The Car in History: Business, Culture, Society and the Automobile in North America Wednesday, 7-9 pm

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The Car in History:

Business, Culture, Society and the Automobile in North America

Wednesday, 7-9 pm

Professor D. Anastakis

Office Location/Hours: LEC 112N; Thursday 8-10:00 am in second term also 12:30-3:00 pm, or by appointment


Home Phone: 416-593-7293 (between 9 am and 8 pm only, please!)

Skype: danastakis

Office Phone: 705-748-1011, ext. 7839
The automobile is the epitome of modernity. It influences almost every aspect of our lives, whether it’s how we live and work, how we perceive one another and our social status, to issues such as time, space, and even dating. From parking lots to advertising to auto workers, this course explores the immense impact of the automobile-- both the positive consequences and the negative influences-- on the social, cultural, environmental, and economic landscape of Canada and North America. Indeed, this course looks at the automobile’s impact upon local, national and continental spaces, utilizing the car as a vehicle by which to understand a wide range of socioeconomic and political changes over the last century.
In the Fall Term, students will partake in intensive seminar discussion of these issues. The topics addressed during the fall term include only a fraction of the issues available for discussion. Students are encouraged to also consider examining topics not covered in the seminar readings for their research papers/presentations.
In the Winter Term, students will focus on their research papers. In January and February, students will conduct independent study, research and writing towards the completion of their major papers. The seminar will meet only a few times during this period. Beginning in March, students will begin presenting their research findings to the seminar and submitting their final papers.
The aim of this course is for students to develop their own opinions on just what the impact of the automobile has been on life in Canada, and within a North American context. Students will develop and sharpen these views by critically assessing historical works together, and by individually providing book reviews and presenting their research findings to the seminar. It should be emphasized that this is first and foremost a history course, and that all of these activities shall be rooted within the historical discipline.
There are no exams or tests in this course.
ALL aspects of this syllabus are subject to change. Please read the syllabus carefully.
Required Materials:

  • Richard Harris, Creeping Conformity: How Canada Became Suburban, 1900-1960 (Toronto, 2004).

  • Steven High, Industrial Sunset: The Making of North America’s Rust Belt, 1969-1984 (Toronto, 2004).

Course Evaluation:
Seminar Participation: 30%

Review Essay/Presentation: 15%

Research Paper + Progress Report: 45%

Paper Presentation: 10%

Total: 100%

Basis for Evaluation:
This course focuses upon three of the main activities historians undertake in their work: Reviews, presentations, and original writing. In our course, this means we will focus on book reviews, presentations, and essays to determine the student’s final grade. All of these activities are conducted with an eye towards critical evaluation—students actively critique and assess the basis of others’ (and their own) work in a balanced and fair manner. Thus, there is also a heavy emphasis on seminar participation.
The Review Essay:
In the Fall Term, students will write a minimum four-page (at least four full pages) review of one of the review readings from a given week, worth 15% of the final grade. This will be a critical assessment of the effectiveness of the work, examining the monograph from the standpoint of its argumentation, sources, style, methodology, etc. It is imperative that the student develop a cogent critique of the work, and provide evidence to support their position/thesis as to the effectiveness of the monograph under consideration. Please refer to other published reviews as a guideline for this assignment. As fourth year students, you are expected to provide a well-defined and reasoned assessment of your book.

As part of this process, the student will give a ten to fifteen minute presentation of their assessment/findings to the class, providing an overview of the student’s review, a context of the reading, and a framework for further discussion. This presentation should build upon and develop further themes discussed in the seminar for that week. The presentation will be worth one-third of the assignment weight, or 5% of the final grade. Students will be graded on clarity, presentation style, connection to seminar discussion, and overall effectiveness of their review.

