing
  • mutually assured destruction
  • NATO
  • New Frontier
  • NOW
  • OPEC
  • Pentagon Papers
  • Richard Nixon
  • Robert Kennedy
  • Roe v. Wade
  • Rosa Parks
  • SCLC
  • SDS
  • sexual revolution
  • silent majority
  • Silent Spring
  • SNCC
  • Southern Strategy
  • space race
  • Sputnik
  • stagflation
  • Stokely Carmichael
  • Stonewall Riot
  • Sun Belt
  • Tet Offensive
  • Thurgood Marshall
  • Title IX
  • Tonkin Gulf Resolution
  • Truman Doctrine
  • United Nations
  • Vietcong
  • Vietnam Conflict
  • Vietnamization
  • Voting Rights Act of 1965
  • War on Poverty
  • War Powers Act
  • Watergate
  • Watts riot
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💣Unit 5 – Civil War & Reconstruction, 1848-1877
🚂Unit 6 – Industrialization & the Gilded Age, 1865-1898
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🥶Unit 8 – The Postwar Period & Cold War, 1945-1980
📲Unit 9 – Entering Into the 21st Century, 1980-Present
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