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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


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The Malik Lecture will be held on Thursday, February 12, 2015, at 7 pm at the Tower Fine Arts Center Mainstage.

The Robert Marcus Lecture will be held on Wednesday, April 15, 2015, at 7:30 pm in the lecture hall (room 104) of the Liberal Arts Building.