History 3090 Syllabus

The history of the United States is usually told from the perspective of government in Washington, D.C. This focus leads most courses to emphasize the role of the nation's political leaders -- the white male politicos who wield power in Congress, enact legislation, and shape foreign policy. Yet these persons comprise a tiny part of American society, and the study of politics, economics, and foreign policy carried on at elite levels (while undeniably important) tends to ignore the importance of deeper cultural forces and institutions that illuminate how a people live, as well as ignoring the existence of social groups that have not participated in -- or have been denied access to political power, racial and ethnic minorities, women, and poor people generally.

This course will not be a survey of U.S. social history, but will rather focus on topics.


  • Being Comanche, Morris W. Foster
  • Down by the Riverside,Charles Joyner
  • Public Vows,  Nancy Cott
  • Cheap Amusements, Kathy Peiss 
  • We Are What We Eat, Donna R. Gabaccia
  • additional readings as assigned


Learning Objectives:

  • Historical Knowledge: students will be able to:
    • Describe the ramifications of historical events for people of varying ethnic, socio-economic, cultural and gender backgrounds.
    • Explain how humans with little political power, nonetheless craft their own culture and society.
  • Historical Thinking: Students will be able to
    • Evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, and trends in social history scholarship.
    • Explain the relationship of the past to the present.
  •  Historical Skills: Students will be able to:
    • Identify arguments in historical scholarship and to evaluate them critically.
    • Present  their research/analyses

Activities in Support of Learning:

  • Formal and informal oral presentations
  • 4 Formal papers related to the assigned texts (3-5 pages, typed, double-spaced, free of gross grammatical and spelling errors). 15 points each.  Points are earned for:
    • Paper accomplishes the assignment and shows critical thinking = 10 points
    • Paper is free of spelling and grammatical errors = 5 points
  • 4 formal oral presentations (includes handout)
  • Autobiographical project. Students will write an autobiography (3-4 pages) about being a student at WSU for deposit in the WSU Archives. Do your best work; you are creating a primary document for the use of future scholars. Points are earned for completing the assignment.(10 points)
  • Participation statement ( up to 20 points) (includes informal oral presentations)


Grades will a weighted percentage of points possible-not "on the curve."  94% = A

  • 4 formal papers = 60 points
  • 4 oral presentations= 40 points
  • Autobiography = 10 points
  • Participation statement = 20 points

A = 94 -100%
B = 83 - 86%
C = 73 - 76%
D = 60 - 66%