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HISTORY 2RR3 U.S. History Since Civil War

Academic Year: Fall 2016

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Karen Balcom

Email: balcomk@mcmaster.ca

Office: Chester New Hall 608

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 24152


Office Hours: Mon 2:30 - 3:30, Thursday 2:30 - 3:30 and by appt.

Course Objectives:

Welcome to History 2RR3, a survey of major themes in the history of the United States since the Civil War.  This semester, we will start with the post-civil war Reconstruction of the United States as a reunited nation, and work forward to the challenges facing the country in the post 9/11, 21st century world.  In this season, with this US election, we will of course be paying attention to contemporary US politics and to the antecedents of the politics we see playing out today.

We will look at this history through the interactions between various ethno-cultural, racial and religious groups; between social classes; and between men and women.  You will be asked to think about power, and about whose interests were served in the political, economic and social moments where we pause to consider the development of the post-civil war United States.  Who was more powerful?  Less powerful?  What sources of power, influence, or resistance were more obvious?  Less obvious?  What were the long-term consequences of the events and developments we will study?  How did those developments shape the contemporary United States? This term, we will have a special focus (explored in the tutorials) on the meaning of race, racial identity and citizenship. We end the course with reflections on race and the limits of citizenship in the United States.  All of this, of course, is exactly at the center of the current election.

We are very interested in your ideas, and we expect your active participation in the course.  Ask questions, make suggestions and speak up in the lecture, in tutorials, in office hours, and in our online community. You will be asked to evaluate the course at the end of the semester but you do not have to wait to voice your opinion.  If you have problems, suggestions, or ideas about how to improve the class, please do not hesitate to speak with me or with the teaching assistants.  This is your class. 

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

The following 3 items are available for purchase at The Campus Store. These materials will be supplemented with e-journal articles and other web-based materials.

1. Textbook:  James Oakes et al. Of the People: A History of the United States Since 1865. Vol. 2. Third Edition.

**There was some confusion at the bookstore and they ordered the wrong volume.  Those wrong books have been pulled, but the right book may not be available until around Sept. 10th.  You will need the first chapter of the textbook before then.  You will  find a live link to a pdf of Chapter 15 (the first chapter in this volume ) in the Announcements section of our Avenue site.  If we are still waiting for the textbook to come in, we will have a PDF of Chapter 16 next week.

2. Molina, Natalie.  How Race is Made in America: Immigration, Citizenship and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014.

This important new book focuses on the history of Mexican Americans between 1924 and 1965, but along the way gives us a critical theoretical model for thinking about immigration, race, and the limits on citizenship in the United States.

3. Nelson Peery, Black Fire: The Making of an American Revolutionary. New York: The New Press, 1994.

This fascinating memoir (a primary source) of a young man’s journey through the Depression and WWII is our launching point for considering the African American experience in the 20th century. Unfortunately, this amazing book is out of print.  The bookstore has scrounged enough for the class - or every nearly -- but you might want to know that this book is available VERY CHEAPLY in the used book sections of the usual online book retailers. You will need this book in about 3-4 weeks

There is no courseware for this course.

We are participating in a pilot project with the library. The library now has a "scan a chapter" service that allows you to request a scan of one chapter of a library book to delivered to your email inbox.  The library is experimenting with using this resource for book chapters assigned in courses.  This is acceptable under Canadian copyright law because this is educational fair use and because the scan is posted behind a firewall (that is, inside Avenue) vs. on the open web. 

Method of Assessment:


Proposal for a Research Paper

with Chronology and Bibliography

                                                            15%                 Friday, October 21     

Research Paper

(2500 words)                                       25%                 Friday, Nov. 24th       


Participation in Tutorials                     20%                 See tutorial attendance policy                                                                                      below

2x Quizzes (7.5% each)                      15%                 Thursday, Oct. 6/Thurs, Nov. 11

Final Exam                                          25%                 Final Exam Period

Participation and Attendance at Tutorials (20%)

Active participation in your tutorial is a critical component of the course.  As your tutorial leaders assess participation they will be looking at attendance (they will take attendance); active participation in discussion inside the tutorial and/or with the TA in office hours or email; preparation for the tutorial (including doing the reading from the course texts and online sources and bringing the reading with you to the tutorial.)

If you are feel uncomfortable speaking in the tutorial – for whatever reason – discuss this with your tutorial leader as soon as possible. She will have strategies to make you feel more comfortable, and may also have suggestions for alternate forms of participation. Your tutorial leader may decide to include in-class written assignments, quizzes or oral presentations as part of her assessment of participation and the mix of these assessment tools may not be the same across all tutorials.

Attendance at Tutorials and Assessing Participation: 

If you miss more than two tutorials across the semester, your tutorial leader is required to deduct 2 points from the 20 points s/he assigns for participation for each of your subsequent absences.  (Participation in the tutorial constitutes 20% of your total grade for the class, and thus for each absence after two you will lose 2 points out of 20, which is equivalent to 2% of your total grade for the course.) In addition, repeated absences from tutorial will have an impact on your TAs assessment of your performance, in addition to the mandatory deductions.  If this sounds like a double penalization for missing tutorials, that is because we intend a double penalization.

Please note: We are not referring in this policy to 2 unexcused absences, but rather to two absences in total, regardless of excuses. If you miss the first week of tutorial meetings, that’s one. If you then get sick, go home, have to work an unusual shift, miss your tutorial to work on another assignment -- that’s two. With the advance agreement of the relevant tutorial leaders, it may be possible to attend another tutorial for one week if it is impossible for you to attend your own session.  But, don’t expect the TAs to agree to repeated requests of this nature. In addition, you can expect that absences from tutorials will have a negative effect on your overall participation grade, in addition to the automatic deductions for repeated absences. 

In general, if you are not committed to attending the tutorials, this is not the class for you. If you have an extraordinary situation that impacts your ability to attend tutorials, you should discuss this with Dr. Balcom as soon as possible.

Proposal (15%) and Research Paper (25%)

Your major assignment for the semester is a 2500 word (approx. 10 typed, double spaced pages) research paper.  This project is split into two components. 

The first component is a proposal for the research paper, due on Friday, October 20th.  The proposal will include a brief overview of your topic, a chronology of major events, a statement of your research question, and a bibliography.  You will craft this proposal as a JS3 Timeline. (Check out Timeline JS3 at: https://timeline.knightlab.com/index.html). Don't worry, we'll provide technical help and the process is really not complicated. This proposal is worth 15% of our grade for the class.

The paper itself will be due on Friday. Nov. 24th  and is worth 25% of your grade for the course. You will be provided with a list of potential topics and a “starting place” article to go with each topic. The topics will be posted before class on Thursday, Sept. 15th and topic signup will take place at lecture, beginning with the lecture on Monday, Sept. 19th. More details on the proposal and the final paper will be posted with the topics on Avenue to Learn.  You can also propose your own topic, provided you clear this with me before Sept. 19th.

Late assignments will be penalized at the rate of 3% per day, including Saturdays and Sundays.  The Proposal and the final Research Paper will be submitted electronically through an Avenue to Learn dropbox. The proposal and paper are due by 12:00 midnight on the assigned day.

We will not accept a final paper if a student has not handed in a proposal.  Proposals will be accepted up to 2 weeks after the initial due date (with the requisite late penalty).

2 x In-class Quizzes (2 x 7.5% = 15%)

There will be two in-class quizzes (approx. 25 mins. long) each worth 7.5% of your grade.  There will be a very specific study guide or each quiz.  The likely format is a short-answer explanatory paragraph.

There will be no rewrites for the in-class quizzes. If the student has an approved reason for absence (MSAF, RISO, varsity sports team, othr unavoiable committment) the instructor will create an alternate at-home assignment.


Final Exam (25%)

The final exam for this course will be scheduled in the final exam period and will last 2 hours.  We will distribute a study guide for the exam, and there will be opportunities for exam review with Dr. Balcom between the end of lectures and the exam. The format for the exam will be short and longer answer essay questions.

Assessment of Written Work

Your written work will be graded on analytical and factual content, and on the quality of your written expression.  The production of clear, technically proficient and well-organized prose is an essential skill.

You are welcome to meet with me to discuss improving your writing, but I also encourage you to use other resources on campus available through the Student Success Centre: https://studentsuccess.mcmaster.ca/ Choose the Academic Support Tab, then Academic and Writing Skills.

As a McMaster student you also have access to the online tool Grammarly, which will point out errors in your prose and suggest corrections.  Find out about Grammarly at : https://studentsuccess.mcmaster.ca/ Choose the Academic Support Tab, then Grammarly (under tools and resources).

All written assignments should be in formal English; that is, no slang, contractions or point form (except as specified in assignment instructions). Academic documentation (references and citations) for this class must be in Chicago Style/ Notes and Bibliography.

I will post a general explanation of Chicago Style (and citations more generally) under Student Resources on our Avenue site. You can look at an online version of the Chicago Style (with examples of every type of citation you might need) through our library catalogue. (Search: Chicago Manual of Style Online, Access this Resource, Click on Quick Guide (right hand side), choose the Notes-Bibliography tab.) I suggest you print this (about 4 pages) and keep it with you as you work.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late assignments will be penalized at the rate of 3% per day, including Saturdays and Sundays.  The Proposal and the final Research Paper will be submitted electronically through an Avenue to Learn dropbox. The proposal and paper are due by 12:00 midnight on the assigned day.

We will not accept a final paper if a student has not handed in an proposal.  Proposals will be accepted up to 2 weeks after the intial due date (with the requisite late penalty)

There will be no rewrites for the in-class quizzes. If the student has an approved reason for absence (MSAF, RISO, varsity sports team, othr unavoiable committment) the instructor will create an alternate at-home assignment.


Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Schedule of Lectures and Tutorials

The specific readings and topics required for each week are posted separately on Avenue and updates on readings will also appear in the weekly checklists.  I am trying to make connections with the election as it progresses, and so I expect to be making some minor week by week adjustments to reading

I have only included the schedule for Weeks 1 and 2 here. There is a SEPARATE set of readings for your tutorials and for your lectures, both posted on Avenue and also linked through the checklists.

In general terms you will have 1 to 1 1/2 textbook chapters to read each week (We have 12 weeks of class and there are 16 chapters plus an epilogue). I may also assign short podcasts, film clips  or materials from websites.  You have a separate reading assignment for your tutorials each week.

In all university classes, you should expect to spend 2-3 hours outside of class on the course material for every hour you spend in class. We spend 3 hours together each week in class. This should be enough time to do the ongoing reading and work on longer term assignments.

Week One

Textbook and Other Reading:

            No textbook reading required

            Want some background on the Civil War? (optional)

                        Ben Franklin's World Podcasts: Episode 63 or Episode 72

http://www.benfranklinsworld.com/episode-063-megan-kate-nelson-ruin-nation-destruction-and-the-american-civil-war/ (starts with a diversion - hang in there)



            Thurs. Sept. 8: Introduction


            Tutorials Do Not Meet This Week

Week Two

Textbook and Other Reading:

            Oakes, Chapter 15 (Don't forget to go to the Oxford Student Website and     download the chapter notes guide: http://global.oup.com/us/companion.websites/9780190254865/)

            National Public Radio:  How to Remember the 1866 Memphis Massacre: http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2016/05/02/476450908/in-memphis-a-divide-over-how-to-remember-a-massacre-150-years-later          


            Monday, Sept. 12th:    Why History? (Or Why History at the University)

                                                After the Civil War: Reconstruction

            Thursday, Sept. 15th: Successes and Failures of Reconstruction



            Download and Read the Guide to Tutorials in HIS 2RR3 (see checklist)      

            Come with a list of "what you want" out of this class

Find the remainder of the schedule and the reading assignments on our Avenue Site (Content - Syllabus and Reading Lists)

Other Course Information:

Working With the Textbook in this Course


I will assume that you have read the assigned textbook chapter for the assigned date.  I will give you lots of guidance in advance and let you know the points I intend to emphasize.  I will not be repeating the list of events from the chapter in the lecture.  Instead, I will be highlighting and elaborating on specific issues. Thihs is new for me, and may be new for you, but it does mean I fully assume you have read when you come to class.

Always consult the publisher website for this textbook when you are reading.  The website gives you very concise and helpful chapter outlines with space for your notes.  Your are strongly urged to use these. http://global.oup.com/us/companion.websites/9780190254865/

Choose "For Students"/"Note Guide"/Chapter 15. Keep your notes minimal; add enough to help you remember each item and no more. If you can come up with 2-3 sentences for each of the "common threads" this is a good sign that you have understood the chapter.  Writing these sentences down is a very good way to stay on top of the course material.

Research Notes and Extra Copies of Assignments

You must keep a printout or e-copy of all assignments you submit.  You are also required to keep your research notes and drafts of your work and may be required to produce these materials.  Failure to do so may result in loss of credit for the assignment. 


Dr. Balcom’s Email Policy

For this course, all email to me must be sent from your Avenue to Learn email. This allows me to keep an accurate record of course-related email apart from the larger volume of email to my general account. This apporach adheres to the general Faculty of Humanities policy that all email originate in a McMaster account.

Email is generally not a substitute for in-person discussion. If your email requires more than a 2-sentence response, it is better suited for discussion during office hours. If you cannot make my office hours please contact me in advance in order to arrange an appointment.

Corresponding with an instructor over email is like a virtual office hour, and nobody holds office hours 24/7. I do NOT check course email every day, and I am unlikely to respond to your communication immediately. Please note that I check my course email on Monday and Thursday mornings, and you can expect a reply after these times

When you compose email messages keep the model of professional communication in mind. Emails without proper spelling, punctuation or capitalization, and emails that use online slang are not professional. I am teaching writing and communication skills in this class and will not be “laughing out loud” when I receive slang-filled, unprofessional emails. 


Classroom etiquette:

Please arrive promptly for class. If you arrive late or need to leave early, please sit in the near the doors. If you know you will need to leave early, please do me the courtesy of letting me know in advance.

Feel free to bring your caffeine with you to class (I will), but be considerate of others around you if you choose to bring a snack. We are all responsible for keeping the classroom clean.

Absolutely no texting or taking calls in class. This is rude, unprofessional and distracting for other students.

If you use a computer to take notes, all instant messenger, social networking, email and other applications must be shut down during class, otherwise you will be requested to leave your computer outside of the classroom.

You might think that you are absolutely capable of multitasking during the class, but it is very distracting for the people around you if you surf, post, update and play during class.

Basic Rule: If you would not do something in the workplace with your employer watching you, then don't do it in my class.