The Research Paper:
In the Winter Term, students will write a minimum 25-page (that is text, and does not include notes or bibliography) major research paper worth 40% of the final grade. Students have three different options in the types of papers that will be acceptable in this course:

  • Option 1: Literature Review/Historiographical Essay:

This type of paper is a historiographical overview of at least five major works that examine a given field or subfield within the themes discussed in the “Car in History” course. The paper should contextualize the issue (using other secondary sources), address the main points of debate that the works examine, and provide a detailed critique and analysis of those works and their contributions to the historiographical debate and the historical question under examination. Questions to be considered can include: How do these authors differ in their interpretations of a common issue within the historical subfield? Why types of approaches do they utilize? How do their sources impact upon their interpretations? What is your assessment of the effectiveness of each author, and why?

  • Option 2: Primary Source Analysis I: The Automobile and Newspapers, Magazines, and other primary written materials

This type of paper explores a newspaper, magazine or other type of primary source to assess how this source reflects broader political, cultural, economic or social concerns towards an issue related to “The Car in History.” For instance, a student might look at articles found in the Peterborough Examiner to assess how in a particular period people in the city dealt with issues such as those considered in the course material. These could include the emergence of the car, the battle over public versus private space, regulation of the automobile, or suburbanization of Peterborough in the post-World War II period. Alternatively, students might consider different ways that these primary sources can tell us something about the automobile and its role in society. Building on class readings, a student might examine automobile advertising in, for example, the Globe and Mail, and investigate what it can tell us about question such as gender, or class, or race, or a host of other issues. Papers in this option would need to be grounded in a solid secondary literature which details the methodological approach taken by students, and effectively contextualizes and frames both the issue and the source being used.

  • Option 3: Primary Source Analysis II: The Automobile and Political Debate

Similar to Option 2, this type of paper utilizes primary political documents, such as the Debates of the House of Commons, the Debates of the Ontario Legislative Assembly, or Peterborough Council Minutes, to examine how politicians and parties addressed issues related to automobiles, the auto industry, and the impact of the car in general, over time. For example, what was the political response to the debate over conflict between public and private space in the post-World War I period? Or how did federal or provincial politicians address the gas shortage in the 1970s? What do these debates tell us about societal or political attitudes towards a particular issue, and now these attitudes have changes over time?
Bibliographic length will vary, depending on which option has been utilized by the student for the paper. While the topic for the paper is relatively very open (students are encouraged to delve deeply into any issue which may interest them and that has to do with the social, cultural, economic or political impact of the automobile), it is required that students will meet with the instructor during designated office hours or by appointment during the Fall Term so that consultation and approval for the essay topic can be given. Students who wish to pursue an essay that is outside of the three options are welcome to do so, though any essay which departs from these approaches must also be developed in consultation with the course instructor.
During the research period (January-February), all students must meet with the instructor to give a verbal report updating the progress toward the completion of the essay. This should be accompanied by a one-page written progress report which will be included in the instructor’s overall assessment of the paper/presentation. Such a report may include: topic/possible thesis statement, outline of research program, a list of sources, assessment of problems encountered, etc. The seminar will also meet in January and February for a discussion regarding research questions and methods, and research advances or problems encountered. Students are required to submit the tentative title of their paper/presentation by the beginning of the presentation period.

The Research Paper Presentation:
Students will have a maximum of one-half hour to present their papers to the class in March and April. These presentations, which are worth 10% of the final grade, will allow students to present their arguments, research findings, and any other material they deem relevant to the dissemination of their research results (visual materials, etc.). They should also take questions from the seminar. Two fellow students will be asked to anonymously write a one-page assessment of the presentation/questions and answers, which will be used to determine the student’s presentation grade. The final paper will be due one week after their presentation, allowing the student to incorporate any changes suggested by their fellow classmates. Thus, determination of the order of presentations/final papers is up to the individual students, who can choose their particular slots during the January-February consultation/verbal-written report period (or even beforehand), on a first-come basis.
Seminar Participation:
A significant part of critical evaluation takes place in the form of class discussion. Obviously, it is imperative that students contribute effectively and fairly during the seminar, and class participation will be 30% of their final grade. All students are expected to contribute in every seminar.

