History 772 Readings in Modern America:1877 – 1945
Autumn 2009 Wednesday Journalism 291, 2:30-5:18
Prof. Childs Office: Dulles 204; 292-7014; email@example.com; Hours: by appointment/drop-in
Description and Objectives
This is a readings course designed for graduate students preparing for General Examinations in Modern U.S. history in the Department of History and for graduate students from other programs interested in gaining knowledge about modern times. It will focus on domestic U.S. history, from the late 19th century through World War II, although I always hope that there might be some time to explore the intersection of domestic and international history.
In this version of 772, we will emphasize the interaction of economic, political, and social trends and how professional historians have approached writing the narratives of that interaction. We will read books that reflect or have shaped current historiography of Modern U.S. history.
We will begin with a classic analysis of the period through the 1930s. Richard Hofstadter’s Age of Reform strongly shaped the field of political and social history for several decades; some historians are still grappling with his narrative. We will also discuss a 25-year-old article that surveys what the field was like before the 1980s and where the field should be going. One question we will try to answer: Has the Modern U.S. field followed the prescriptions in this article? From there we will follow a general chronological approach, discussing key works in the field that we have all read, as well as other books members of the colloquium have read.
The class meetings will present the opportunity for students to hone their ability to discuss the issues and piece together the narratives that constitute Modern U.S. history through the World War II era (and prepare to study the continuities and discontinuities since 1945). The written assignments will enable students to improve their skills at reviewing and analyzing key works. Both—oral discussion and written analyses—are important tasks of the professional historian.
Required Books: The Age of Reform by Richard Hofstadter (Knopf) (1955).
The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction by Edward L. Ayers (Oxford University Press) (1992).
Prophets of Regulation by Thomas K. McCraw (Belknap/Harvard) (1984).
A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America by Michael McGerr (2003).
The Perils of Prosperity, 1914-1932 by William E. Leuchtenburg (1993, 1958).
Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 by David M. Kennedy (Oxford University Press) (1999).
Paired book assignments will be chosen from the list below.
The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business by Alfred D. Chandler (1977).
Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West by William Cronon (W.W. Norton & Company) (1991).
A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration by Steven Hahn (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press) (2003).
The Uprooted by Oscar Handlin (Little) (1951).
Over Here: The First World War and American Society by David M. Kennedy (1980).
Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion by Edward J. Larson (1997).
No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Simon & Schuster) (1994).
Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom by James MacGregor Burns (Harcourt) (1970).
Polio: An American Story by David M. Oshinsky (Oxford University Press) (2005).
Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb by Richard Rhodes (Simon & Schuster) (1995).
The Search for Order, 1877-1920 by Robert H. Wiebe (1967).
Origins of the New South, 1877-1913 by C. Vann Woodward (19551, 1971).
A Very Different Age: Americans of the Progressive Era by Steven J. Diner (1998).
Efficiency and Uplift: Scientific Management in the Progressive Era, 1890-1920 by Samuel Haber (1964).
Democratic Promise: The Populist Movement in America by Lawrence Goodwyn (1976).
Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Era by Daniel T. Rodgers (1998).
Women, War, and Work by Maureen Greenwald (1980, 1990).
Culture as History: The Transformation of American Society in the Twentieth Century by Warren I. Susman (1984).
An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood by Neil Gabler (1988).
A New Deal for Blacks by Havard Sitkoff (1978).
A. Philip Randolph: Pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula F. Pfeffer (1990).
The End of Reform: New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War by Alan Brinkley (1995).
Lone Star Rising: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1908-1960 by Robert Dallek (1991).
Remaking Dixie: The Impact of WW II on the American South edited by Neil R. McMillen (1997).
World War II and the West: Reshaping the Economy by Gerald Nash (1990).
Hollywood Goes to War by Clayton R. Koppes and Gregory D. Black (1989).
Pledging Allegiance: American Identity and the Bond Drive of WW II by Lawrence R. Samuel (1997).
Assignments and Course Grade 1. Participation in class discussion. (25%) I expect students to arrive in class prepared to summarize and criticize the books and articles assigned. I also expect the student to have consulted reviews and review essays of the books assigned.
