Course Syllabus

United States History, 1914-1945

History/Political Science 390

Spring 2013

Dr. Chris Schutz

Office: Durham 203C

Phone: 746-5321


Professor’s Webiste:

Course Website:

Office Hours:  MWF, 9–9:50 AM, 10:55-11:45 AM

                        Or by appointment


• Gordon, Colin, ed. Major Problems in American History, 1920-1945. 2nd Edition. Houghton Mifflin, 2010.

Other Required Books:

• Lewis, Sinclair. Babbitt. Dover Publications, 2003.

• McElvaine, Robert S. The Depression and the New Deal: A History in Documents. Oxford University Press, 2003.

• Steinbeck, John. Harvest Gypsies. Heyday Press, 2002.

Course Description:

The years 1914-1945 formed one of the most pivotal and fascinating periods of American history. The United States emerged from World War I as both an enormous economic power on the world stage, and an extremely important military power as well. The nation entered the post-WWII era as the preeminent world power in both areas, and ushered in an era that the journalist Henry Luce entitled “The American Century.” Interestingly, however, the years that fell between the two world wars were among the most tumultuous in our history. The 1920s brought dizzying change that shook American traditions to their core, and frightened many in the national heartland. The decade which preceded World War II, of course, left many Americans asking fundamental questions about the wisdom of its economic and governmental systems. As President Franklin Roosevelt came into office in the dark days of 1933, he told the people quite bluntly, “I see millions of families trying to live on incomes so meager that the pall of family disaster hangs over them day by day...I see one third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.” Over the course of the semester, we will examine how Americans came to grips with these tremendous national challenges, and how they emerged with a nation which not only recovered, but ushered in an era of unprecedented American prosperity and power.

Course Requirements:

Readings: We will discuss many (if not all) readings in class, and those discussions will be an important part of your participation grade for the course. All readings will be subject to the possibility of an unannounced “pop” quiz on the day in which they are discussed in class. These quizzes, added together at the semester’s end, will total 25% of your final grade. Please note that attendance for the extended discussion on Babbitt (Friday, 2/15) is mandatory.

Internet Readings: When “Internet Readings” is listed in the course schedule you should go my web page at “,” click on “History Web Links,” and then follow the directions listed in the Course Schedule (i.e., look for the page listed in the Course Schedule, click on it, then find the subsection listed in the Course Schedule, locate the reading listed and click on that reading).

Exams: There will be two written exams in the class. The first will be a midterm exam held in class on Wednesday, February 20. The second will be the cumulative final exam. Any makeups for those exams will require valid medical documentation or my approval prior to the date of the exam.

Student Scholarly Integrity: Any student cheating on exams, plagiarizing on papers, or copying other students’ work on assigned papers will be subject to failure in the entire course.

Class Participation: This will be a vital part of our class time together, and discussions will occur frequently throughout the semester. As such, it will comprise 20% of your course grade. While I expect some students to be better suited than others to class participation (i.e., more vocal and assertive in public speaking), all students are expected to participate to some extent during the course, or suffer in this portion of their grade.

Attendance: I will take roll daily, and up to three unexcused (i.e., without documentation from a doctor) will suffer no penalties. Roll will be taken at the beginning of class. It is the responsibility of any late students to inform me of your presence in class immediately after class is completed. After that time has passed, you will remain marked as “absent.” Over three absences may suffer penalties in the 20% of your class participation grade. While I will make an effort to repeat any announcements of upcoming assignments or exams, it remains the responsibility of anyone who misses class for catching up on any missed material— including the announcement of any dates (or date changes) in upcoming assignments. Be aware also that, since discussion is a critical part of your grade, missing class may also gradually damage your grade in that area as well (even without exceeding the allotted unexcused absences). Please note: Being present means just that– being present to what is going on in this class. Students asleep, doing work for another class, text messaging, or doing anything else other than what pertains to this class means being absent (and will count as such in my record), and will not be tolerated. Cell phones should be put carefully away during classtime.

Mandatory Attendance Dates: Please note that attendance is mandatory for two class discussion dates: Friday, 2/15 for Babbitt and Wednesday, 4/3 for Harvest Gypsies.

Student Athletes: Because the purpose of permitting only three unexcused absences is to prevent the student from falling behind and suffering academically, student athletes who miss class due to athletic events will be limited in their allowed unexcused absences. Should you miss three (or more) classes due to athletics, then you may not take any unexcused absences in addition to that (if you have two athletic absences you may take one unexcused absence, if you have two athletic absences, you may take one unexcused absence). Exceeding this agreement will damage your attendance and participation grade. Student athletes who miss more than three classes due to athletic events (and have no unexcused absences), of course, will not be penalized; but, student athletes should be especially mindful of the burden such escalating absences will create for their academic performance (and, should thus be particularly vigilant to keep track of assignments, be sure to quickly get good notes from a classmate, etc.). Please note that it is the responsibility of the student athlete to keep the instructor aware of athletic absences– not the other way around. Thus, student athletes should notify the instructor that an absence was due to an athletic event at the next class meeting, so the instructor may properly note it. If the student athlete fails to do so, the absence will remain recorded as simply an unexcused absence. Should an athletic event ever conflict with a mandatory discussion or exam date, you should come see me at least a week in advance to make alternate arrangements.


Course Grade Distribution:                                Course Grade Scale:

Midterm Exam: 20%                                                  A: 92-100/ A- : 90-91

Final Exam #2: 20%                                                   B+: 88-89/ B: 82-87/ B- : 80-81

Pop Quizzes: 35%                                                      C+: 78-79/ C: 72-77/ C-: 70-71

Class Participation and Attendance: 25%                   D+: 68-69/ D: 62-67/ D-: 60-61

F: 0-59

Course Schedule:

U.S. History, 1914-1945

NOTE: All dates subject to change as course needs dictate, and will be announced in class by instructor. The following dates are given to highlight reading and other class assignments. However, classes will always meet with or without an assignment scheduled.

