Syllabus – HIS 20 (Spring 2013)

HIS 20 – The American Nation: The Political and Social Development of a People

College Now – Bronx Community College – Summer 2013
Monday through Thursday – 9:30 to 11:30 am

Professor: Roy R. Rogers

What does it mean to be an American? How did this meaning change over time? What were the experiences of immigrants to America? How did these experiences shape American history? What do past injustices in American society mean for Americans today? These are common but complex questions that shape our political dialogue. This course – by examining the historical experience of the United States – will get you thinking about these challenging issues. Starting with the first encounters between Native Americans and European empires and concluding with the election of Barack Obama, this course will provide you with the historical grounding necessary to be an informed citizen in America today.

Learning Goals
By the end of this course every student should:

  • Have a basic understanding of the narrative of American history from 1492 to the present.
  • Have a basic understanding of the role of immigration in the history of the Americas and United States.
  • Have improved their critical reading, writing, and thinking skills.
  • Have begun to think historically about the past and present circumstances.
  • Have a basic understanding of the college experience (academic and personal) and the expectations of college coursework.


The following texts are REQUIRED:

  • Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty! An American History 3rd Edition (New York, NY, W.W. Norton, 2011)

Additional reading materials will be handed out in class

All textbooks are property of the College Now program and must be returned at the end of the course.


Assignments & Grading
Your final grade will be calculated from the following breakdown:

  • 25% – Midterm Examination
  • 25% – Final Examination
  • 20% – Primary Source Analysis Papers
  • 20% – Homework
  • 10% – Class Participation

In-Class Requirements
For reach class meeting students will be expected to have read or watched all assigned material (sections of the textbook, primary source readings, etc.) and be fully prepared for discussion. Such class discussions make up an important part of students’ class participation grade.

In addition, students are expected to have completed – before class – any writing assignments or homework assigned for the class meeting. Such assignments are due at the very beginning of class.

Primary Source Analysis Papers
Students are required to complete THREE short (two to four page) detailed analyses of THREE different primary sources of the student’s choice. Primary sources many be selected from any primary source handed out by the instructor in class or in the course reading packet. If a student is unclear on what is an acceptable primary source for these assignments, please consult the instructor at any time.

In their analysis students are to address three elements. First, students are to outline the argument or position of their selected source. What is the author(s) attempting to say? What are they seeking to describe? Second, students are to contextualize the source under analysis. How does this source tie into the broader themes (immigration.) or events (the Columbian Exchange, etc.) discussed in this course. Third, and finally, students are to assess why the analyzed source was created. Why do you believe the author(s) of this source wrote what did they did? Did they hope to change a law? Promote a religion or ideology? Etc. Etc. In assessing why a source was created students should think critically about the both the content and context of a source to determine the purpose(s) of an author(s).

A detailed guide for completing these assignments will be handed out during the second week of the course and made available on the course website.

While students are to complete THREE primary source analyses, only TWO of the three completed assignments will impact a student’s final grade. The two completed assignments with the highest grade will be selected. If a student, however, does not complete all three primary source analysis a zero will be recorded for at least one of the two assignments.

Periodically students will be assigned short homework assignments (one to two pages) based on the assigned primary source readings and class discussions. These short papers are graded differently than other assignments in the course. Students can either received full credit (for completing all of the required elements of the assignment), half credit (for only completing only part of the assignment) or no credit (for not doing the assignment or not following directions).

Attendance is required for every class meeting. Attendance will be taken during each class meeting to ensure this. If a student needs to miss class, the instructor must be notified in advance (in case of emergencies, before the following class meeting). To encourage attendance, students who miss no more than three (or fewer) classes will receive an additional five points on their final grade.

There will be midterm and a final examination. The midterm will cover material from the first half of the course. The final will cover material from the second half of the course. The final exam is not comprehensive. Four class periods before each examination, a brief study guide will be handed out in class and made available on the course website.

Extra Credit
Extra credit will be made available on the midterm and final examinations.


Classroom Policies

In order to ensure that this class is a successful space for learning and critical dialogue, the following polices are in affect.

  • Plagiarism and academic dishonesty will not be tolerated. Any assignment (even in part) found to be plagiarized will be marked as a failure (zero points). A second instance of plagiarism will result in automatic failure of the course. If students have ANY questions about what constitutes plagiarism, please come see (or e-mail) the instructor and/or consult the course website.
  • All work must be turned in to the instructor via hardcopy by the beginning of the class period on the date in which it is due (see schedule, below). Assignments will NOT be accepted via e-mail, except in cases of emergency. Due to the nature of a summer course, late work will NOT be accepted.
  • Cell phone usage and texting is forbidden in the classroom. If a student must use their cell phone because of an emergency situation, please let the instructor know before the beginning of class.
  • Laptop use is welcome, though only for class purposes or pursuits. Sadly, Facebooking is not a class pursuit.
  • There is no such thing as a stupid question. If a student is confused or unclear about any topic under discussion, please raise your hand and ask a question or come see the instructor after class.
  • Sexist, racist, or homophobic comments will not be tolerated in the classroom.
  • Students with learning or other disabilities should come to speak with the instructor, in private, either before or after class. Any and all disabilities can be accommodated, as long as the instructor is promptly informed.
  •  Students with family, work, legal, or financial issues that may affect their attendance or class performance should come speak to the instructor as soon as possible, to see if arrangements can be made.
  • Drinking beverages is welcome in class, but please no eating.

Class Schedule

JULY 8: Introduction
JULY 9: Europe & the Americas at 1492
JULY 10: The Columbian Exchange & the Origins of Trans-Atlantic Imperialism
JULY 11: Field Trip to AbelCine

JULY 15: Britain in the Americas
JULY 16: New World Slavery
JULY 17: The Imperial Crisis & the American Revolution

JULY 23: Cultural, Economic, and Social Revolution in the New Nation
JULY 24: Secession, Civil War, and the Second American Revolution
JULY 25: Race, Labor, and Capital in a Reconstructed America

JULY 29: Progressive America, Jim Crow, & the New Era [PRIMARY SOURCE ASSIGNMENT 2 DUE]
JULY 30: The Ordeal of the American People – Depression, New Deals, & World Wars
JULY 31: Cold War America & the American High Tide

AUGUST 5: The Joys & Agonies of the 1960s [PRIMARY SOURCE ASSIGNMENT 3 DUE]
AUGUST 6: The Lost Decade & the Reagan Revolution
AUGUST 7: The Neo-Liberal Moment


Author: Roy Rogers

I am currently a PhD candidate in American History at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York (CUNY). My undergraduate education was at Shepherd University (Political Science & History) and I received an MA in History from George Mason University. As a historian, my research interests include early American history, the early American republic (1780 to 1830), political history, religious history, and gender history. I live in Brooklyn with my girlfriend and our cat.

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