Unless otherwise indicated, required readings are posted on the WEB CT site for this course in PDF or Word formats (except for the two books). All required readings, including those not on WEB CT, are easily available in the Bata Library. Review books are not on reserve, and it is each student’s responsibility to procure the book for their review. Remember: Inter-Library loans can take up to 6 weeks, so it is essential that you look into getting your review books as soon as possible. Please discuss with Dimitry if you encounter difficulties procuring your book.

Weekly Schedule: Fall Term, 2008
Week 1: September 10

Course Introduction
Outline of the course, expectations, discussion of weekly seminars, assignments, final presentations, and sign up for review/presentation readings for Fall Term seminars.

Week 2: September 17

Beginnings: The Emergence of the “Great God Car”
Discussion Readings:

James Flink, The Automobile Age (Cambridge, MA, 1990), preface and 1-55 (Online, or on reserve)

James Flink, “Three Stages of American Automobile Consciousness,” American Quarterly, 1972 24 (4): 451-473
Frederick deLuna, “The Rules of the Road: Left, Right or Down the Middle?” The Beaver 1993 73(4): 17-21
Rudi Volti, “A Century of Automobility,” Technology and Culture 1996 37 (4): 663-685
Review Readings:

James Flink, The Automobile Age (Cambridge, MA, 1990)

David. Kirsch, The Electric Vehicle and the Burden of History (New Brunswick, N.J., 2000).

James Rubenstein, Making and Selling Cars: Innovation and Change in the US Auto Industry (Baltimore, 2001)

Week 3: September 24

From Jaywalking to Parking: The Auto and Early Battles over Public and Private Space
Discussion Readings:

Peter Norton, “Street Rivals: Jaywalking and the Invention of the Motor Age Street” Technology and History 2007 48 (2): 331-359

Stephen Davies, “’Reckless Walking Must be Discouraged’: The Automobile Revolution and the Shaping of Modern Urban Canada to 1930” Urban History Review 1989 18(2): 123-138
Gerald T. Bloomfield, “No Parking Here to Corner: London Reshaped by the Automobile, 1911-61” Urban History Review 1989 18(2): 139-158
Review Readings:

Beth Bailey, From Front Porch to Back Seat: Courtship in Twentieth-Century America (Baltimore, 1988)

Larry Ford, Cities and Buildings: Skyscrapers, Skid Rows, and Suburbs (Baltimore, 1994)
Week 4: October 1

On the Line: The Car Reshapes Work
Discussion Readings:

John Manley, “Communists and Autoworkers: The Struggle for Industrial Unionism in the Canadian Automobile Industry, 1925-1936,” Labour/Le Travail 17 (Spring 1986)

Stephen L. McIntyre, “The Failure of Fordism: Reform of the Automobile Repair Industry, 1913-1940” Technology and Culture 2000 41(2): 269-299
Pamela Sugiman, “Privilege and Oppression: The Configuration of Race, Gender and Class in Southern Ontario Auto Plants, 1939-49” Labour/Le Travail 2001 47: 83 -113
Steve Meyer, “Rough Manhood: The Aggressive and Confrontational Shop Culture of US Auto Workers During World War II” Journal of Social History 2002 36(1): 125-147
Review Readings:

Charlotte Yates, From Plant to Politics: The Autoworkers Union in Postwar Canada (Philadelphia, 1993)

John Barnard, American Vanguard: The United Auto Workers During the Reuther years, 1935-1970 (Detroit, 2004)

Sam Gindin, The Canadian Auto Workers: The Birth and Transformation of a Union (Toronto, 1995)

Review of Online Exhibition, “Some Assembly Required: A History of Auto Work and Workers in Windsor”, (See instructor for further instructions)

Week 5: October 8

Creating Consumerism: Selling and Advertising Cars
Discussion Readings:

Pamela Laird, “’The Car Without a Single Weakness’: Early Automobile Advertising” Technology and Culture 1996 37(4): 796-812

Laura L. Behling, “’The Woman at the Wheel’: Marketing Ideal Womanhood, 1915-1934” Journal of America Culture 1997 20 (3): 13-30
Sally Clarke, “Closing the Deal: GM’s Marketing Dilemma and its Franchised Dealers, 1921-41” Business History 2003 45(1): 60-79
Richard Martin, “Fashion and the Car in the 1950s” Journal of American Culture 1997 20(3): 51-66
Review Readings:

