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UNI – Spring 2014
American Civilization: America in a Global Context
Social Science 900:023, Sections 2 and 4
 Seerley 212

Professor Cutter
Office: Seerley 336 – Telephone: 273-5909
Office Hours: Tues 2:50-3:50; Thurs.10:00-11:00 and 1:50-2:50; and by appt.
Course Description:

This is a lecture and discussion course in American society from the pre-Columbian era to the present.  This course will not attempt to provide comprehensive coverage of American history – to do this in one semester would mean there would be no time to analyze and discuss American society.  This course will focus on one very broad theme: America in a global context.  Within the framework of this theme we will explore how the politics, social movements, and technological developments of the United States were embedded in a broader stream of cultural values, popular prejudices, ideologies and semi-official mythologies.  During this period, the United States underwent several national shifts: from a colony to a republic, from subsistence oriented economy to a market oriented society, from a rural nation to an urbanized one, from a pre-modern sense of human insignificance to a modern concept of humanism and individualism.  In this class, we will try to puzzle out what these and several other transformations mean, for our society, the world, and ourselves.

American Civilization and the Liberal Arts Core:

This course fulfills Category 5 of UNI’s Liberal Arts Core.  Part of the purpose of this category is that “Students should … understand and identify relationships between the past, present, and future to further their understanding of their world and the roles that they play in their own society and in the world. Such understandings will enhance their ability to think critically, realize the importance of historical consciousness, make informed choices, examine and evaluate their values, assume the responsibilities of citizenship, and promote change in their community, country and world. …Students should gain experience in research, that is, the use of original sources, surveys, and other social science methodologies and be encouraged to develop and utilize skills in inquiry, critical analysis, and logical thinking.”  For these reasons this class will focus on developing and honing critical thinking and analytical skills that will enable you to be historians yourselves, and thus make you better able to understand the United States in a global context, in the past, present and future.

Course Requirements:

  1. Attendance: After four absences students risk failing the course.  If you need to miss a class, make arrangements to borrow all notes, handouts, and lecture outlines from one of your colleagues in the class.  Even if you tell me you are going to miss a class, you are still responsible for the material presented or discussed during the missed period.

2. Graded work: Grades for the course will be based on 3 take home exams, 1 short presentation and class participation.

Exams – 25% each
Presentation on primary source – 10%
Class Participation – 15%

The content of the take home exams will be discussed during the semester. You will receive an assignment sheet for each exam.  Take home exams are due in class on the listed due date.  Late exams will be marked down.  Class participation is demonstrated by a willingness to keep up with readings, an ability to understand and take part in class discussions and an ability to integrate class discussions into your own work. 

Presentations will be based on one of the primary source readings due for that day.  Students will provide background information on the source (historical context) and ask a discussion question about the source (handout will be provided).

Course Website: go to  Then click on “American Civilization”

The course syllabus and selected class handouts will be available on this website. 

Note on UNI’s Academic Ethics/Plagiarism Policy

Plagiarism is defined by UNI policy as the “process of stealing or passing off as one’s own the ideas or words of another, or presenting as one’s own an idea or product which is derived from an existing source.”  All students are expected to be familiar with UNI’s plagiarism policy, which is located in the UNI Catalog of Courses, 2012-2014 under Academic Ethics Policies.   As the policy states, “The plea of ignorance … is not a compelling defense against allegations of plagiarism.  A college student, by the fact that s(he) holds that status, is expected to understand the distinction between proper scholarly use of others’ work and plagiarism.” []  Any student found committing plagiarism in this class is subject to disciplinary action.

Americans with Disabilities Act

The ADA provides protection from discrimination for qualified individuals with disabilities. Please address any special needs or special accommodations with me at the beginning of the semester or as soon as you become aware of your needs. Those seeking accommodations based on disabilities should obtain a Student Academic Accommodation Request (SAAR) form from Student Disability Services (SDS) (phone 319-273-2676).  SDS is located on the top floor of the Student Health Center, Room 103.

Almost all the readings for this course will be on a course CD which will be available for purchase in the History Dept office (319 Seerley) for $1.  A few additional readings will be available through the course website.

**You will need to print out the reading and bring it to class on the date each reading is due, so that you can use it during class discussion.

Tentative Schedule of Meetings, Readings and Topics

Part I – Early America – Individuals and Communities in Cultural Contact and Conflict

January 14: Introductions and Context            

Jan 16: Precolumbian America

Reading 1 due: “Algonquians and Iroquoians: Farmers of the Woodlands,” in The Way We Lived, Volume 1, Chapter 1, 3-13.

Jan 21: Why Did Europeans Come to America and what did they expect to find?

Reading 2 due: The Travels of Sir John Mandeville (1371)

Jan. 23: New England and the Puritans

Reading 3a: “We Shall Be as A City Upon A Hill, 1630”; and Reading 3b: “Husbands and Wives, Parents and Children in Puritan Society,” in The Way We Lived, Vol. 1, Chapter 3, 40--57.

