Resources for Students

Syllabus in PDF

Lecture Outlines and Slides

Grading Policies and Guidelines

American History Links

Research at the UW Library

Contact Professor O'Mara








CLASS TIME AND LOCATION: Tuesdays and Thursdays 10:30-11:50 A.M.; Raitt Hall Room 121
OFFICE HOURS: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1-2, Smith Hall Room 20

This course surveys the history of the United States from the end of Reconstruction to the age of Obama. Particular focus is given to the evolving role of government in the lives of individual citizens, the social effect of economic and technological changes, changing patterns of production and consumption, patterns of migration within and immigration from without, and America's changing role in the world.  Successful completion of this course will provide a refined understanding of how governments, markets, and individuals and groups have functioned as agents of historical change; the contingencies and complexities shaping America’s transition from an agrarian nation to an industrial and post-industrial superpower; sharpened critical thinking and writing about history; and an awareness of the historical roots of present-day political, economic, and social structures. The course features two 80-minute lectures plus one discussion section per week.



BOOKS (all in paperback; available for purchase at the Bookstore and on 2-hour reserve at Odegaard Undergraduate Library)
1.  Alan Brinkley, The Unfinished Nation, Vol. II (textbook providing overview of major events and figures; not required but recommended, especially for students without extensive American History background)
2.  Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie
3.  Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era
4.  Buzz Bissinger, A Prayer for the City

ARTICLES AND PRIMARY DOCUMENTS are available electronically via the course website to registered students and, if you desire, as a reader from Ave Copy (4141 University Ave). Click on the links below to access the readings. Some links take you elsewhere on the web; clicking on copyright-restricted resources, or readings not readily available elsewhere online, will take you to this course's secure web space that is limited to registered students with a UWNet ID and password.

You also will receive discussion questions for each required reading that will help you interpret and respond to key issues raised.  Come to section each week having read the items listed under that week on the schedule.

Any students for whom purchasing books and/or printing articles presents a severe financial hardship should consult with the professor about alternative means of obtaining access to readings.


PARTICIPATION (20% of grade) includes: attendance at two lectures and one section per week; completion of required readings prior to section; regular review and contribution to the HSTAA 303 GoPost discussion board; active participation in section; completion of any ungraded assignments given within and outside of section.

TWO SHORT PAPERS (15% each, for a total of 30% of grade):  clearly organized and sharply written essays of five pages each, one due in the third week of class and the other due in the eighth week.  Assignment options will be distributed and posted on the course web site the first week of the quarter. Due at section April 17 and May 22.

TAKE-HOME MIDTERM (25%) and TAKE-HOME FINAL (25%): examinations consisting of essays, identification questions, and multiple choice questions.  A well-prepared student will be able to complete each exam in two hours; consulting books and lecture notes is permitted.  Exams should be reviewed for style, grammar, and accurate spelling prior to submittal.  If turned in electronically, they should be in Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF format.  Midterm due 10:30AM on May 4.  Final due at 12:20PM on June 7.

GRADING STANDARDS, PAPER-WRITING GUIDELINES, AND OTHER POLICIES can be found via the Resources for Students column above.  I encourage you to read and refer to these as needed. In addition to these, please note that:
* Your grade on an assignment will be reduced by one grade point every five minutes it is late (i.e. turning in midterm or paper after the start of lecture will decrease your grade).
* Incapacitation because of illness or another crisis must be documented with a note from a doctor, employer, or similarly authoritative source.  Scheduled absences due to prior university obligations or significant family events should be discussed with your TA as early in the term as possible. 
* In all assignments you are expected to adhere to the standards of academic integrity outlined by the University of Washington Student Conduct Code.
* To request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact the UW Disability Resources for Students Office. If you have a letter from their office indicating that you have a disability which requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to me so we can discuss the accommodations that you might need in this class.


