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HIST 53OB/EDUC 508: Issues in American History After 1877

Professor: Adam Laats
Class Times: Thurs. 1:15-4:10 PM
Meeting Place: AB-124

Office: AB 231/Office Hours: Wednesdays 10-12 and by appt.
Phone: 777-3329

This graduate seminar is intended to assist students pursuing a Certificate in the Teaching of American History by providing a strong foundation of key historical and historiographical issues in American history. The course is organized around four units: Thinking and Teaching History; Industrialization and its Discontents; America Between the Wars; and Postwar America. Within this framework, the course addresses a range of political, economic, social, and ideological topics.



The class meets on Thursday afternoons from 1:15-4:10 pm in AB 124. This is a discussion-based course. The assigned readings are the basis for the discussions, and students are expected to carry the bulk of our conversations. Students should come to class prepared to critique the readings assigned for that afternoon's meeting. A high level of participation is expected. For most class meetings we will spend two-thirds of our time discussing the reading. The other third of the class will be devoted to developing teaching strategies and lessons with primary documents through the internet. Attendance: Due to the fact that our class meets only once per week, attendance at all class meetings is mandatory. If an emergency occurs and a student must miss a class, she or he must meet with me at a convenient time to discuss the class proceedings. If a second class is missed, the student must write a five-six page review essay of that weeks reading AND meet with me to discuss it. There will also be a grade penalty on the students participation grade. If more than two classes are missed, penalties may range from a severe grade penalty on the participation grade to a grade of incomplete for the entire course, at the discretion of the instructor.


Readings/Discussions: The goal of assigned readings (indicated in schedule of class meetings) is for students to engage one another with regard to the material at hand and unpack the ways in which historians practice their craft through the use of evidence, argument, theoretical paradigm, and methodology. Students do not have to complete the suggested readings, but will find that the list of related works for each unit provides a broader understanding of topics of interest. Students must commit to open and respectful discussions. See Student Handbook for details: Student Handbook

Documents: Throughout the semester I will provide primary documents so that students can work with them as a group and integrate them into their knowledge base/understanding of assigned readings. Lists of documents will be made available at each class meeting. Assignments: All student work must be original. Plagiarism and cheating will not be tolerated. See Student Handbook for details.


Students will complete a range of written assignments. These include a book review, a medium-length paper, a documents-based question, and an annotated compendium of internet resources.

Class participation: 15% of the course grade:
Students will come to each class prepared to discuss the reading assigned for that day. Discussion formats will vary; at times I will lead the class in the discussion, at other times I will divide the class into smaller discussion groups which will have their own discussions. Students will also lead discussions for the books they choose to review. See appendix for details.

Book Review: 15% of the course grade
Students will be assigned one of the required readings from Units 2, 3, or 4 to review. The book review is limited to five pages. Students will email their book review to me no later than the Tuesday before class; I will then forward the review to the rest of the class so that all will have read it by the time we meet. When class meets, the reviews and reviewers will help direct our discussion. You may revise and resubmit your book review if you wish. First and second grades will be averaged for an improved final grade. See appendix for details.

Paper: 25% of the course grade
Students will research and write a paper of ten-fifteen pages on any topic from Units 2 or 3. Topics must address an aspect of social, political, or economic life in the United States from 1877-1940. Students should draw a substantial portion of their documentary evidence from the internet sources that they are gathering for their annotated compendia. You will NOT be able to revise and resubmit your paper. The draft you turn in to me will earn the final grade. See appendix for details.

Documents-Based Question: 25% of the course grade
Students will create a DBQ, based on any topic from this course, that consists of two parts: a short-answer section where the scaffolding questions come directly from primary documents and an essay section where students must answer a capstone question using the same documents. The primary documents should come from the semester-long compendium project. Students will present their DBQs throughout the semester. Students will email their DBQ to me no later than the Tuesday before class. I will make it available electronically for the rest of the class to preview. You may revise and resubmit your DBQ if you wish. First and second grades will be averaged for an improved final grade. See appendix for details.

Annotated Compendium: 20% of the course grade
The purpose of the annotated compendium is to introduce students to using the internet for scholarly and pedagogical purposes, to critically consider methods for using it as a teaching resource, and to help students produce a reference of web-based materials for use in their own classrooms. Students will assemble, organize, and critically comment on websites that track the topics of this course. See appendix for details.


The faculty and staff in the Graduate School of Education are committed to serving all enrolled students. The intention is to create an intellectually stimulating, safe, and respectful class atmosphere. In return it is expected that each of you will honor and respect the opinions and feelings of others.


