Description of Course Goals and CurriculumECO 370 / HIS 378 is an interdisciplinary course that analyzes American history through an economic lens. The course begins with an overview of the methodology of economic history and theory of economic growth. It then moves directly into a general American history curriculum, beginning with the Colonial Period and ending with the Great Recession. As the course is ultimately an economics course, a large emphasis is placed on the Great Depression and Great Recession eras – their causes, consequences, and relationship to each other. Other topics that appear consistently throughout the course include the role of labor markets, property rights, financial institutions, transportation, and innovation. The goal of the course is to be able to identify and understand the drivers and contributors of economic growth in America’s history.
Learning From Classroom InstructionECO 370 consists of two lectures and one precept each week. In lecture, Professor Bogan moves quickly and covers a large amount of material. She generally gives an overview of the time period and any important historical facts, then moves on to analyze the period from an economic angle. As the PPT slides are posted on Blackboard before each lecture, it can be extremely helpful to type notes directly in the PPT as Professor Bogan speaks. The additional voiced-over information is just as important as what’s written out on the slides. Graphs and diagrams are also used generously in the course. As these play a large role in the midterm and final, it is extremely important to understand both the mechanisms of how they work and their implications. An ECO 100 background is assumed here (basic supply and demand graphs, subsidies, taxes, etc.). Any significant graphs will be drawn out in detail in the slides and explained in lecture. Creating personal study groups and regularly attending office hours are highly recommended. Professor Bogan is always happy to walk through any confusing concepts or readings, as well as help brainstorm ways to synthesize information across time periods. In precept, the emphasis will be on the discussion questions provided at the end of each week’s readings in the Pequod. It is helpful to scan these questions prior to doing the readings to get an idea of what to focus on. While the preceptor will lead the first few precepts, each student must also lead a discussion on an approved topic at some point in the term (see the next section for more details).
Learning For and From AssignmentsThere are no problem sets, but rather reading reflections called “weekly question write-ups” (worth a total of 5%). These are based on discussion questions included in the 2-part Pequod packet, which consists mostly of papers from academic journals and textbooks. As the readings can add up to 150 pages per week, it is essential to stay caught up. The Pequod also contains optional readings – these are interesting for further reading, but will never be tested on. A useful strategy is to compile a document of reading notes as you go that includes the key information from each article: for example, author (Professor Bogan includes author names in exam questions, so associating authors with their ideas can help with memorization), conclusions, main evidence, points emphasized in precept/lecture, etc. It is important to understand the key takeaways of each article, as the readings are the main source of questions for the exams. Having a document of notes is great for studying, as it is difficult to flip through the Pequod and try to remember the main point from a 50-page reading assigned four weeks ago. Regarding assessments, there is one midterm exam (worth 35%) and one final exam (worth 40%), which is not cumulative. The midterm covers the pre-Civil War period, and the final covers the post-Civil War period. The exams are the same format and split into several parts: true/false and multiple choice, short answer, and essay. There is a lot of factual memorization required for the true/false and multiple choice sections. However, the short answer and essay questions focus on the analysis of diagrams, synthesis of large amounts of information, and contrast of different events during different time periods. (For example, the similarities and differences between the Great Depression and the Great Recession.) Approximately a week before each exam, Professor Bogan will provide a study guide that contains a list of the most important topics and a list of any graphs and diagrams that may be tested on. It is extremely important to review these topics and understand the dynamics of each diagram. As a few of these diagrams will definitely be on the exam, it is worth the time to practice reproducing each graph and explaining its implications. A practice exam with solutions will also be posted – this is useful for getting familiarized with Professor Bogan’s questioning style. Finally, each student must also lead a discussion in precept on a pre-approved topic at some point in the term. For that week, the presenter must prepare a handout/PPT slides and an annotated bibliography (together worth 15%). These presentation outlines end up being very helpful when studying for exams, as they summarize the most important takeaways from that week’s topic. Precept participation accounts for the last 5% of the final grade.
External ResourcesAmerican Economic History by Jonathan Hughes and Louis Cain is the required text for the class. However, Professor Bogan specifically states that nothing from the assigned textbook readings that is not covered in lecture will be on the exams. Thus, the lectures and readings in the 2-part Pequod remain the most important resources. The textbook is mainly for those who have never taken an American history course before – the textbook can offer more context and additional background information for those unfamiliar with the time period being covered in lecture.
What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course SelectionECO 370 satisfies the HA distribution requirement and is a popular elective for a number of majors. While it is not a requirement for any program, the class provides students with an economic framework that can be used to analyze situations far beyond just those from US history. It is important to note that ECO 100 and ECO 101 are strict prerequisites and necessary to understand the diagrams and underlying concepts throughout the course. Having taken a US history class in the past is also helpful and allows for more time to focus on the economic aspects and implications, but not necessary. For those who have not taken US history before, the textbook is a great resource that offers an introduction and background information on each time period. Additionally, the course cannot be PDF’d. Thus, it is important to evaluate the course early on and stay caught up throughout the term.
American Economic History