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Course attendance and engaged participation.

You must attend every class having completed all assignments for that day and prepared to discuss them. Working through readings and projects in person is every bit as important as being able to answer questions on a test or write essays.

We will engage with primary source material in the classroom. These primary sources may appear on the exam. Your work in digesting them in class will be invaluable in contextualizing them later.


Primary and Secondary Sources

Each week, there are required readings (or in a few cases, videos or audio files) listed on the syllabus. These give you a chance to see historical themes reflected in primary sources, to hone your ability for critical thinking, and to see real-life examples of how historians interpret and argue about the past.

You must do these readings by the day they are listed on in the syllabus: they may be the prompts for discussion or pop quizzes on that day in class. Tests will include identification exerpts.

Most weeks have about 20 to 60 pages of reading; there are a few longer texts throughout the semester.


This course uses the online textbook The American Yawp. The syllabus lists chapters to read. The textbook and lectures in this class are complementary, rather than covering the same ground: there is not enough time in the classroom to adequately cover 400 years of American history, and the lectures will focus on a series of progressive themes that help you integrate knowledge and general course themes.

There are a lot of details in the textbook. You will not be able to memorize them all, and I don’t expect you to. (If you want to memorize loads of facts using flash cards, try taking organic chemistry). We will talk in week 2 about how to read a textbook like this. If you have a deep background in American history (say, a yearlong course in your junior or senior year of high school) you may merely need to skim to refresh your memory and reflect on how the textbook differs from what you were taught. If you know less, this will provide the necessary backbone for the rest of the course. The text will provide you with the basic background and scaffolding on which to grapple with more interesting and complicated questions. There will not be pop quizzes or test IDs about names mentioned once deep in the text; but if you do not know something mentioned in the introduction to the chapters or one of the section titles, that is a sign that your background knowledge on the period may not be up to snuff.

In-class exercises

We will have a few pre-scheduled exercises (eg., the map quiz in week 3).

We may also periodically begin the class with an unannounced short assignment (pop quiz!) focusing on the day’s reading(s); these will be turned in by the end of class. They will be graded leniently. There are no excused absences, but everyone occasionally has a sick day, a huge project, or a missed alarm. To accomodate this, your two lowest grades on these assignments will be dropped before calculating grades.



This class will have two midterms and a final. Each of the midterms will occupy a single class session and focus on one of the two class units. The final will include material from all three sections of course. Material covered on the midterm may include materials handed out in class, lectures, readings, or the midterms.

Tests will include identication questions in which you are given a name, image, or textual passage to identify and contextualize, and short essays.


There will be a short-ish writing (opinion) assignment in this course, making an argument for a memorial to a person in a place that you think should be erected. Details will be distributed after the first midterm.