WEEK 1 – The Gilded Age
Tu March 30                      Course intro; world’s fairs and the idea of Modern America
Th April 1                           Railroads; corporations; the federal government and the West

Sister Carrie
, Chapters 1-23
Platform of the People’s Party, 1892
Louise Palmer, “How We Live in Nevada

WEEK 2 – The Progressive Era
Tu April 6                            Urban life; immigration; women and men
Th April 8                            Markets and corruption; Progressivism; order and efficiency

Sister Carrie, Chapters 24-47
Josiah Strong, “Perils of the City
Samuel Gompers, Letter on Immigration, 1921
Ida Tarbell, “John D. Rockefeller: A Character Study,” and “What a Factory Can Teach a Housewife

WEEK 3 – The World Becomes Modern
Tu April 13                          America and the world; empire and race; war and profit
Th April 15                          The Roaring ‘20s; leisure and mass culture

Gary Gerstle, “Theodore Roosevelt and the Divided Character of American Nationalism
W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk, Ch. 1 & 2
Christine Frederick, “Introduction” and “How Mrs. Consumer is Changing the American Diet,” from Selling Mrs. Consumer
The Rev. John Phelan Assesses Movies in Toledo, Ohio, 1919
The World’s Greatest Migration,” 1928

WEEK 4 – The Great Depression and New Deal
Tu April 20                          The Great Depression; Hoover vs Roosevelt; dissident politics
Th April 22                          The New Deal and its legacy; American life in the 1930s

Herbert Hoover, “The Gigantic Forces of Depression are in Retreat,” 1932
Franklin D. Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address, 1933
Roosevelt, Fireside Chat on the Government and Capitalism, 1934
Letters to President Roosevelt on the first Fireside Chat
Huey Long, “Share the Wealth,” 1935
Father Charles Coughlin, “Somebody Must Be Blamed,” 1937

WEEK 5 – The World at War
Tu April 27                          The march to war; the wartime economy; the experience of wartime
Th April 29                          The atomic bomb; the Marshall Plan; postwar internationalism

Eleanor Roosevelt, “Race, Religion, and Prejudice,” 1942
Hugo Black and Frank Murphy, “Korematsu v United States,” 1944
Read “Historical Context” and browse ONE of the primary document collection categories at the Japanese American Relocation Digital Archive
Henry Stimson, Press Release on the Dropping of the Atomic Bomb, August 1945
Richard Kirkendall, “The Boeing Company and the Metropolitan-Military-Industrial Complex, 1945-1953

WEEK 6 – Cold War Politics
Tu May 4                            America in the postwar world; McCarthy and ‘subversion’; liberals and conservatives
Th May 6                            The Cold War at home; civil defense; family lives; immigration and citizenship

May, Homeward Bound, 1-119
Christian G. Appy, “Eisenhower’s Guatemalan Doodle, or: How to Draw, Deny, and Take Credit for a Third World Coup

WEEK 7 – The New American Landscape
Tu May 11                          urban crisis; suburban migration; segregation and integration
Th May 13                          Cold War science and the high-tech future; industrial realignment; rise of the Sunbelt

May, Homeward Bound, 119-209
Margaret O’Mara, “Uncovering the City in the Suburb
John Keats, The Crack in the Picture Window, selections
William H. Whyte, “Are Cities Un-American?

WEEK 8 – Making Sense of the 1960s
Tu May 18                          liberals and conservatives; government and taxes; rights and revolt
Th May 20                          Vietnam and its legacies
Th May 20 – MOVIE NIGHT, 5:30-7:30 – The Fog of War

John F. Kennedy, Speech at American University, 1962
Barry Goldwater, Speech to the 1964 Republican Convention
VIDEO: Ronald Reagan, Speech in Support of Barry Goldwater, 1964
Bruce Schulman, Lyndon B. Johnson and American Liberalism, selected chapters and documents

WEEK 9 – Appreciating the 1970s
Tu May 25                          Industrial realignment; cities vs suburbs; globalization
Th May 27                          Watergate and government reform; religion and politics; popular culture
Th May 27 – MOVIE NIGHT, 5:30-7:30 – All the President’s Men

Bissinger, A Prayer for the City

WEEK 10 – The New World Order
Tu June 1                            the Reagan years; privatization; the fall of the Berlin Wall; the Clinton years
Th June 3                            9/11 and beyond; technology and the global economy; the meaning of Barack Obama

E.J. Dionne, Why Americans Hate Politics, selections
Jerry Falwell, “Strengthening Families in the Nation
Tom Wolfe, “The Tinkerings of Robert Noyce
Lawrence Wright, “The Counter-Terrorist