United States History 1865 to present

taught by David M. Wrobel

Download complete syllabus at this link.

Course Overview:

HIST 1493 covers political, economic, social and cultural developments in the U.S. from 1865 to present.  We will examine Reconstruction, the Gilded Age and Progressive eras, World War I, the twenties, Great Depression/New Deal, World War II, Cold War, the fifties and sixties, Civil Rights, Vietnam War, the Reagan years, post-Cold-War and Post-9/11 America, and mass incarceration.  Course lectures and readings emphasize the impact of ideas and beliefs, such as conservatism, liberalism, radicalism, race, religion and regionalism, on human action.  The past and present are compared and contrasted throughout the course.

Course Objectives: A fuller appreciation of the last 150 years of US history will make you a more informed citizen, better able to understand the interconnectedness of events in the present and past to see how your life and world relate to previous generations. The course is also designed to help develop research, writing, and critical thinking skills.

Required Books:

  • Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried (NY: Mariner Books, 2009).
  • David Reynolds, America, Empire of Liberty: A New History of the United States (New York: Basic Books, 2009).

A Note on the Readings: America, Empire of Liberty is a fast paced, informative, and affordable account of the nation’s history. Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried is a collection of stories (some true!) about the author’s experience in the Vietnam War.  Discussions of the book are in Weeks 13 and 14; you will write an essay on The Things… as part of the final exam (May 5).  In addition, in some weeks you are required to read a secondary work or two paired with primary source documents.  All of these readings are provided as pdfs on D2L and are on the explorehistory.ou.edu; they will serve as possible starting points for your research essay (paper 2).

PART ONE: 1865-1914

Wk 1:  W, Jan 20: Lecture 1: Course Intro/Civil War & Reconstruction: Overview

W/R/F, Jan 20-22: Discussion 1: Reconstruction + (W) Primary Source Analysis

Required Reading: Reynolds, America, Ch.8; Reconstruction primary source documents

Wk 2: M, Jan 25: Lecture 2: Legacies & Changing Views of Reconstruction

W, Jan 27: Lecture 3: National Growth: Urban, Industrial, Demographic

W/R/F, Jan 27-29: Discussion 2: Remembering Reconstruction & the Gilded Age

Required Reading: Reynolds, America, Ch.9; & Reconstruction documents review

Wk 3:  M, Feb 1: Lecture 4: World of Clashing Darwinisms/Conservatism & Liberalism

W, Feb 3: Lecture 5: Geographic Expansion & Agrarian Revolt

W/R/F, Feb 3-5: Discussion 3: Late 19th-Century Ideas + (W) Thesis & Evidence

Required Reading: Witt, “Crippled Workmen, Destitute Widows…” (2006); Sumner, “What the Social Classes Owe to Each Other” (1883); Ward, “Mind as a Social Factor” (1884); and “The Omaha Platform” (1892)

Wk 4: M, Feb 8: Lecture 6: War and Empire

W, Feb 10: Lecture 7: Progressivism: Ideology, Biography, Geography

W/R/F, Feb 10-12: Discussion 4: Ideology of Progressivism + 1st Paper due

Required Reading: Reynolds, America, Ch.10; Addams, “Subjective Necessity

for Social Settlements” (1892); Jones, “March of the Mill Children” (1903); Gorn,

“March of the Mill Children” (2001)

Wk 5:  M, Feb 15: Lecture 8: Progressivism: National Level—Roosevelt & Taft

W, Feb 17: Lecture 9: Progressivism, National Level: Election of 1912 & Wilson

W/R/F, Feb 17-19: Discussion 5: (W) Writing Triads + Exam Review

Required Reading: Reynolds, America, Ch.11                                   1st Paper returned

Wk 6: M, Feb 22:      1st Midterm Exam (50 minutes)


PART TWO: 1914-1945

Wk 6:  W, Feb 24: Lecture 10: World War I: Avoidance, Involvement & Aftermath

            W/R/F, Feb 24-26: Discussion 6: (W) Research Workshop  1st exam returned

Required Reading: Reynolds, America, Ch.11, 245-260 + review guidelines for 2nd Paper

 Wk 7:  M, Feb 29: Lecture 11: The 1920s, I: Politics, Economics, & Cultural Conflict

W, Mar 2: Lecture 12: Great Depression Causes & Early Responses/Hoover

W/R/F, Mar 2-4: Discussion 7: War, Reaction, & Cultural Conflict.

