History 239: Recent America

Professor Jeff Roche

Thursday 1:00-3:50

This upper-division history course is designed around three goals: to introduce you to some of the best recent scholarship on American history, to give you some ways to think about the recent past and give our modern world some perspective, and to give you the opportunity to write your own contributions to these conversations. This is a class built around creating ways to understand and learning the skills to effectively communicate your ideas. This is not a survey course where the professor lectures, students take notes, and a few times over the semester, you are tested to make sure you have retained and processed crucial information.

We are going to learn to read, write, and discuss history the way that professional historians read, write, and discuss history. In the first half of the semester, we will devote a significant percentage of our time toward learning how to read these books, how to take notes from these books, and how to talk intelligently about these books. We will consider their research, their research methods, their organization, their argument, how that argument has been constructed, presented, and fits into the narrative structure that we thought we understood about the American past. Put another way, we will examine the history of the United State since 1945 from these readings outward.

You will write a fairly lengthy response (in different forms) for each book we read. You will also be expected to be active participants in discussing these books.

The second half of the semester will focus primarily on the production of historical scholarship. Each week will be a workshop focused on research and writing. Our examples of what to do and how will be drawn from your work. I will show you the approaches and strategies that I use daily as I wrap up one massive book project and begin another. There is nothing abstract about these lessons, they are based on real-time down-in-the-trenches scholarship.

Each student will produce a 15-18 paragraph (2000-2500 word) research paper on the subject of their choosing. We will work together as a class (and each student one-on-one with me) on the production of these papers. This will be a sustained and fun (I promise) project, unlike any other research paper you have ever written.