2. Prepare one 2-book oral/written review (the written portion will conform to a ‘model’ report; see this link: PairedBookExample). Some students will be assigned one long book. (25%)*
3. Prepare another two-book oral/written review. (25%)*
4. Write a final essay (15-to-20 pages, double-spaced and typed). (25%) Potential essay topics may include:
An essay surveying the notion of reform (its continuities and discontinuities) in the United States from 1877 to 1945.
An essay analyzing the state of Modern American historiography in 2009.
An essay topic generated by the student and agreed to by the instructor.
This assignment is due during the final meeting of the quarter, the regularly scheduled Final Exam period.
*The book reports will be made available to members of the colloquium by noon the Monday before the meeting at which the report will be presented.Those writing the reports will send e-mail attachments to each member of the colloquium. See the “Paired Book Assignment” for further instructions.
NOTE: Papers not delivered by noon on the Monday before the meeting at which the report will be presented will lose one full letter grade (e.g., a B+ will become a C+). NOTE on absences: Unless you have a communicable illness, your absence from any meeting will result in a reduction of your course grade by one-third (e.g., an A- would become a B+).
Schedule of Meetings and Assignments Most copies of the essays listed below are available on J-STOR; those that are not are linked to this web page.
Week Readings and Topics 1Introduction Themes, assignments, expectations, and responsibilities.
Discuss: Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform (1955).
Alan Brinkley, “Review: Richard Hofstadter's the Age of Reform: A Reconsideration,” Reviews in American History, Vol. 13, No. 3 (Sep., 1985), pp. 462-480.
The New York Times Photo / Sam Falk
2 Historiography; New South Discuss: The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction by Edward L. Ayers (1992).
Alan Brinkley, “Writing the History of Contemporary America: Dilemmas and Challenges,” Daedalus, (Summer 1984); Thomas Bender, “Wholes and Parts: The Need for Synthesis in American History,” JAH (1986) and follow-up “A Round Table: Synthesis in American History,” Journal of American History, (1987).
3 The Organizational Synthesis; Industrialism and Regulation Discuss: Prophets of Regulation by Thomas K. McCraw (1984).
Louis Galambos, “The Emerging Organizational Synthesis in Modern American History,” Business History Review, (1970) and “Technology, Political Economy, and Professionalism: Central Themes in the Organizational Synthesis,” BHR. (1983); Brian Balogh, “Reorganizing the Organizational Synthesis: Federal-Professional Relations in Modern America, Studies in American Political Development, 5(Summer 1991). 4 Progressivism Discuss: A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America by Michael McGerr (2003), Parts One and Two.
5 Progressivism and World War I Discuss: A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America by Michael McGerr (2003), Part Three and Conclusion.
6The 1920s: Decade of Transition Discuss: The Perils of Prosperity, 1914-1932 by William E. Leuchtenburg (1993, 1958).
Photo by Will Owens
7 Crash and Depression and the New Deal Discuss: Freedom From Fear, Part I: The American People in Depression, by David M. Kennedy (1999).
Freedom From Fear, Part II: The American People in War, by David M. Kennedy
Stuart Kidd, “Redefining the New Deal: Some Thoughts on the Political and Cultural Perspectives of Revisionism,” Journal of American Studies, 22(1988).
10. No class.
11. World War II and Postwar U.S. Reports.
Final Meeting: Students will turn in and summarize their final papers.
Student evaluations of teaching will occur electronically.
All students must be officially enrolled in the course by the end of the second full week of the quarter. No requests to add the course will be approved by the Chair of the Department after that time. Enrolling officially and on time is solely the responsibility of the student.
It is the responsibility of the Committee on Academic Misconduct to investigate or establish
procedures for the investigation of all reported cases of student academic misconduct. The term
academic misconduct includes all forms of student academic misconduct wherever committed;
illustrated by, but not limited to, cases of plagiarism and dishonest practices in connection with
examinations. Instructors shall report all instances of alleged academic misconduct to the
committee (Faculty Rule 3335-5-487). For additional information, see the Code of Student
Here is a direct link for discussion of plagiarism: http://cstw.osu.edu/writing_center/handouts/research_plagiarism.htm