Stephen Bayley, Sex, Drink, and Fast Cars: The Creation and Consumption of Images (Boston, 1986)

David Gartman, Auto Opium: A Social History of American Automobile Design (New York, 1994)

Heon Stevenson, Selling the Dream: Advertising the American Automobile, 1930-1980 (1995)

Week 6: October 15

The Car and Gender
Discussion Readings:

D. Davis and B. Lorenzkowski, “A Platform for Gender Tensions: Working Women and Riding on Canadian Urban Public Transit in the 1940s” Canadian Historical Review, 79 (September 1998), 431-465

Kevin Boyle, “The Kiss: Racial and Gender Conflict in a 1950s Automobile Factory” Journal of American History 1997 84(2): 496-523
Berry, Kimberley. “She’s No Lady: The Experience and Expression of Gender Among Halifax Women Taxi Drivers Since World War II” Urban History Review 1998 27 (1): 23-35
Christopher Dummitt, “A Crash Course in Manhood: Traffic Safety and the Dilemma of Modern Manhood” from Dimitry Anastakis, ed. The Sixties: Passion, Politics and Style (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2008), 71-98.
Review Readings:

Virginia Scharff, Taking the Wheel: Women and the Coming of the Motor Age (Toronto, 1991)

Pamela Sugiman, Labour's Dilemma: The Gender Politics of Auto Workers in Canada, 1937-1979 (Toronto, 1994)

October 24: No Seminar, Fall Reading Week

Week 7: October 29

Auto Geniuses and Management Gods: Auto Industry Titans and their Impact
Discussion Readings:

James Flink, The Automobile Age (Cambridge, MA, 1990), Chap. 5, 56-72 (Online, or on reserve)

John B Rae, “The Fabulous Billy Durant” Business History Review 1958 32(3): 255-271
Michael Schwartz, “Markets, Networks, and the Rise of Chrysler in Old Detroit, 1920-1940” Enterprise & Society: The International Journal of Business History 2000 1(1): 63-99
Daniel Raff, “Making Cars and Making Money in the Interwar Automobile Industry: Economies of Scale and Scope and the Manufacturing Behind the Marketing” Business History Review 1991 65(4): 721-753
Review Readings:

Heather Roberts, Driving Force: The McLaughlin Family and the Age of the Car (Toronto, 1995)

David R. Farber, Sloan Rules: Alfred P. Sloan and the Triumph of General Motors (Chicago, 2002)

Steven Watts, The People's Tycoon: Henry Ford and the American Century (2005)

Richard Bak, Henry and Edsel: The Creation of the Ford Empire (New York, 2003)

Week 8: November 5

Subdivisions I: Pre-War Urban and Suburban Autoscapes
Discussion Readings:

Richard Harris, Creeping Conformity, How Canada Became Suburban, 1900-1960 (Toronto, 2004) entire

Review Readings:

Lawrence Solomon, Toronto Sprawls: A History (Toronto, 2007)

Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (New York, 1961)
Week 9: November 12

Subdivisions II: Postwar Suburban, and Exurban Autoscapes
Discussion Readings:

Peter A. Stevens, “Cars and Cottages: The Automotive Transformation of Ontario’s Summer Home Tradition” Ontario History 100 (Spring, 2008) 26-56.

