HSTAA 432: History of Washington and the Pacific Northwest

Brian Casserly

bcasserl_at_u.washington.edu (replace "_at_" with @ to send e-mail)


Columbia River area Indians fish with spears at Celilo Falls, Oregon, ca. 1910 (University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, NA745)


The study of history involves both process and content.  As part of this class we will learn the process of history, how to be historians and what it is that historians do.  This will involve working with primary sources, the tools that historians use to understand the past, such as letters, diaries, journals, government documents, newspaper and magazine articles, photos, to name just a few.  We will also explore how historians construct interpretations and analyses of the past.  We will learn to think critically about both these sources and what they can tell us about the past and about the explanations that historians produce.  It is important that we understand that interpretations of the past are not static.  Professional historians expect that newly discovered artifacts, information, and newly released documents will change and alter our perceptions of the past.

We will also be concerned with content.  Over the course of the next four and a half weeks we will explore the History of the Pacific Northwest from the time of contact between native peoples and Euro Americans in the late 18th century, to the end of the 20th century.  The class will focus largely on what are now Washington and Oregon, with some attention to historical developments in places such as Idaho, British Columbia, and Alaska.  Of course, the history of the Pacific Northwest has also been influenced by developments in places far outside the region, such as China, London, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Japan, Scandinavia and elsewhere, and we will investigate the links between these places and the region.  By examining the history of the region, we will also hopefully develop a greater understanding of the modern Northwest and the issues it faces in the 21st century.

We will examine a number of themes in Pacific Northwest History, including:

  • The relationship between peoples living in the region and their environment
  • Relations between various groups of people in the area
  • How the region has fit into patterns of global capitalism and markets and the development of nation states

Your responsibility over the quarter is to attend class, complete all readings and assignments on time and become familiar with the narrative of Pacific Northwest History as presented in class and in the readings.  You will also be asked to develop skills in historical thinking, to learn how to analyze primary sources, to make arguments and interpretations from them, and to critically evaluate the interpretations that other historians have made.

I am available to meet with you individually during my office hours (or by appointment) to discuss any questions or problems you may have about any aspect of the course.


Your grade for the quarter will be based on the following assignments:
-Paper One on primary sources    10%
-Paper Two on Mourning Dove    20%
-Midterm exam                            20%
-Paper Three                               25%
-Participation in class                   25%

For more information on assignments click here

The success of the class depends almost entirely on your preparation and willingness to discuss the material and complete assignments.  There is NO excuse for not completing this work.
All material covered in class and in the readings is fair game for inclusion in exams.

NOTE: Completing and earning a passing grade on ALL assignments and class participation is necessary to pass the course.


The following books are required and can be purchased at the University Bookstore:

  • Jay Miller, ed., Mourning Dove: A Salishan Autobiography (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990).
  • Monica Sone, Nisei Daughter (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1979)
  • Richard White, The Organic Machine (New York: Hill and Wang, 1995).
  • Robert Sullivan, A Whale Hunt: How a Native American Village Did What No One Thought It Could (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000).

There is also a class reader, which is required and which is available from the Copy Center in Odegaard Library.

In addition to the required books I highly recommend Carlos Schwantes's, The Pacific Northwest: An Interpretive History (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996).  This is also available at the bookstore.

All books are on reserve at Odegaard Library.

The reading load for this class is approximately 300-350 pages per week.  This is in line with what it should be for a 400 level class during the intensive "B" term.  It is essential that you keep up with the readings if you are to succeed in this class.

To help guide your reading, I will provide study questions for most of the reading assignments.  These will also form the basis for the first paper, which is due by July 27.

To maximize the quality of class discussions it is important that you bring to class the readings that have been assigned for that day.


When reading the material for class, think critically about it.  As you read, think about some of the following issues:

  • Who produced the piece?  Are they male or female?  What social class do they come from?  What are their ethnic/racial and cultural backgrounds?  How might these have impacted what the piece is about?
  • What are the author's values and biases?  How are these reflected in the source?
  • What are they trying to achieve in producing this piece?
  • What was the historical context in which the source was produced?  What was going on around the author when they produced this source?
  • If the reading is an interpretive or analytical piece, what is the author's thesis or argument?  How do they support this argument?  Do you agree with their analysis?  Explain why. 
  • Who is the intended audience for the reading?  
  • How does this reading or primary source add to, or contrast with, what you've read elsewhere or heard in lecture?

Asian Americans in a logging community near Chehalis, Washington, n.d. (University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, C. Kinsey 1010)


* Be Prepared.  Complete all readings and assignments on time.  Think about the readings and the discussion questions I will distribute before you come to class. 

* Participate in discussion.  Remember, work in class is a significant portion of your overall grade.  This does not mean that attendance is worth 25 percent.  You need to be more than a warm body in the room.  Active participation in discussions will help you to maximize your participation grade.  Shy students should make a special effort to speak in section.  Those who are not shy about participating should make efforts not to dominate discussions.  Everyone should show respect and courtesy to others during discussions.  If you have conflicts with class (sports, etc.) let me know in advance.  If you miss a class for a legitimate reason I will provide opportunities for you to make up the work you missed so that your grade is not adversely impacted.  It is your responsibility to contact me to arrange this.

* Be constructively critical.  I encourage you to challenge the ideas you hear in lecture, in the readings, from me, and from other students.  When challenging others' ideas please do so in a respectful manner without attacking anyone personally.

* Proofread your work.  Take the time to proofread your written work for clarity of thought, effective use of evidence, grammar and spelling.

Bailey Gatzert School PTA officers, Seattle, 1946 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, Museum of History & Industry, Seattle, PI25782; All Rights Reserved)

I reserve the right to make changes to this syllabus, class readings, assignments, schedule, etc. over the course of the quarter.

In producing this syllabus I have been influenced by similar classes taught by John Findlay, Michael Reese and Jennifer Selz of the University of Washington.  I gratefully acknowledge their ideas and assistance.