U.S. History 1877--Present
Summer 2018 Syllabus


A History of the American People (Paul Johnson)

History of the American People is not a conventional textbook. There are no maps and no illustrations. However, unlike the vast majority of textbooks, it is well written: impressive enough to become a national bestseller. Another advantage is that Johnson, an Englishman, has an interesting "outsider" perspective on American history. His interpretation of American history is well worth considering, and you will find his insights useful as you prepare essays for the midterm and final exams.

Please read all of Part Five for the first midterm and Parts Six and Seven for the second midterm.  Read Part Eight for the final exam.  The page numbers below will help somewhat in showing you what material goes with each of the assigned study questions.  Read the material in Johnson's order, however, NOT in the order suggested below.


In order to really understand any people and time period, it's important to look, not just at secondary sources, but at primary sources as well. Rather than having you purchase an expensive supplemental reader for this class, I will post links to useful/interesting supplemental readings on the class blog, Last Best Hope 2012 (http://lastbesthopesummer2018.blogspot.com). The blog assignments are optional, though I think you will find them helpful in preparing for the exams. 

Do remember that your blog comments are public.  Use appropriate academic diction, and remember that that wonderful gal or guy who sits next to you in class (or whose entire impression of you will be come from your cyberspace behavior) will be reading your comments.


Mon.   Introduction (Johnson, pp. xiii-xv)
5/21    The United States of America: The Last, Best, Hope of the World?

Tue.    Politics and the Presidency 1876-1900 (Johnson, pp. 499-507)
5/22     Business and Industry in the Late 19th Century (pp. 532-568)

Wed.   The Labor Movement (pp. 598-601)
5/23     Urbanization and its Results (pp. 569-578)

Thu.    Agriculture in the Late 19th Century
5/24    The Populists (pp. 607-613)

Fri.     Tears along the Trail
5/25    American Expansion I (pp. 515-631)   

Mon.         ****Memorial Day****
5/28                  No Class

Tue.      God Guides: Perhaps it will Pay
5/29       The American Empire (pp. 614-626)

Wed.         ******** MIDTERM I ********
5/30              (Be sure to bring a blue book)

Thu.    The Progressives
3/31     Teddy Roosevelt and the Square Deal

Fri.     Gang Oft Aglay
6/1     Woodrow Wilson and the Law of Unintended Consequences (pp. 627-639)
Mon.   Over There—and Back Again
6/4      World War I and its Impact on American Society (pp. 639-654)

Tue.     Just What the People Wanted Done
6/5       Harding (pp. 655-656) and Coolidge (pp. 712-726)

Wed.      Let us Now Praise Famous Men    
6/6         Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt (pp. 727-767)

Thu.    Over Here—and Back Again
6/7      American and World War II (pp. 768-792)

Fri.      Give ‘em—well….  
6/8      The Cold War (pp. 792-845)

Mon.           ******** MIDTERM II ********
6/11               (Be sure to bring a blue book)

Tue.      Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society (pp. 869-887)
6/12      The Civil Rights Movement (pp. 891-897)

Wed.     Not Quite Tricky Enough:
6/13      The Nixon Presidency (pp. 887-904)

Thu.      Why not the Best?
6/14       The Ford and Carter Administrations (pp. 904-925)

Fri.       The Unfinished Revolution:
6/15      Reagan, Bush, and their Conservative Coalition (pp. 917-935)
Mon.     Bubba???!!!
6/18      Just Deserts: The Clinton Presidency (pp. 935-940)

Tue.      Taking a Good Look in the Mirror
6/19      The Bush II and Obama Administrations

Wed.     Alternative Facts 
6/20      The Trump Administration and the Exciting Conclusion to This Course!

Thu.           *** Final Examination ***
6/21         (Be sure to bring a blue book)

Fri.       They say that all good things must end
6/22        (Return of Final Exam and Discussion)


Midterm and Final Exams: 8 ID'S, 1 essay
ID'S will be selected from the terms put on the board at the beginning of each lecture.  You will be asked not only to identify the terms, but also to explain their historical significance.  I am impressed when students can show how the ID terms relate to important themes discussed in this class.

Essay questions will deal with major themes discussed in the lectures.  Most often, the exam question will be a generalization I have made in class with the additional word, "comment."

A student who studies hard and does the required reading should have plenty to say in response to each of these questions.  You will be given two hours for each exam.  Most students will need the full time to do a good job.

What is a good job?  I tell students over and over again that a good essay consists of a series of good generalizations based on the exam question and backed up with specific support from the lectures and the readings.  I am particularly impressed when students include in their essays references to primary source material.


Please make sure all electronic devices are turned off and put away before class begins.  Cell phones, laptop computers, MP3 players, and similar devices are all distracting to other students.  I do *not* allow the use of electronic dictionaries during exams.


There are online notes available for all the lectures. However, you should be sure to take good notes for yourself. You almost certainly will not remember the material if you don’t take extensive notes. You will also find that the time goes much more quickly if are taking notes rather than just sitting and listening.

Generally, a good student will have about four pages of notes for each lecture.  It is a good idea to record the title and date of each lecture. Also, it is a good idea to review and annotate your notes soon after each lecture while the material is still fresh in your mind.

Cheating and other forms of academic dishonesty and misconduct run contrary to the purposes of higher education.   Cheating includes the use of any notes during the midterm or final exam.  Please place no marks of any kind on or in your blue book before I give the signal to begin taking the exam.  All exams must be taken on blank bluebooks.  On at least one exam, bluebooks will be checked before the exam.  Bluebooks that have not been checked, have missing pages, or pages with large erasures will not be accepted.

It is not cheating to study with another student, to share notes, or to prepare essays or ID's together. However, if you do study with another student, be sure you do not sit next to each other during the exam.  

Please be especially careful to observe academic integrity standards on the take-home quizzes. The quizzes are intended to make sure you have done the primary source readings, and your comments should be based on your own observations, not someone else’s ideas. Plagiarism (e.g. copying material from the internet or recycling work done by another student) is not allowed.  I do sometimes allow “group work” on quizzes, but unless I have specifically indicated that you are allowed to work with other students, make sure your quiz comments are entirely your own. 
Northern State University's official policy and procedures on cheating and academic dishonesty as outlined in the Northern State University Student Handbook applies to this course. Students caught cheating will receive a zero for the assignment, and, since zeros are worse than F‘s, they are likely to fail the course as a whole.


Northern State University recognizes its responsibility for creating an institutional climate in which students with disabilities can thrive.  If you have any type of disability for which you require accommodations, please contact Karen Gerety at the NSU Office of Disability Services (626-2371, Student Center 217) as soon as possible to discuss your particular needs.


Under Board of Regents and University policy student academic performance may be evaluated solely on an academic basis, not on opinions or conduct in matters unrelated to academic standards. Students should be free to take reasoned exception to the data or views offered in any course of study and to reserve judgment about matters of opinion, but they are responsible for learning the content of any course of study for which they are enrolled. Students who believe that an academic evaluation reflects prejudiced or capricious consideration of student opinions or conduct unrelated to academic standards should contact the academic dean administratively in charge of the class to initiate a review of the evaluation