Required Reading: Reynolds, America, Empire of Liberty, Ch.11, 260-271; Espionage Act (May 1918); Evans, “The Klan’s Fight for Americanism” (1926); Levy, “The Rise & Fall & Rise and Fall of Edwin (“Daddy”) DeBarr” (2010); Blee, “The KKK in Indiana”

 Wk 8:  M, Mar 7: Lecture 13: The First New Deal: Reform and Reaction, 1933-1935

W, Mar 9: Lecture 14: The Second New Deal, 1935-1938, and New Deal Demise

W/R/F, Mar 9-11 Discussion 8: Role of Government + (W) Secondary Sources

Required Reading: Reynolds, America, Ch.12, 273-288; FDR, First Inaugural (March 4, 1933), and first fireside chat (on banking crisis) (March 12, 1933); Steinbeck, “Three Families,” from “The Harvest Gypsies” (1936); FSA Dust Bowl photographs (1934-37); Bird, “The Nation Confronts the Great Depression” (1966)


Wk 9:  M, Mar 21: Lecture 15: World War II: Avoidance

W, Mar 21: Lecture 16: World War II: Involvement—Home Front

W/R/F, Mar 21-23: Discussion 9: World War II: Good War? Paper 2, Topic Due

Required Reading: Reynolds, America, Ch.12, 288-304; Executive Order 9066 (1942); Hersey, Hiroshima, excerpt (1946); Kennedy, “The Cauldron of the Home Front” (1999)

 Wk 10: M, Mar 28: Lecture 17: World War II: Involvement— Theaters of War

              W, Mar 30: 2nd Midterm Exam (50 minutes)

W/R/F, Mar 30-31/Apr 1: Discussion 10: (W) Intro/Outline/Bib     No Reading



 Wk 11 M, Apr 4: Lecture 18: Cold War: Origins & Expanding Horizons, 1945-1963

W, Apr 6: Lecture 19: Cold War Consensus at Home, 1945-1963

             W/R/F, Apr 6-8: Discussion 11: Cold War America

Required Reading: Reynolds, America, Ch.13; Truman, “The Truman Doctrine” (1947); Margaret Smith, “Declaration of Conscience” (1950); Halberstam. The Fifties (1993)

2nd Midterm returned/Annotated Bibliography due

 Wk 12: M, Apr 11: Lecture 20: Civil Rights Movement, I

W, Apr 13: Lecture 21: Civil Rights Movement, II

W/R/F, Apr 13-15: Discussion 12: Cold War & Civil Rights.

Required Reading: Reynolds, America, Ch.14, 335-350;

Brown V Board of Education, Topeka, KS (1954); Dzudziak, “Brown as a Cold War

Case” (2004); King, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (1963) & “I’ve Been to the

Mountaintop” (1968) Annotated Bibliography returned/Introduction or Abstract due

Wk 13: M, Apr 18: Lecture 22: Counterculture & Rights Revolution

W, Apr 20: Lecture 23: The Great Society & the 1968 Election

W/R/F, Apr 20-22: Discussion 13: War & Society (W) Intro/Abstract returned

Required Reading: Reynolds, America, Ch.14, 350-360, & O’Brien, The Things, 1-117

Wk: 14: M, Apr 25: America’s Longest War: Vietnam in History & Memory

               W, Apr 27: Lecture 25: Sites of Crisis in the Nixon & Carter Years

W/R/F, Apr 27-29: Discussion 14: Vietnam           Research paper due

Required Reading: Reynolds, America, Empire of Liberty, Chs.15 & 16; O’Brien, The

Things They Carried, 118-233

 Wk 15: M, May 2: Lecture 26: Restoring American Exceptionalism

W, May 4: Lecture 27: Post-Cold War & Post 9/11 America/Mass Incarceration

W/R/F, May 4-6: Discussion 15: Recent America + Exam Review.

Required Reading: Reynolds, America, Ch.’s 17, 18, & Conclusion; California’s “Three Strikes” Law & Prop 184 (1994); Thompson, “Why Mass Incarceration Matters” (2010)                                                                                                             Research paper returned