Introduction to American History
Spring 2001 MWF 10:30-11:20
John J. Grabowski
Case Western University
Philosophy/Purpose of the Course
The course is not a survey but rather an introduction to American
history which will address the issue of division/unity in American
history through a focus on topics such as region, locale, race,
gender, and ethnicity. The course will familiarize students with
historical debate in these particular areas and will also ask them
to address the larger issue of what, if anything, provides "unity"
for the nation.
Equally important, the course will have students examine these
issues through extensive use of "source materials" ranging
from the more traditional archives and newspapers to photographs
and examples of material culture (costume, dining utensils, housing,
etc.). The museum and library collections of the Western Reserve
Historical Society will constitute the primary access point for
such materials. However, students will also be required to undertake
site visits (neighborhood walks and visits to historic and contemporary
dwellings) to further explore the issues presented in the course.
Links to pertinent websites will provide a third area for student
The course will have two major "components." The first
will be a general overview of American history from which particular
events or themes will be examined in some detail. Although the course
is not intended as a survey, this portion of the course will proceed
in a chronological manner in which various events, issues, and themes
from the American past will form the basis for addressing the issue
of diversity/unity. At least one lecture each week will be devoted
to the selected issue/theme. Students will prepare for the lecture
and discussion through readings from one of two assigned "texts."
To heighten debate within the class and to examine matters of historical
approach and interpretation half of the class will read Howard Zinn's
A People's History of the United States, and the other half
Paul Johnson's A History of the American People. Students
will be assigned their text by "lottery" on the first
day of class.
The second component of the course will focus on four "sub-themes
" which will be used for a more detailed examination of diversity/unity
in America. These are: food, clothing, shelter, and perception (how
information has been provided to the American public). These sub-themes
will be the topic of one of the weekly lectures and will constitute
the main focus (one per group) of each of the class discussion sections.
Examination of the subthemes will be supported by the ancillary
required readings, power-point presentations in the weekly lecture,
and exposure to various primary sources.
Discussion Sections and Examination of Sources
The weekly section meetings will be the arena in which the students
fully confront the issue of unity and diversity by seeing how these
concepts manifest themselves in the food people eat, the clothes
they wear, the homes they live in, and the manner in which they
learn about current events. The teaching assistants and I will assign
students (either individually or by small group) within each section
very specific tasks related to their section's theme--(i.e. examining
the way the 1936 Olympics was reported in an African-American newspaper;
looking at clothing worn by middle-class women in the 1930s; or
visiting a residence in Little Italy). These tasks will require
students to use materials at the Western Reserve Historical Society,
explore relevant websites, and, to some degree, interact with the
community. Their "research" will form the basis of analytical,
illustrated essays (Discussion Group Assignments) which each
student will be required to write. The teaching assistants and I
will then grade the essays as well as cull them for images that
will be added to the departmental website. At semesters' end or
shortly thereafter, the history department web page will include
four photographic essays relating to unity/diversity as expressed
in clothing, food, housing, and the "news." Students whose
images have been selected for the website will be credited on the
Course grades will be based on the essay completed for the discussion
section, a short essay due at the end of the second week of class,
as well as on a short mid-term examination and substantive essay
style final examination.
Cunningham & Lab, (eds.) Dress in American Culture
Gabaccia, Donna R. We are What We Eat
Johnson, Paul. A History of the American People (FOR
ONE HALF OF THE CLASS)
Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States (FOR
ONE HALF OF THE CLASS)
ASSIGNMENTS/EXAMINATIONS/GRADE CREDIT ALLOCATION
First Short Essay -- 15% of grade
Midterm Examination -- 20% of grade
Discussion Group Assignments -- 25% of grade
Final Examination Essay -- 30% of grade
Class/Discussion Section Participation -- 10% of grade
Week 1 -- Introduction: Perception, Perspective, and the Politics
of the American
Week 2 --Was Exploration Exploitation?
Johnson pp. 1-62, Zinn pp.1-22.
*** Short Essay on "My Perception of the American Past"
Week 3 --North/South, East/West, Thirteen Colonies to Fifty States
(and a Commonwealth or Two)
Johnson pp. 73-109, 307-402 Zinn pp 39-75
Week 4 --Democracy and Oligarchy -- Illusions of Power or Illusions
Johnson 121-210 Zinn 76 -101
Week 5 -- Slavery -- The Economics of Bondage and the Issue of
Cunningham & Lab, 66-79
Week 6 -- "Free" Labor -- Another Form of Bondage?
Johnson 399 -499 Zinn 23-38, 167-205
Week 7 -- "Huddled Masses" and the Challenge of Diversity
Johnson 511-516, 627-724 Zinn 206-289
Cunningham & Lab, 95-139
Week 8 --War and the National Memory
***Midterm Examination on Monday
Johnson 607-626, 768-839, 877-894 Zinn 290- 313, 350-367, 388-434,
Cunningham & Lab, 200-210
Week 9 -- Spring Break
Week 10 -- "How you gonna keep 'em down on the Farm" or,
Rural Hick and City Slicker
Johnson 517-537, 569-597
Cunningham & Lab, 42-65, 80-94
Week 11 -- Black and White, The Issue of Race in America
Johnson 660-672*, 694-707*, 894-964 Zinn 435-459
Week 12 -- Gendered Pasts, Equal Futures?
Johnson 656-660, 965-976 Zinn 102-123, 493-528
Cunningham & Lab, 140-179
Week 13 -- First Parties and Third Parties, Political Divides in
Johnson 727-767, 845-876, 211-266 Zinn 527-588
Week 14 -- Are the First Americans the "Last" Americans?
Johnson 267-282 Zinn 124-166
Cunningham & Lab, 6-41
Week 15 -- Economics and the Classless Society
Johnson 598 -607, 703-726 Zinn 314-397, 589-628
Cunningham & Lab, 180-199
Week 16 -- Last Monday of Class -- Discussion Group Assignments
HSTY 112 INTRODUCTION TO AMERICAN
| Professor John J. Grabowski
Mather House 308
|Spring Semester 2001
M W F 10:30-11:20
Are you willing to try something new? Are you ready to debate the
politics of American history? Are you anxious to "get your
hands on" the American past?
This spring, HSTY 112, one of the courses you have to take, has
been restyled and refocused. By using a variety of texts along with
meetings with museum curators and site visits students in HSTY 112
will examine the issues of unity and division in America and reflect
on the ways historians have used sources and their own political
inclinations to deal with those issues.
WARNING! This semester's version of HSTY 112 will be exciting,
at times upsetting, and, perhaps, even confusing. You will have
to work to get the most out of this course. If you do, you will
discover a new concern for and interest in American history, museums,
archives, and even the food you eat and the clothes you wear!
"Dueling text books" One half of the class will read
popular history of the US and the other, a radical version of
Spaghetti, bagels, tortillas, and sausage as ways of viewing
Discovering the politics of gym suits.
Working with newspapers and other source materials at the
Western Reserve Historical Society.
Debating the "politics" of the past.