HIST-382 Topics in US History: see descriptions
Fall for 2013-2014
Spring for 2013-2014
Professors Christopher England and Zackary Gardner
This number will be used for seminars devoted to specific subjects in the area of American history. Students may take more than one of the courses offered under this number. Each course will be announced in the course schedule and receive its own sub-title.
In Fall 2013 and Spring 2014 the following courses are offered: History of US economic thought (Professor England): and History of the federal government (Professor Gardner):
What was (and is) the U.S. federal government, and what was (and is) its relationship to the American people? Through History 382: History of the Federal Government, students will examine the evolution of the relationship between citizen and federal government in the United States from 1776 to the 1980s. Students will read from a selection of secondary materials covering the expansion of the federal government through themes and events like the national improvement projects of the Early Republic and the emergence of lobbyists during the Gilded Age. Generally, readings will not focus upon specific government agencies, but rather the processes through which Americans experienced governance. In addition to readings in the historiography of the federal government, students will also conduct primary research on a federal agency of their choosing through a series of assignments culminating in a term paper.
The focus of this course is the history of American economic ideas from the Civil War to the present. The Civil War marked a crucial moment in history during which economic change accelerated and became a permanent feature of American life. Since then, if not earlier, competing economic philosophies have acted as either the primary, or at least one of the most significant, fault lines in political discourse. The history of this discourse is one of both continuity and change; themes, questions, and values reappear regularly, but adapt to social and economic conditions. Issues that reemerge consistently include: The role of the state in the economy; the functionality of economic concentration and monopoly; the impact of capitalism on politics, religion, and culture; the importance of currency in economic exchange; the intersection of race and socio-economic status; the existence of class in American society; and, perhaps most importantly, the nature, extent, and intractability of poverty. The interlocutors in this debate generally argued in a language that remained surprisingly static. Ultimately, most strove to prove their point by demonstrating that one subset of American society constituted the real “producers” of wealth and therefore deserved the fruits of economic progress. Changing policy outcomes reflected evolving perceptions of economic value and intergroup solidarity.
The ideas discussed in this course were often shaped by professional economists, but more often than not their most significant exponents were popular writers, politicians, and even novelists. The course focuses on these actors, looking mostly at primary sources, with an eye to how this discourse evolved over time and how these changes reflected historical context. To help contextualize these ideas, we will look at them in tandem with the development of objective American economy conditions. While a handful of the readings might be familiar to students of economics, in this course our interest in them will primarily be how they fit into history and to a lesser extent how they try to persuade their audience. The goals of this course are to foster the student’s ability to support an original argument, provide a background for contemporary economic debates, and teach the student to contextualize ideas historically.
The following syllabi may help you learn more about this course (login required):
Spring '14: Gardner Z (file download)
Fall '13: England C (file download)
Additional syllabi may be available in prior academic years.
Other academic years
There is information about this course number in other academic years: