John M Findlay
Each seminar examines a different subject or problem. A quarterly list of the seminars and their instructors is available in the Department of History undergraduate advising office.
The American West since 1945: Region in the Modern U.S.
Regions such as New England, the South, and the Midwest have played very significant roles for most of American history. Focusing on one place in particular--the West--this colloquium will explore the extent to which regions remain a useful concept for explaining U.S. history after World War Two. Have homogenizing forces such as interstate highways, retail chains, national media, and large-scale migrations erased significant distinctions between regions, or do meaningful regional differences still help us to account for trends in politics, culture, demography, and other realms? Has the West had a unique relationship to government and politics at the national level? What roles have such subregions as the Southwest and the Northwest played in these matters? Through common reading and individual reading in secondary works, and through individual research and writing projects based in primary sources, students will assess the role of region in the post-1945 United States. Part of the task may be defining what the West is.
Student learning goals
increase familiarity with the issue of region in U.S. history, with U.S. history after 1945, and with the modern American West;
strengthen abilities to think conceptually and historically, including the abilities to make an argument or thesis and to critique historians' work;
improve oral and written communication, including the capacity to participate in class discussions, critique one another's projects, and to write effective essays;
develop research skills in primary sources and secondary works.
General method of instruction
Learning will occur through reading and discussion of secondary works; researching, writing, and revising of individual papers (including research in primary sources); consultations with the professor, and with other students, about one's research project and about rough drafts; class discussion. There may be brief lectures to provide background information, and there may be a session with one or more librarians.
Class assignments and grading
Class assignments and grading will be outlined more specifically in the course syllabus. The typical workload in previous colloquiums has included: a) a short (4-5 pp.) paper on secondary readings; b) a spoken or written prospectus introducing your research project; c) rough and final drafts of a research paper that uses primary sources; and d) participation in class discussions.
The syllabus will specify criteria for assessing the quality of written work (e.g. successful thesis, clear prose, good grammar, effective use of primary sources and secondary literature, persuasive conceptual and historical thinking) and participation in class discussions (e.g. attendance, informed comments, regularity of participation).