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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

John M Findlay
HSTAA 432
Seattle Campus

History of Washington and the Pacific Northwest

Exploration and settlement; economic development; growth of government and social institutions; statehood.

Class description

This is an upper-division, undergraduate course on regional history. It focuses primarily on the three American states of Oregon, Idaho, and Washington, with additional attention to British Columbia, Alaska, western Montana, and California, from the mid-18th through the 20th century. The course begins by introducing students briefly to today's Pacific Northwest and placing current issues and concerns into historical context. It then moves to consider Pacific Northwest history over two broad eras. Part I, "Colonization and Contacts: Non-Indians, Indians, and Resources, 1741-1900," considers the years when different groups of peoples both interacted with one another and tried to assert or retain control over the region. It examines the native peoples of the Northwest; the arrival, influence, and impact upon Indians of competing European and American explorers, fur traders, and missionaries; and the eventual success of the United States in colonizing and settling a part of the region by asserting control over the land and over native peoples. Part II, "The American Northwest: Emergence of an Urban and Industrial Region, 1846-2000," considers the evolution of the modern region by looking at economic, political, social, urban, and cultural developments during the later 19th and 20th centuries. Key themes include the region's relationship to the rest of the nation as mediated by big business and the national government, the effects of reform movements, immigration, war, and environmentalism on the Northwest, and the development of a "Northwest" identity. The reading list has not been finalized, but previous versions of this course have featured excerpts from the exploration account of George Vancouver and the fur-trade journals of George Simpson; secondary accounts of Native American history; excerpts from a settler narrative by James G. Swan; secondary articles on political and social changes between 1850 and 1930; a primary-source account of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II; and readings on the rise of environmentalism during the 20th century. The course sometimes incorporates works of literature (poetry, memoir, fiction).

Student learning goals

to become more familiar with the development of the Pacific Northwest and its relationship to U.S. and global history;

to strengthen abilities to think conceptually and historically;

to enhance capacities for critical reading of primary sources and secondary works;

to improve writing and discussion skills.

General method of instruction

The course combines lectures and discussions, with the discussions devoted primarily to assigned readings.

Recommended preparation

No prerequisites.

Class assignments and grading

The written assignments for HSTAA 432 have not been finalized. Typically, the course includes one short "response paper" on an assigned reading (2 pp.), a take-home midterm exam, some sort of research project (e.g. a 5-7 pp. paper), and a take-home final exam. HSTAA 432 qualifies as a W course. Students are also expected to complete the required readings and contribute to class discussions of them.

Students' written work and contributions to class discussion will be evaluated. More specific criteria will be laid out in the syllabus.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by John M Findlay
Date: 01/23/2012