Jan. 28: Puritans and Indians: Contact and Conflict

Reading 4a due: “Conquest and Colliding Empires” in, Major Problems in American History, Volume 1, Chapter 1: documents 4-6 (pp. 7-15).  Reading 4b: “John Eliott’s Rules for Praying Indians, 1650”

Jan. 30: Tobacco Culture and Virginia

Reading 5 due: “Conflicting Cultural Values in Early America,” in The Way We Lived, Vol. 1, Chapter 2, 21-37.

Feb. 4: From Indentured Servitude to Slavery

Reading 6 due: excerpts from Laws of Virginia 17th and early 18th Century.

Feb. 6: The Slavery Debate
Reading 7a due: Breen and Innes “Anthony Johnson” in Retracing the Past, pp. 28-34; and Reading 7b: Winthrop Jordan, “Englishmen and Africans” in American Experiences, pp. 52-64.
Feb. 11: African Cultures, The Slave Trade and Meanings of Race 
Video: selection from Wonders of Africa with Henry Louis Gates Jr

Feb. 13: African Cultures, The Slave Trade and Meanings of Race 
            Finish video and discussion

Part II:  A Revolutionary Era:

Feb. 18: The European Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of the American Revolution

**First Take Home Exam Due**

Feb. 20: The Rights of Englishmen

Reading 8 due: Alfred Young, “George Robert Twelves Hewes,” in The Way We Lived, Vol. 1, Chapter 7, 120-130.

Feb. 25: What did the Revolution mean for Americans?

Reading 9a due: Adams Letters, The Way We Lived, Vol.1, 130-131; Reading 9b:  “The American Revolution,” Documents in Major Problems, Chapter 4: 103-4, 113-116; and Declaration of Independence [link on class website];

Feb. 27: Legacies of the Revolution: Revolution in Indian Country

Reading 10: Colin Calloway, “The Revolution in Indian Country,” in Retracing the Past, 186-193.

March 4: Legacies of the Revolution: The Constitution, Bill of Rights and the unruly masses

Reading due: Articles of Confederation, Constitution, and Bill of Rights [links to documents on class website]

            Discussion of Documents

March 6: From Local to Global: the Market Revolution and the New Economy
Reading 11 due:  Robert Gross, “Culture and Cultivation,” “in Retracing the Past, 200-207.

March 11: From Local to Global: the Market Revolution and the New Economy (cont.)
Reading 12 due: “The Onset of Industry,” in The Way We Lived, Vol. 1 Chapter 8, 142-155.

March 13: The Rise of Reform Movements and the Abolition of Slavery
Reading 13 due: “Reform and the Great Awakening,” in Major Problems in American History, Vol. 1, Chapter 9, 264-275.

March 18 & 20: Spring Break - no class!

March 25: The Coming of the Civil War
Reading 14a due: “Careening Toward Civil War” Major Problems in American History, Vol. 1, Chapter 13, 389-404.  Reading 14b: Alexander Stephens, “Slavery is the Cornerstone of the Confederacy, 1861.”

March 27: The Civil War and the End of Slavery
            *** 2nd Take Home Exam Due***

Part III The Transition to Modernity

A. The Rise of Corporations and Consumers

April 1: Railroads, Indian Removal and the Rise of Big Business

April 3: Farmers, Workers and Big Business

Reading 15a due: Luna Kellie, “Stand Up for Nebraska,” in A Prairie Populist, 127-132; and Reading 15b: “Industrialization and Workers,” Major Problems in American History, Volume 2, Chapter 3, Documents 3-6 only, pp. 69-77.

April 8: The Bargain Between Capital and Labor and the Rise of Consumer Culture

Reading 16: “Crossing a Cultural Divide: The Twenties,” Major Problems in American History, Vol. 2, Chapter 7, 181-213.

April 10: The Great Depression

Reading 17a due: “The Great Depression Documents,” in The Way We Lived, Vol.2; and Reading 17b: “A Communist in Harlem,” and reading 17c: “American Communist Party,” in Ellen Schrecker, The Age of McCarthyism.

B. The U.S., The Cold War and Global Corporate Capitalism, 1945-present

April 15:  WWII and the Origins of the Cold War

Reading 18 due: “The Cold War and the Nuclear Age” Major Problems, Vol. 2, Chapter 10, documents only, 278-292.

April 17: Cold War and Cold War Foreign Policy

Movie: Red Nightmare (1962)

April 22: The Rise of the Suburbs and New Forms of Segregation

Reading 19 due: “Moving to Suburbia,” The Way We Lived, Vol. 2, Chapter 12.

April 24: Civil Rights and Democratic Access – North and South

Reading 20 due: “Making the Great Society: Civil Rights,” Major Problems, Vol. 2, Chapter 12, 345-357 and 358-364.

April 29: Rise of the New Right
Reading 21 due: “The Sixties: Left, Right and Culture Wars,” Major Problems, Vol. 2, Chapter 13.

May 1: Finish up and review day

Take Home Final Examination. Due Thurs. May 8