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Sample Syllabus: History 615

HST 615.01 Reading Seminar- Modern American History
Fall 2008

Dr. James Spiller
Office: Faculty Office Building (FOB) Rm. 128 Email:
Office Phone: 395-5703                      
Office Hours: Mon./Fri. 1:30-3:30 or by appointment

Course Description

This intensive graduate reading seminar examines late 19th and 20th century American history.  Its eclectic readings touch on many issues-- including race, gender, class, immigration, foreign policy and war, politics and ideology, science and technology, production and consumption, and the environment.

Grade Breakdown

Discussion re. readings                                      10%
Writing assignment #1, #2, #3, #5                     40%
Midterm Essay- Writing assignment #4            25%
Final Essay- Writing assignment #6                  25%


Required Readings

1. Alan Dawley, Struggles for Justice: Social Responsibility and the Liberal State (Harvard University Press, 1993).

2. Nelson Lichtenstein, State of the Union: A Century of American Labor (Princeton University Press, 2002).

3. Walter LaFeber, America , Russia, and the Cold War, 1945-2006 (Boston: McGraw Hill, 2006).

4. Electronic reserve readings are marked with an “(r)”- available on the course Angel page.



Week 1-
1. Alan Dawley, “Gilded Age Liberty,” Struggles for Justice, 17-62.

2. (r)Worth Robert Miller, “Farmers and Third Party Politics,” Charles Calhoun ed., Gilded Age: Essays on the Origins of Modern America,(Scholarly Resources, 1996), 235-257.


Week 2-
1. Robert Norrell, “The Moving White Line” and “The New and Improved Negro,” The House I Live In: Race in the American Century (Oxford University Press, 2005), 3-73.

2. (r)Jacqueline Jones, “The Modernization of Prejudice: Economic Change and the Social Division of Labor, 1870-1930,” American Work: Four Centuries of Black and White Labor (Norton, 1998), 301-336.

Week 3-
1. Alan Dawley, “New Workers, New Women,” Struggles for Justice, 63-97.

2. (r)David Montgomery, “Worker’s Control of Machine Production in the Nineteenth Century,” Workers’ Control in America (Cambridge University Press, 1979), 9-27.

3. (r)Nancy Cott, “The Birth of Feminism,” The Grounding of Modern Feminism (Yale University Press, 1987), 11-50.

4. (r)Clayton Koppes, “Efficiency, Equity, and Esthetics: Shifting Themes in American Conservation,” Donald Worster ed., The Ends of the Earth: Perspectives on Modern Environmental History (Cambridge University Press, 1988), 230-251.

Week 4-
1. Alan Dawley, “The Social Question,” Struggles for Justice, 98-138.

2. (r)Linda Gordon, “State Caretakers: Maternalism, Mothers’ Pensions, and the Family Wage,” Pitied But Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of Welfare, 1890-1935 (Harvard University Press, 1994), 37-64.

3. (r)Gail Bederman, “Theodore Roosevelt: Manhood, Nation, and “Civilization,” Manliness & Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917, (University of Chicago Press, 1995), 170-215.

4. (r)Ronald Takaki, “The ‘Indian Question’: From Reservation to Reorganization,” A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America (Back Bay Books, 1993), 228-245.

5. (r)Wendy Kline, “Motherhood, Morality, and the ‘Moron’: The Emergence of Eugenics in America,” Building a Better Race (University of California Press, 2001), 7-31.

Week 5-  
1. Alan Dawley, “Progressive Statecraft,” “The Dynamics of Total War,” and “Response to Revolution,” Struggles for Justice, 139-253.

2. (r)Cecilia Elizabeth O’Leary, “’My Country Right or Wrong’: World War I and the Paradox of American Patriotism,” To Die For: The Paradox of American Patriotism (Princeton University Press, 1999), 220-245.

Week 6-
1. Alan Dawley, “Restoration by Repression” and “The New Era of Corporate Capitalism,” Struggles for Justice, 254-333.

2. (r)Edward Larson, “Digging Up Controversy,” Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion (Harvard University Press, 1997), 11-30.

3. (r)Lizabeth Cohen, “Ethnicity in the New Era,” Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939 (Cambridge University Press, 1990), 54-97.

4. Robert Norrell, “The Syncopated Rythym,” The House I Live In: Race in the American Century (Oxford University Press, 2005), 74-108.

5. Roland Marchand, “Apostles for Modernity,” Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity, 1920-1940 (University of California Press, 1986), 1-24.

Week 7-
1. Alan Dawley, “Managing the Depression: Hoover and Roosevelt” and “Rendezvous with Destiny,” Struggles for Justice, 334-408.

2. Nelson Lichtenstein, “Reconstructing the 1930s,” State of the Union, 20-53.

Week 8-         
1. (r)Linda Gordon, “New Deal Social Movements and Popular Pressure for Welfare,” Pitied But Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of Welfare (Harvard University Press, 1994), 209-251.

2. (r)Jennifer Klein, “The New Deal Struggle: Insurers, Employers, and the Politics of Social Security, 1933-1940,” For All These Rights: Business, Labor, and the Shaping of America’s Public-Private Welfare State (Princeton University Press, 2003), 78-115.

