History of the American People, commonly called HIST 204, is a one-semester survey course at Pepperdine required of most students. Below is some basic information to students interested in my class.

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Spring 2015 – Dancing skit at last class meeting
  • Lectures & small groups (15%).  For most classes, I usually have a mix of lecture and small groups, in which students analyze together visual or written primary sources.  Attendance and small groups account for over 15% of the course grade.
  • Weekly quizzes (12%). There is a quiz on assigned reading at the first class of each week for a total of 15 quizzes.  Three lowest-graded quizzes will be dropped at the end of the semester.
  • Required readings.  There are two assigned books: Roger Daniels, Coming to America and Peter Kolchin, American Slavery.  There are several other required readings (plus a variety of optional readings) available to students on Courses. Assigned readings are used for quizzes, exams, and lectures.
  • Optional readings.  There is a short list of books that students can read for extra credit. (Titles may change from semester to semester, and the list for Fall 2015 includes Penne Restad, Christmas in America.)  After reading, students will meet with me and other interested students to discuss the book.
  • Three exams (53%).  Each exam consists of one or two essays.  The first exam is about early and colonial America; the second on the nineteenth century; and the final exam on the twentieth century.  The final exam also includes a cumulative component.
  • Heritage project (20%).  As common of most HIST 204 sections, each student will research, present, and write an essay on a topic related in one or more ways to their background or heritage.  The topic may be related to ancestry, culture, geography, professional aspiration, and/or life-long interests.

Because the course covers all American history in one semester, the pace is quick and the content selective. From my syllabus:

The course content is necessarily selective in at least two ways. First are historical actors. Individuals made significant contribution to American history and, therefore, deserve study. The content of this course, however, reflects “the American people” in the course title and focuses on large groups rather than presidents, politicians, or particular influential individuals. Even when individuals are highlighted, they are meant to reflect the thinking or action of a social or political group than individual agency. 

Second is thematic emphasis. The content of this particular course touches on economic, political, intellectual, religious, and cultural aspects of American history. That said, there is a stronger emphasis on society, including the history of immigration, than perhaps any other thematic category. This emphasis does not mean that one category of history is more important than another. Rather, it is meant to give coherence to the content and make manageable within the time frame.

The course covers the the following chronology:

  • Native Americans in early America
  • Land and society in colonial America
  • Slavery, religion, and revolution
  • Democratization in the Early Republic
  • Antebellum immigration
  • Antebellum slavery and the South
  • Industrialization and business in the Gilded Age
  • Labor and immigration in the Gilded and Progressive Ages
  • Origins and manifestations of American imperialism
  • From economic depression to postwar prosperity
  • Postwar social and political movements
  • Twentieth-century immigration