John Van Nostrand, “The Queen Elizabeth Way: Public Utility Versus Public Space” Urban History Review 1983 12 (2): 1-23
Steve Penfold, “’Are we to go Literally to the Hot Dogs?’ Parking Lots, Drive-ins, and the Critique of Progress in Toronto’s Suburbs, 1965-1975” Urban History Review 2004 33(1): 8-23
Danielle Robinson, “The Dundas and Ancaster Highway Disputes in Ontario, 1967-68,” Ontario History 100 (Spring, 2008), 55-79.
Review Readings:

Owen Gutfreund, Twentieth-Century Sprawl (New York, 2004)

Clay McShane, Down the Asphalt Path: The Automobile and the American City (New York, 1994)

Kenneth Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of America (New York, 1987)

Week 10: November 19

The Environment and Safety
Discussion Readings:

Tom McCarthy, “The Coming Wonder? Foresight and Early Concerns about the Automobile” Environmental History 2001 6(1): 46-74

Tom McCarthy, “Henry Ford, industrial ecologist or industrial conservationist? Waste reduction and recycling at the Rouge.” Michigan Historical Review 2001 27(2): 52-88
Matthew Lee, “The Ford Pinto Case and the Development of Auto Safety Regulations, 1893-1978,” Business and Economic History 1998 27 (2): 390-401
Review Readings:

Ralph Nader, Unsafe at Any Speed (New York, 1972)

Joel Eastman, Styling vs. Safety: The Development of Automotive Safety, 1900-1966 (MD, 1984)

Jack Doyle, Taken For a Ride: Detroit’s Big Three and the Politics of Pollution (New York, 2000)

Week 11: November 26

Canada in the North American Auto Industry
Discussion Readings:

Robert Ankli and Fred Frederickson, “The Influence of American Manufacturers on the Canadian Automobile Industry,” Business and Economic History (1981), 101-113

Donald Davis, “Dependent Development: Canada and the Automobile in the 1930s,” Journal of Canadian Studies 21, 3 (Autumn 1986), 106-32
Dimitry Anastakis, “From Independence to Integration: The Corporate Evolution of the Ford Motor Company of Canada, 1904-2004” Business History Review 2004 78(2): 213-253
Review Readings:

Dimitry Anastakis, Auto Pact: Creating a Borderless North American Auto Industry, 1960-1971 (Toronto, 2005)

David Roberts, In the Shadow of Detroit: Gordon M. McGregor, Ford of Canada, and Motoropolis (Detroit, 2006)

Review of Website “The Automobile in American Life and Society” ( (See instructor for further instructions)

Week 12: December 3

The End of the Auto Age? Deindustrialization, The Chrysler Bailout, and Oil Crisis
Discussion Readings:

Steven High, Industrial Sunset: The Making of North America’s Rust Belt, 1969-84 (Toronto, 2004) entire

Dimitry Anastakis, “Industrial Sunrise? The Chrysler Bailout, the State, and the Reindustrialization of the Canadian Automotive Industry, 1975-1986” Urban History Review 35 (Spring 2007) 37-50

Review Books:

Charles K. Hyde, Riding the Roller Coaster: A History of the Chrysler Corporation (Detroit, 2003)

Ruth Milkman, Farewell to the Factory (California, 1997)

Have a great Holiday Break! See you in January…

Weekly Schedule: Winter Term, 2009
Weeks 13-18: January 7, 14, 21, 28 and February 4, 11: Research and Writing Period
During this period, students are expected to work on their research papers/presentations independently.
Students are expected to meet at least once during this period individually with their instructor to provide their individual verbal-written update on the progress of their research and writing, and to discuss any problems they might be having with the preparation of their paper/presentation.
While formal seminars will not be held, the Thursday session will instead be devoted to films related to the course, “The Car in History: Movie Nights”. While attendance is not required, students are strongly encouraged to attend. They are welcome to invite friends, roommates, colleagues, significant others, etc. Along with watching a movie, students will be encouraged to exchange information and discuss their research and writing programs.
The Car in History: Movie Nights Screening Schedule:

January 7 Final Offer

January 14 The End of Suburbia

January 21 Roger and Me

January 38 Tucker

February 4 TBD

February 11 Who K illed the Electric Car?

February 18 NO CLASS: Reading Week
OPTIONAL ASSIGNMENT: As an optional assignment towards class participation, students may write a 750-word movie review of one of the films shown during the screenings.
Weeks 19- 24: February 25, March 4, 11, 18, 25 and April 1: Class Presentations
There will be approximately three presentations per class, depending on the timing and length of presentations, and whatever other materials the instructor may wish to introduce during this period.

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