Week 9-
1. Nelson Lichtenstein, “Citizenship at Work,” State of the Union, 54-97.

 2. (r)David Kennedy, “The Cauldron of the Home Front,” Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression of War, 1929-1945 (Oxford University Press, 1999, 746-797.

3. Walter LaFeber, “Open Doors, Iron Curtains (1941-1945),” America , Russia, and the Cold War, 9-32.

4. Wendy Wall, “’The House I Live In,’” Inventing the “American Way”: The Politics of Consensus from the New Deal to the Civil Rights Movement (Oxford University Press, 2008), 132-159.

Week 10-
1. Walter LaFeber, “The ‘Different World’ of NSC-68 (1948-1950),” “Korea: The War for Both Asia and Europe (1950-1951)” and “A Different Cold War (1953-1955),” America , Russia, and the Cold War, 83-131, 151-175.

 2. (r)Allan Winkler, “Strategy, Weaponry, and the Early Arms Race,” Life Under a Cloud: American Anxiety About the Atom (Oxford University Press, 1993), 57-83.

3. (r)Paul Boyer, “Nuclear War in the Writings of Bible-Prophecy Popularizers,” Fallout: A Historian Reflects on America’s Half-Century Encounter with Nuclear Weapons (Ohio State University Press, 1998), 129-161.

4. (r)Alan Brinkley, “The Illusion of Unity in Cold War Culture,”  Peter Kuznick and James Gilbert eds., Rethinking Cold War Culture (Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001), 61-73.

Week 11-
1. Walter LaFeber, “A New Containment: The Rise and Fall of Détente (1966-1976),” America , Russia, and the Cold War, 267-298.

2. Nelson Lichtenstein, “A Labor-Management Accord?,” State of the Union, 98-140.

3. (r)Aaron Friedberg, “American Antistatism and the Founding of the Cold War State,” Ira Katzelson and Martin Shefter eds., Shaped By War and Trade: International Influences on American Political Development (Princeton University Press, 2002), 239-266.

4. (r)James Patterson, “Red Scares Abroad and at Home,” Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974 (Oxford University Press, 1996), 165-205.

Week 12-
1. Walter LaFeber, “New Frontiers and Old Dilemmas (1957-1962)” and “Southeast Asia- and Elsewhere” America , Russia, and the Cold War, 201-265.

2. (r)Michael Adas, “Machines in the Vietnam Quagmire,” Dominance By Design: Technological Imperatives and America’s Civilizing Mission (Harvard, 2006), 281-336.

3. (r)Gary Gerstle, “Civil Rights, White Resistance, and Black Nationalism, 1960-1968,” American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century (Princeton University Press, 2001), 268-310.

4.  Nelson Lichtenstein, “Erosion of the Union Idea” and “Rights Consciousness in the Workplace,” State of the Union, 141-211.

Week 13-
1. Walter LaFeber, “From Cold War to Old War: Reagan and Gorbechev (1977-1989),” America , Russia, and the Cold War, 301-346.

2. Nelson Lichtenstein, “A Time of Troubles,” State of the Union, 212-245.

 3. (r)Lizabeth Cohen, “Culture: Segmenting the Mass,” A Consumer’s Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America (Vintage Books, 2003), 292-344.

4. (r)Godfrey Hodson, “Tributaries: The River of Jordan,” The World Turned Upside Up: A History of the Conservative Ascendancy in America (Houghton Mifflin, 1996), 158-185.

Week 14-
1. Walter LaFeber, “A New World Order-Or the Age of Fragmentation? (1989-1993)” and “The Post-Cold War Era of Fragmentation: Clinton, Yeltsin, and Back to a Bush (1993-9/11, 2001),” America , Russia, and the Cold War, 349-399.

Week 15-
1. Walter LaFeber, “The World Turned Upside Down (2001-2006),” America , Russia, and the Cold War, 401-450.
2. (r)Edward Rhodes, “Onward Christian Soldiers?: The Crusading Logic of Bush’s Grand Strategy and What is Wrong With It,” Lloyd Gardiner and Marilyn Young eds., The New American Empire: A 21st Century Tech-In on U.S. Foreign Policy (The New Press, 2005), 227-252.

3. (r)Barry Lynn, “Unmade in America,” Harper’s Magazine, June 2002, 33-41.

4. (r)Thomas Friedman, “It’s a Flat World After All,” New York Times, April 3, 2005.

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Last Updated 7/21/10


Congratulations to Dr. Jose R. Torre on winning the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching!

History major Michael Zagari has been accepted into the Duquesne University School of Law this coming fall on a full academic scholarship! During his time at Brockport, Mike has played on the NCAA men’s ice hockey team and has won the Jack Crandall and Robert Griswold History Department Awards.

History major Gabrielle Brannigan received a scholarship to enter the MA program in Social Studies and Special Education at the University of Rochester's Warner School of Education.

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Robert Marcus Memorial Lecture, Thursday, 4/14/16, 7:30 pm, McCue Auditorium (LibArt 104 A/B), Dr. Raymond Craib (Cornell University), Title: "The Cry of the Renegade:  The politics and poetry of subversion in Santiago, Chile"