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NOTE: This schedule is subject to change. Some readings will be added; others may be removed or rescheduled. Please pay attention to the web page and course e-mails. As a rule, unless you have received an e-mail since the last class meeting, the latest version at the web site (or printed from is the correct one.

Topic 1: The Nation and the Land

For all that America is a “nation of ideas,” its patriotic image draws heavily on the land itself: schoolchildren sing about “amber waves of grain,” “from sea to shining sea.” How has the nation shaped its landscape? How natural is the land itself, and the borders of the nation?

Wed Sep 06 Introduction

  • No reading.

Thu Sep 07 The land was ours: Geography and post-contact Indian Life

  • Textbook: 1.1 to 1.2
  • Secondary: Start reading Frederick Jackson Turner, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History.”

Mon Sep 11 Settler Colonialism and American Nature

  • Finish Frederick Jackson Turner, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History.”

Wed Sep 13 Moving West

  • Textbook: 2.1 to 2.7; 3.1 to 3.2, 3.3 to 3.6, 4.2 to 4.4

Topic 2: Self Government

Political figures as different as Paul Ryan and Barack Obama (used to?) agree that America was fundamentally a “nation of ideas;” as Lincoln put it: “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” What were the institutions and norms that the first generation of independent Americans thought necessary for the nation to flourish?

Thu Sep 14 Why leave?

  • Richard Hakluyt, “Reasons for Colonization,” (1585)
  • John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity.” (1620)
  • J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, “What is an American?” (1782)

Mon Sep 18 The radical revolution

Map Quiz (Note: Textbook readings listed on Monday this week). - Textbook: 5.1-5.7, 6.1-6.10

Wed Sep 20 The constitutional republic

  • Declaration of Independence (not on Blackboard, but you can find this).
  • Federalist Papers, Numbers 10, 14, 51
  • Contemporary echoes: Jill Lepore, “The Constitution and its worshippers”

Thu Sep 21 The Early Republic

  • Washington Irving, “Rip Van Winkle” (1820)
  • Tocqueville, Democracy in America, selections
  • Thomas Jefferson, “The Agrarian Ideal” (1787)

Mon Sep 25 Jacksonian Politics

Topic 3: Slavery: The American Institution

Of all America’s evils, the legacy of slavery is the one with the strongest present strain, and the one that cuts most directly against both its self-image and the reputation of its founders. How did American slavery work? Is it possible to imagine an America without slavery? What needs to be done about slavery’s legacy today?

Wed Sep 27: American Slavery as it was.=

  • Textbook: 7 to 11 (Of all weeks, if you know nothing this is the most skimmable; don’t worry too much about the ins and outs of political machinations not covered in class over the next week.)

Thu Sep 28: The politics of compromise

  • William Lloyd Garrison Introduces The Liberator, 1831
  • William Lloyd Garrison On the Constitution and the Union (1832)
  • Reading: Shackles and Dollars: Historians and economists clash over slavery (Chronicle of Higher Education, December 8, 2016)

Mon Oct 02: The politics of radicalism

  • Reading: Autobiography of Frederick Douglass (Note: this is long!)

Wed Oct 04: The Civil War, 1861-1865

  • Textbook: 12 to 15

Thu Oct 05 The Civil War, 1866–2017

The Freedman’s Bank The Memory of the War

  • Read: David Blight on Memorial Day
  • Read: Lincoln, Second Inagural Address

Mon Oct 09 – No class, Columbus day

Wed Oct 11 First midterm (Previous 13 lectures and readings)

Topic 4: The Empire of Capital

To much of the world, America isn’t unique for its freedom; it’s distinguished by its state as the economic powerhouse of the world. Why did America grow so furiously? How rich can we get?

Thu Oct 12 Steel rails

Mon Oct 16 The Labor Crisis

  • “Preamble to the Constitution of the Knights of Labor” (1878)

Wed Oct 18 The Farmer is the man who feeds them all

  • (Moved from Monday to Wed) The “Cross of Gold” Speech.
  • (Moved from Monday to Wed) Hamlin Garland, “Under the Lion’s Paw”
  • Textbook: 16-17, 20.

Thu Oct 19 Reconstitution

  • Roosevelt on the New Nationalism

Mon Oct 23 Strangers in the Land

  • Wilson, “Monopoly or Opportunity,” from The New Freedom, 1912.

Topic 5: The Melting Pot

Wed Oct 25 Immigrants and cities

Chronology Quiz (List to be distributed)

Textbook: 18

Thu Oct 26 The Strange Career of Jim Crow

(heavier reading day)

  • DuBois The Souls of Black Folk.
  • Read Introduction, the Forethought, and chapters
    • VI (Of the training of black men)
    • VII (Of the black belt)
    • VIII (Of the quest of the Golden Fleece)
    • IX (Of the Sons of Master and Man)
    • XIII (Of the coming of John)
    • The Afterthought.

Mon Oct 30 Three borders, three approaches.

  • Randolph Bourne, Trans-national America

Topic 6: The Leader of the Free World

Wed Nov 01 The American Empire

Textbook: 19, 21, 22

Thu Nov 02 The Consumer Society and the Great Depression

  • Studs Terkel, Hard Times

Mon Nov 06 The New Deal

  • Berle on the New Deal
  • Listen online: FDR’s Madison Square Garden speech, 1936

Wed Nov 08 The Good War

  • Textbook: 23, 24

Thu Nov 09 Second Midterm (Previous 12 Lectures and readings)

Mon Nov 13 The Nation of Suburbs

  • Lizbeth Cohen, “From Town Center to Shopping Center.”
  • Ruth Schwartz Cohan, More Work for Mother, intro and chapter 4. (Optional: will not appear on the Final)

Wed Nov 15 The Cold War

  • Textbook: 25 to 27

Thu Nov 16 The Movement

  • King, Letter from Birmingham Jail

Mon Nov 20 From Counterculture to Cyberculture

  • (Hayden et al), Port Huron Statement (1961)
  • Steve Jobs, Commencement address (2005)
  • Whole Earth Catalog, Excerpts (Skim this to get an idea of what the catalog was like.

Wed Nov 22 & Thu Nov 23 – Thanksgiving Break

While you’re on the boat home, knock off textbook: 28

Topic 7: The Age of Fracture

If the period of American ascendance after the war consolidated its identity, it’s easy to see the history of the country since 1989 as a coming apart. What happened to bipartisanship? Do more Americans think the country is on the wrong track? Can you find the silver lining?

Mon Nov 27 Feminist Waves

  • Casey Hayden and Mary King, “Sex and Caste: A kind of memo”
  • Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique, Excerpt and letters
  • Phyllis Schlafly, The Power of the Positive Woman, Excerpt.

Wed Nov 29 Nixonland or the Age of Reagan?

Textbook: 29

Thu Nov 30 Freedom from what?

  • Barbrook and Cameron, “The Californian Ideology”
  • Milton Friedman, “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits” (1970)

Memorial Essay due Friday December 1

Mon Dec 04 Terror and Collapse

Wed Dec 06 What’s next?

  • George Packer, The Unwinding: an Inner History of the New America, selections (on Tampa).

Final Exam Thursday 12/14

1:00 pm-3:00 pm KN 010

Cumulative. Roughly half the material will come from the last third of the course (which wasn’t covered under a midterm); and half will come from the first two-thirds.

DuBois, W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co, 1903.