History 110F – World War USA

Welcome to History 110F, which meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:30 through 3:05 pm at Social Science 2, room 071.

Email your teaching assistant, Bristol Anne Cave-LaCoste.

The announcing of the Armistice: November 11, 1918

The announcing of the Armistice: November 11, 1918

The purpose of this course is to develop a broader understanding of the evolution of the United States from the beginning of World War One through World War Two. During these years the US played a crucial role in two global conflicts and as a consequence transitioned from a fragmented rural society to a modern, capitalist welfare state. The country walked away from the basic assumptions of Social Darwinism and embraced, albeit reluctantly, the idea that government would play a fundamental role in regulating and sustaining the lives of Americans. Many factors contributed to this decision, but two stand out: involvement in the world wars and the experience of the Great Depression.

Within this context many narratives emerge. Most of the reform movements that we associate with this period are in some way a response to the United States’ suddenly involvement in global conflict. The civil liberties movement, feminism, civil rights movements, and the American labor movement all were propelled forward by the mid-twentieth century American wartime experience. So were the Great Depression and a cultural struggle in the 1920s over whether to embrace “modernity” as a way of a life, a battle that was informed by deep seated assumptions about race and gender.

This is the framework within which we will discuss these critical years in American history: 1914 through 1945.

This course has four basic requirements: a mid-term, a final examination, weekly section response papers, and a term paper, which is explained here.

Section attendance and response papers: Over the course of the quarter you will be required to write five papers of one to two pages in length for your section, based on questions found in your syllabus. Come to section with these papers completed, ready to share ideas with your fellow students. These papers should be double spaced in length and will be graded pass/fail. You can choose which section papers to do.

Attendance at sections and lectures is required. Please read my attendance and behavior policy page.

Firpo sending Dempsey outside the ring; painting by George Bellows, 1924

Firpo sending Dempsey outside the ring; painting by George Bellows, 1924


The mid-term and final examinations will be the same. You will be offered an array of essay questions and will have to answer one of them. Then you will be offered identifications, and have to describe some of them in paragraphs of three or four sentences each. I will put a short study guide on this web page before each exam so that you can focus your studying.

In these essay questions I’m hoping that you will offer information in the context of analysis and stories. That means that although I’m interested in your capacity to memorize facts, I also want you to show an understanding of context.

What does this mean? Suppose that I ask you to describe the impact of the Agricultural Adjustment Act on the lives of migrant farm workers. What I want to see is if you can explain this legislation’s significance in a larger context. I’m not concerned if you get the date of the act wrong by a year.

There will also be two short quizzes, just to keep us all on our toes.

Grading percentages

The mid-term will be worth 20 percent of your grade, the final 25 percent, and the paper 30 percent. Your section work (participation and papers) will be worth the remaining 20 percent. The quizzes will be worth 2.5 percentage points apiece.

The Haymarket upheaval of 1886

The Haymarket upheaval of 1886

Ronald Schaffer, America in the Great War: The Rise of the War Welfare State
David Goldberg, Discontented America: The United States in the 1920s
David Levering Lewis, When Harlem Was in Vogue
David Kennedy, Freedom from Fear

Powerpoint slides

Week 1: September 22 (Thursday)
The coming of the Great War

Schaffer, America in the Great War, Chapters One to Six
Goldberg, Discontented America, Chapter 1

Sections begin on Week 2.

World War I posterWeek 2: September 27 and 29
World War I and the transformation of the American state

Schaffer, Chapters Seven through Epilogue (chapter 10 is optional)
Goldberg, Chapter 2

Section question: How did the United States’ approach to government and the welfare state change during the Great War?

Week 3: October 4 and 6
Anything But Normal: The 1920s
Goldberg, Chapter 3

Section question: Would you have supported United States entry into the First World War? If so, why? If not, what alternative policy would you have supported the country pursuing? If so, would you have approved of the government’s domestic handling of the war?

Claude McKay

Claude McKay

Week 4: October 11 and 13
Race, Class and the Business Culture of the 1920s

Lewis, When Harlem Was In Vogue (start reading)
Goldberg, Chapter 4

Section question: Warren G. Harding campaigned to return the United States to “normalcy” after the First World War. Did 1920s America seem “normal” to you? Why or why not?

Quiz one: Thursday October 13 (Shaffer, Chapters one through eight)

Week 5: October 18 and 20
Race, Class and the Business Culture of the 1920s (continued)

Goldberg, Chapters 5 to 7
Lewis, When Harlem Was In Vogue (finish reading; you’re doing a great job!)

Section question: What made the Harlem Renaissance new? How did it comprise the ideas of both Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois? In what ways were its participants ambivalent about the phenomenon? In what ways is Lewis ambivalent about the phenomenon?

A solemn crowd gathers outside the Stock Exchange after the crash of 1929 (Wikipedia commons).

A solemn crowd gathers outside the Stock Exchange after the crash of 1929 (Wikipedia commons).

Week 6: October 25 and 27
The Big Crash

Kennedy, Chapters 1 through 4

Midterm exam, October 27

Sections: Study for mid-term or other stuff

Week 7: November 1 and 3
The First New Deal
Kennedy, Chapters 5 through 9

Section question: How does the United States over the last decade resemble the economic roller coaster of the 1920s? How is our situation different? Are you scared? Confident in the future? Both?

Week 8: November 8 and 10
The Second New Deal
Kennedy, Chapters 10 through 12
Online reading: racist exemptions to New Deal legislation

Section question: How did the First New Deal reveal the limits of voluntarism and charity in dealing with a social crisis like the Great Depression?

America FirstWeek 9: November 15 and 17
The coming of the Good War
Kennedy, Chapters 13 through 16
Section question: By today’s political standards, the New Deal was a radical social event. But were its intentions truly radical? Was the New Deal a revolution or a counter-revolution?

Week 10: November 22
The Good War, continued

Quiz two: Tuesday, November 22 (Kennedy through chapter 7)

African American WACS during World War II

African American WACS during World War II

Week 11: November 29 and December 1
The transformation of the United States

Kennedy, Chapters 18 and 21

Term papers are due during the first ten minutes of class on December 1. See term paper page for more details.

Section question: How did World War II transform the United States? How could it be understood as an extension of the New Deal?

Final exam: Monday, December 5 12:00–3:00 pm; please do not schedule vacations or outings for this date. I will not schedule make-up exams for students who are out-of-town.

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