If you are a student with a disability and wish to request accommodations, please notify the instructor by the second week of class. You are also encouraged to contact the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) AT 777-2686. Their office is in LH-B51. The SSD office makes formal recommendations regarding necessary and appropriate accommodations based on specifically diagnosed disabilities. Information regarding disabilities is treated in a confidential manner.


"All members of the university community have the responsibility to maintain and foster a condition and an atmosphere of academic integrity. Specifically, this requires that all classroom, laboratory, and written work for which a person claims credit is in fact that person's own work." The annual university Student Handbook publication has detailed information on academic integrity. Binghamton University has obtained a license with to facilitate faculty review for potential plagiarism of papers and projects in their courses, which they are encouraged to do. "Students assume responsibility of the content and integrity of the academic work they submit. Students are in violation of academic honesty if they incorporate into their written or oral reports any unacknowledged published or unpublished or oral material from the work of another (plagiarism); or if they use, request, or give unauthorized assistance in any academic work (cheating)." (GSE Academic Honesty Policies) Neither plagiarism nor cheating will be tolerated in this class. Incidents of either will result in a failing grade for the assignment in question, which will most likely have a negative effect on the final grade. If you have any questions about what constitutes plagiarism or cheating, PLEASE ASK ME! See also School of Education Academic Honesty Policies


UNIT I: Thinking and Teaching History

January 31: Introductions

February 7: What is history? How can we teach it?

Sam Wineburg, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts

UNIT II: Industrialization and its Discontents

February 14: Life after the Second American Revolution

C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow. From Major Problems: Steven Hahn, "Continuing the War"

February 21: Farmers and workers, workers and farmers

Robert McMath, American Populism
From Major Problems: Anders Stephanson, "Global Competition and Manifest Destiny on the Cusp of the Twentieth Century"

February 28: The Progressives

Robert Wiebe, The Search for Order.
From Major Problems: Daniel T. Rodgers,"American Progressivism in the Wider Atlantic World"

March 6: In-Class Workshop

"Women, Industrialization, and Reform." From Major Problems: Eric Rauchway, "A Distinctive American Progressivism"; and Gail Bederman, "Gendering Imperialism"

Assignment for this unit:

Begin annotated compendium of web resources. Write a DBQ based on a topic related to weekly reading assignment.

Suggested readings for this unit: Thomas Dublin, Transforming Women's Work; Melvyn DuBofsky, We Shall Be All: A History of the Industrial Workers of the World; Herbert Gutman, Work, Culture, and Society in Industrializing America; Samuel Hays, The Response to Industrialism; John Kasson, Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century; Kathy Peiss, Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-Of-The-Century New York; Roy Rosenzweig, Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870-1920; David Nasaw, Children of the City: At Work and at Play; Jane Addams, Twenty Years at Hull-House; Alice Kessler-Harris: Out to Work: A History of Wage-Earning Women in the United States; Perry Duis, The Saloon: Public Drinking in Chicago and Boston, 1880-1920; Elliot J. Gorn, Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America; William Leach, Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture; John Kasson, Houdini, Tarzan, and the Perfect Man; Steven Hahn, The Roots of Southern Populism; Peter Argersinger, The Limits of Agrarian Radicalism: Western Populism and American Politics; Daniel Rodgers, Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age; Gabriel Kolko, The Triumph of Conservatism: A Reinterpretation of American History, 1900-1916; Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform: From Bryan to F.D.R.; Nell Irvin Painter, Standing At Armageddon: The United States, 1877-1919; James J. Connolly, The Triumph of Ethnic Progressivism: Urban Political Culture in Boston 1900-1925; Maureen Flanagan, Seeing With Their Hearts: Chicago Women and the Vision of the Good City, 1871-1933; Alan Dawley, Struggles for Justice: Social Responsibility and the Liberal State.

UNIT III: America Between the Wars

March 13: Confronting Modernity? Teaching Science, Religion, and all that Jazz
Edward Larson, Summer for the Gods
From Major Problems: Paula S. Fass, "Sex and Youth in the Jazz Age"

March 20: FDR and the New Deal

Alan Brinkley, Voices of Protest
From Major Problems: David M. Kennedy, "FDR: Advocate for the American People"

March 27: NO CLASS -- Spring Recess

April 3: World War II and its Aftermath

John Morton Blum, V Was for Victory; From Major Problems: Alan Brinkley, "American Liberals"

Assignments for this unit: Write a DBQ based on a topic related to weekly reading assignment. Research paper, topic from Units 2 or 3. (10-15 pages). Due no later than May 8. Continue annotated compendium of web resources.