Important Note: Should inclement weather or other problems force the cancellation of class on a scheduled exam (or mandatory discussion) date, you should presume that that exam (or discussion) will be held on the next available class meeting.

America and “The Great War” (1/11-1/18)

► Isolationism and American Hesitation

► American Entry and Idealism: the 14 Points

► American Homefront

► Treaty of Versailles and Woodrow Wilson

Wed, 1/16: Gordon, 214-216; Internet Reading: Col. Hayden, “Shell-Shocked and After” [located on right side of course website (]

Post-War America (1/23-1/25)

► War Fervor Momentum Continues: Red Scare, Red Summer

► Economic Boom: Henry Ford and the American Dream, Republican politics

Wednesday, 1/23: Gordon, 20-22, 53-56

Friday, 1/25: Gordon, 147-148, 156-159

The New Landscape of Business and Industry (1/28-2/4)

► Scientific Management & Fordism

► Consumerism and Advertising

► Republicans and Normalcy

Wed. 1/30: Gordon, 57-77, 98-99

Fri, 2/1: Gordon, 22-23

Mon, 2/4: Gordon, 87-97, 99-100

“The Jazz Age” (2/7-2/18)

► Modernism, scientific and moral relativity

► “The Lost Generation” writers

► The loosening of moral codes

► Harlem and Race

► Scandals expose moral relativity: Black Sox, Leopold and Loeb

► 1920s Leisure and Popular Culture

► Religion: Billy Sunday and Aimee Semple McPherson

► Changing Sexual Mores: Birth Control, Motion Pictures & sexual scandals

Wed, 2/6: Gordon, 2-11

Fri, 2/8: Gordon, 119-120; Reserve Reading: Ernest Hemingway, “Soldier Home” in The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway, pp.143-153; Internet Reading: “Poet T.S. Eliot, ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ and ‘The Hollow Men’.” [located at the “Art and Literature in the 1920s” subsection of the “U.S. History 1914-45" web links page]

Wed, 2/13: Gordon, 118-119; Internet Reading: Claude McKay poems: “If We Must Die,” “The White House” and “The Negro’s Friend”; Langston Hughes poems: “Mother to Son,” “America,” and “Let America Be America Again”; ” [located at the “Art and Literature in the 1920s” subsection of the “U.S. History 1914-45" web links page]

Mandatory Discussion Date: Friday, Feb. 15: Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt

Mon, 2/18: Gordon, 94-95; Reserve Reading: “Wild Young People”

Wednesday, 2/20: Midterm Exam

1920s Counterreaction to Social Change (2/22-2/27)

► Reaction to Urban America: Nativism, Prohibition, Motion Picture censorship

► Morality on Trial: John Scopes and evolution

► Resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan

Mon., 2/25: Gordon, 148-156, 160-173

The Onset of the Great Depression (3/1-3/13)

► Industrial Slowdown: the Auto and Construction industries

► Presidency of Herbert Hoover & the Bonus March

► Depression Impact on Farmers & the Dust Bowl

► Social Impact on Common Americans

Fri., 3/1: McElvaine, 129-137

Mon., 3/11: McElvaine, 16-39; Gordon, 159-160, 183-189, 194-202, 246-255, 256-258, 268-278


“Happy Days Are Here Again”: FDR and the 1st New Deal (3/13-3/20)

► 1932 Election

► The “1st 100 Days” & FDR’s legislative assault on the Great Depression

► The Dust Bowl phenomenon

Wed., 3/13: McElvaine, 115-127; Gordon, 189-194, 202-212; Reserve Reading: Richard Polenberg, The Era of Franklin Roosevelt, pp.1-8

Fri., 3/15: McElvaine, 41-54, 156-167


The Depression Lingers As Challenges to the New Deal Rise (3/23-3/25)

► A Social Challenge to Order: the increase of Crime

► Prophets of Social Unrest: Father Coughlin, Huey Long, Francis Townsend

► Radical Alternatives

Wed., 3/20: McElvaine, 101-113; Gordon, 281-289

Mon., 3/25: Gordon, 392-398, 404-411; McElvaine, 79-99

The Second New Deal Period (3/27-4/5)

► The Wagner Act and Labor

► Direct Aid to the Poor: Works Progress Administration, Social Security

Wed., 3/27: Gordon, 122-128, 321-326; McElvaine, 54-57, 138-155; Reserve Reading: Polenberg, 8-16

Wed., 4/3: Mandatory Discussion Date: John Steinbeck, The Harvest Gypsies

Fri., 4/5: Gordon, 319-321, 338-346, 358-367, 383-388, 398-403; McElvaine, 59-77, 168-179; Reserve Reading: Polenberg, 16-24


A “Good War”?: America and the Second World War (4/8-4/24)

► American Isolationism and Anti-Semitism

► Pearl Harbor & the Onset of WWII

► American Entry: Pearl Harbor, D-Day and War on Two Fronts

► American Homefront

Mon., 4/8: Gordon, 11-17, 455-459; Reserve Reading: Robert McElvaine, “The Great Depression in Historical Perspective”

Wed., 4/10: Gordon, 421-427, 478-485; Reserve Reading: Polenberg, 24-35

Fri,. 4/12: Reserve Reading: Polenberg, 219-224; Gordon, 433-442

Wed., 4/24: Gordon, 427-432