Published Date

January 1, 2004

Resource Type

For the Classroom




United States

This resource was developed in 2004 as part of “Discovering American Social History on the Web” by Dan Kallgren.


United States History Since the Civil War

Professor Daniel Kallgren, Spring 2000

Course Description

This course is a survey of American history since the end of the Civil War. The course is conducted as a combination of lectures and in class discussion of topics raised in the lectures and the assigned reading material.

I have 4 main goals for this course:

  • To help you learn the history of the American people during this tumultuous time period in a lively and thorough manner, providing you with a framework for understanding the history of the United States since the Civil War, and through that a better understanding of the United States today.
  • To help you gain a better understanding of what history is, how it is done and the tools historians use to uncover history.
  • To help you come to an understanding of what an historical perspective is, why history is often the subject of intense debate, and how to judge the relative merits of competing historical interpretations
  • To help you begin to develop critical reading, writing and listening skills through a variety of in class and out of class assignments. At the conclusion of the course I hope that you will have learned how to better…
    1. Read and listen with comprehension, as displayed through exams and discussion.
    2. Describe events and major themes that occurred during this period, as displayed through essays and other writing assignments.
    3. Analyze arguments presented in class and in the reading, as displayed through exams, essays and papers.
    4. Synthesize major themes, interpretations and evidence across this period, as displayed through exams, essays and papers.

The United States during this period went through a number of intense and rapid changes. It would be impossible to cover in one semester everything that occurred during this time period. In order to give the course some cohesion, much of the course will focus on 4 major and related themes:

  1. The industrialization and urbanization of American life
  2. The emergence of a middle-class consumer culture and a national popular culture
  3. The search for social justice by racial and ethnic minorities
  4. The effect of war on the United States in the 20th Century

These themes will serve to organize our thinking throughout the semester on this confusing and exciting time in this country’s history.

Required Texts

John Mack Faragher, et al., Out of Many; A History of the American People, vol. 2.
William Graebner, True Stories From the American Past, vol. 2.
Stephen Crane, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets

Course Format

This course will be conducted in a combination of lectures and discussions. Friday will generally be set aside each week for discussion of the readings and issues raised during the week. I place a high value on class discussion and participation by students. Student input is expected and will be considered as part of your final grade.

Regular class attendance is vital and expected, as all students are responsible for the material presented in class. In the rare occasion that you have to miss a class for a legitimate reason, please get class notes from another student, and see me either during my office hours, or make an appointment if you cannot come during that time.

Regular, effective contributions to class and/or on the WI-USA2 e-mail discussion list will raise grades above this formula. Irregular attendance in class will lower them.

During-semester and Final Exams – 60%: The two exams during the semester will be take-home essay exams. The final exam is tentatively scheduled for Friday, May 12th from 8:00-10:00 am.

Short writing/discussion leading – 20%: Each week you will write a brief (1-2 pages) discussion outline on the supplementary readings for the week (either True Stories from the American Past or Maggie: A Girl of the Streets). If there are two assigned readings you are expected to have outlines on both. They will be typed and paginated with your name and P.O. box number in the upper right corner, no covers of any kind, please. In these outlines I want you to do the following:

  1. Identify the author and the title of the text.
  2. Briefly outline the reading. I do not want a close retelling, just a summary of the main points.
  3. After you summarize the reading, I want you to state, in one sentence, what the main point of the reading was. (“In summary, then, the main point of this reading was __”).
  4. Write at least 2 discussion questions focused around the main point, or some particular point you found interesting or illuminating.

The outlines are due on the Friday of the week that the reading is assigned. On Fridays, students will be chosen at random to lead small group discussions of the week’s readings. These discussion sections will be graded by the students in your group, and I will take those grades into account when assigning a grade for this portion of the course. I expect all students to lead discussions at least twice during the semester. If you are not in class on Fridays and do not lead a discussion at least twice you will receive a failing grade on this portion of the course.

Internet primary source projects – 20%: At four times during the semester you will work in groups to research and write a short paper based on a body of primary source material. I designed these projects to highlight particular parts of American life and culture, and allow you to engage in some “real” historical research. All four of these projects use sites on the internet which contain primary source materials – documents, maps, photos, paintings and more – the real grist of history. By using these sources you will have the chance to research, think about and draw your own conclusions about the topics under consideration. You will receive a handout outlining each project approximately 2 weeks before the project is due. Please see the readings and topics schedule for the dates and topics to be covered. On the weeks we have internet projects due, they will constitute the discussion material for that week, and I will be asking you to be ready to present your conclusions to the class. I hope that you will find this an interesting and challenging part of the course. Hopefully, some of you will choose to present your findings at the 3rd Annual UW-Marinette Undergraduate Research Conference on April 29th.

Reading and Topic Schedule

Week 1: (19-21 Jan)
“Conquest and Survival”
Faragher: chapter 18

Week 2: (24 Jan-28 Jan)
“The Incorporation of America”
Faragher: chapter 19
Graebner: chapters 2 & 3

Week 3: (31 Jan-4 Feb)
“Commonwealth and Empire”
Faragher: chapter 20
Graebner: chapter 5
Internet Project: Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

Week 4: (7-11 Feb)
“Urban America and Progressivism”
Faragher: chapter 21
Crane: Maggie, chapters 1-10.

Week 5: (14-18 Feb)
“World War One”
Faragher: chapter 22
Crane: Maggie, chapters 11-19. First Exam

Week 6: (21-25 Feb)
“The Twenties”
Faragher: chapter 23
Graebner: chapter 9
Internet Project: The Anti-Saloon League

Week 7: (28 Feb-3 Mar)
“The Great Depression and New Deal”
Faragher: chapter 24
Graebner: chapter 10

Week 8:(6-10 Mar)
“World War II”
Faragher: chapter 25
Graebner: chapter 11

Spring Break, March 13-17

Week 9: (20-24 Mar)
“The Cold War”
Faragher: chapters 26
Graebner: chapter 12

Week 10: (27-31 Mar)
“America at Mid-Century”
Faragher: chapter 27
Internet Project: Mapping Suburbanization
Second Exam

Week 11: (3-7 April)
“The Civil Rights Movement”
Faragher: chapter 28

Week 12: (10-14 April)
“War Abroad, War at Home”
Faragher: chapter 29
Graebner: chapter 13
Internet Project: The Kennedy Executive Orders

Week 13: (17-21 April)
“The Overextended Society ”
Faragher: chapter 30
Graebner: chapter 14

Week 14: (24-28 April)
“The Conservative Ascendancy”
Faragher: chapter 31

Week 15: (1-8 May)
“The End of the Cold War, and Uncertainty at the Century’s End”
Graebner: chapter 15

Final Exam