Suggested readings for this unit: William Leuchtenberg, The Perils of Prosperity, 1914-1932; John Kenneth Galbraith, The Great Crash 1929; Arthur M. Schlesinger, The Crisis of the Old Order and The Coming of the New Deal and The Politics of Upheaval; Basil Rauch, The History of the New Deal; Ellis Hawley, The Great War and the Search for a Modern Order; Colin Gordon, New Deals: Business, Labor, and Politics in America 1920-1935; Richard Pells, Radical Visions and American Dreams: Culture and Social Thought in the Depression Years; Robert McElvaine, Down and Out in the Great Depression; Paul Conkin, The New Deal; Lizabeth Cohen, Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago 1919-1939; Robert D.G. Kelley, Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression; Shawn Lay, Hooded Knights on the Niagara: The Ku Klux Klan in Buffalo, NY; Nancy MacLean, Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan; Kristi Andersen, After Suffrage: Women in Partisan and Electoral Politics Before the New Deal; Gloria Hull, Color, Sex, and Poetry: Three Women Writers of the Harlem Renaissance; Horace Cayton and St. Clair Drake, Black Metropolis; E. Franklin Frazier, Black Bourgeoisie; Alan Brinkley, Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and the Great Depression and The End of Reform: New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War; Claire Bond Potter, War on Crime: Bandits, G-Men, and the Politics of Mass Culture.

UNIT IV: Postwar America

April 10: Eat or be Eaten? Postwar Consumption

Lizabeth Cohen, A Consumer's Republic
From Major Problems: Stephanie Coontz, "Families in the Fifties"

April 17: The Civil Rights Movement

John Dittmer, Local People

April 24: Equity, Work and Culture Change

Dorothy Sue Cobble, The Other Womens Movement: Workplace Justice and Social Rights in Modern America.

May 1: Focus on the Cold War - Vietnam

From Major Problems: Chapter fourteen,"Vietnam and the Downfall of Presidents", documents and essays.

May 8: The Right Turn in American Politics

Lisa McGirr, Suburban Warriors
From Major Problems: Kenneth Cmiel, "Triumph of the Left"

Research paper due no later than this date.

Assignments for this unit: Write a DBQ based on a topic related to weekly reading assignment. Complete annotated compendium of web resources. Compendium is due no later than May 13.

Suggested readings for this unit: Thomas Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis; Studs Terkel, The Good War; Steve Fraser and Gary Gerstle, Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order; Richard Fried, Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective; Stephen Ambrose; Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy Since 1938; William H. Chafe, Civilities and Civil Rights: Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Black Struggle for Freedom; Amy Swerdlow, Women Strike for Peace: Traditional Motherhood and the Radical Politics in the 1960s; Susan Faludi, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women; Joanne Meyerowiz (ed.), Not June Cleaver: Women and Gender in Post-War America 1945-1960; Sara Evans, Personal Politics: The Roots Of Women's Liberation In The Civil Rights Movement And The New Left; Philip Caputo, A Rumor of War; Terry H. Anderson, The Movement and the Sixties; Todd Gitlin, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage; Maurice Isserman, If I Had a Hammer: The Death of the Old Left and the Birth of the New Left; Michael Schaller, Reckoning with Reagan: America and its President in the 1980s; Mike Davis, City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles; Andrew Hurley, Environmental Inequalities: Class, Race, and Industrial Pollution in Gary, Indiana, 1945-1980; Timothy Tyson, Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power; Daniel Horowitz, Betty Friedan and the Making of The Feminine Mystique: The American Left, the Cold War, and Modern Feminism.

Descriptions of Assignments
HIST 530b/EDUC 508

Assignment I: Book Review
The Assignment: Write a critical, analytical review of any assigned book from Units 2, 3 or 4. The book review is limited to five double-spaced pages. Students will email their book review to me no later than the Tuesday before class; I will then forward the review to the rest of the class so that all will have read it by the time we meet. When class meets, the reviewers will lead the discussion. A good book review will contain these fundamental featuresĂș

I. Essential facts about the book:

II. Your original analysis:

Is there a model for me to use?
There is no single definitive way of doing this type of assignment. You may find it helpful, however, to look at book reviews in major academic journals such as the Journal of American History, the American Historical Review, etc. These are housed in the Binghamton University Library.

Do I need to bring in outside materials?
If you have the knowledge at your fingertips and doing so is appropriate to your review, then go right ahead. You may notice that one of the items listed above is "where the book fits into historical literature on the subject," which can be tricky if you haven't read in the area already. Do your best with this, and use your judgment.

HIST 530b/EDUC 508
Assignment II: Synthetic Research Paper

The Assignment:
Write a medium-length paper (10-15 double spaced pages) that addresses a topic of your choosing from Units 2 or 3. Your paper must articulate an original thesis and it must draw a substantial amount of its evidence from the primary documents that you are already gathering for your compendium. The paper is due no later than May 8. Some Guidelines:
Of course, your readings can shape your thinking and your argument. You must cite them whenever it is appropriate. Use Chicago-style footnotes or endnotes to identify your sources. But remember: the key to this assignment is to use documentary evidence to explore your topic, and these should factor prominently in the paper.

A good thesis matters.
If you can lay out your thesis as clearly as possible at the start of the paper, you will be making your position clear and you will be framing the boundaries in which you will tackle this historical issue.

How do I use footnotes?
Consult any academic historical writing for examples. Our books generally use this format. For more details, consult a style guide, such as the Chicago Manual of Style Quickquide. Do I need to bring in secondary materials from beyond our list of required readings?
No. You may find it helpful to cite a book or two not assigned for this class, but it is not required.

HIST 530b/EDUC 508
Assignment III: Documents Based Question

The Assignment:
Create a Documents-Based Question (DBQ) based on any topic of your choosing from this course. Your primary documents (a maximum of 8) should come from the compendium that you have been working on all along. Students will present and submit their DBQs throughout the semester. You must email your DBQ to me by the Tuesday before class. I will post your DBQ for the class to preview.

The DBQ should consist of two parts: a short-answer section where the scaffolding questions (maximum of 10) come directly from these documents and an essay section where students must answer a capstone question using the same documents. Assume this is an assignment for high-school students (i.e., grade 11).

In addition, you need to write three things:

1. A cover sheet for the DBQ that clearly and succinctly lays out the directions, the brief historical background for the questions, and an explanation of the task. YOU MAY COPY THIS FROM EXISTING TEMPLATES.

2. An explanation of the documents you've chosen -- what they are, what their purpose is, why you have selected them.

3. An explanation of how this will be graded, i.e., identify what will constitute a good response to your questions.

Some Guidelines:What is this supposed to look like?

There are many places you can look to see examples of a DBQ in its component parts. Here are three: NY State Department of Education > State Assessment > History and Government Regents Exams. Choose a test date (downloads as a pdf) and then scroll to the DBQ portion of the test. Pdf files require Adobe Acrobat Reader, or equivalent, to open.

Peter Pappas, "teaching with Documents" > Grade 11 > Civil War This site is part of The Center for the Historical Study of Women and Gender in the "Teacher's Corner."

HIST 530b/EDUC 508
Assignment IV: Annotated Compendium

The Assignment:

The purpose of the annotated compendium is threefold: to introduce students to using the web for scholarly and pedagogical purposes, to critically consider methods for using the web as a teaching resource, and to help students produce a reference of web-based materials for use in their own classrooms. Compendia should cover the range of topics we have studied in this course. Focus on websites that are document-rich.

The Compendium is due no later than May 13.

II. Annotations

What constitutes a good annotation is really up to you -- after all, this is an assignment that you can draw upon long after this course is over. The more you have written now, the more useful it will be to you later. That said, I am looking to see that you have put some real thought and substantive effort into this project, and the quality of the annotations is one measure of that. Follow this basic rule of thumb: an annotation should have the web address (the URL), the title of the site, and then several sentences of your comments/analysis. If it is easier or clearer for you, feel free to organize your information about each site in a bulleted list.

III. Organization

How you organize your compendium is again up to you. In the past, students have created categories into which they placed their annotated websites. These could be chronological (late 19th century, America between the wars, etc.) or thematic (gender, class, ethnicity, race) or topical (migration, democracy, capitalism, etc.). It's your choice. IV. LengthYour compendium should include at least three useful sites from units two, three, and four. A good compendium can be made with just fifteen references. You may include many more if you wish.

V. Format

You may turn in a hard copy or a digital copy (via email, on a floppy, a website you've made, and so on). Again, this is your choice -- but do not turn in printouts of these websites. Save trees!

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Last Updated: 12/19/11