Syllabus for Economic History of the United States (ECON 3100)

Offered at California State University, Stanislaus by Economics Dept., Spring 2014, for 3 units 

Class meets Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays 9:00-9:50 am in C106.



 Elaine Peterson 

 Office hours:

In Turlock: M,W,F 10-11 am, &


 101 D Bizzini Hall


                   Wed. 5-5:40 pm

 Office Phone:


 In Stockton: Thurs. 5:00-5:45 pm

 Home Phone:

 529-3804 (Please, no calls after 8:00pm) 

 and also by appointment

 Official Email:



 More reliable email especially for longer emails or attachments please use


Course Description: Analysis of American business organizations and economic growth from colonial period to present with emphasis on evolution and changes in the American system.

Course Objectives: Introduce students to key issues in U.S. Economic History with particular emphasis on themes of growth, efficiency, equity, structural and institutional changes, and the interpretive nature of history.

Upper Division General Education Requirement: This class meets the upper division general education requirement for the area “Social, Economic, and Political Institutions and Human Behavior” (F.3).  To get proper credit for this class you should either already have at least junior standing (over 60 college units) or achieve over 60 units this semester.  If neither applies I strongly recommend taking this class later in your academic career.  Also if you are an economics major this class will count as an elective in your major, but will not meet the upper division general education requirement for the area F.3.  Upper division general education requirements must be met with classes outside your major. 

Brief summary of how this course fulfills the UD GE area F.3 goals:

1.      Subject Knowledge:  This course looks at the economic history of the United States from before its formation in colonial times through the present.  By analyzing why many of the choices in our history were made and their economic consequences using basic economic principles, methods, and techniques the students learn many of the basic major tools and concepts in economics.  For example, using simple microeconomic concepts such as opportunity costs helps us understand choices of early immigrants; studying how increases in the money supply during the revolution led to hyperinflation and a collapse of the value of the continental helps us understand macroeconomic policy tradeoffs. 

2.      Communication: Students have the opportunity to improve their communication skills in several ways.  Class discussion and participation help students improve their verbal skills.  The students have the opportunity to write 3 papers and 3 essay exams encouraging them to develop their ability to communicate ideas through writing.  Students are also required to subscribe to a class email discussion list.  Potentially this can encourage them to learn how to use technology to communicate.

3.      Inquiry and Critical Thinking: In their papers students are required to briefly summarize key ideas or interpretations of economic history and then analyze the issues involved from an economic perspective.  This analysis requires critical thinking about why the issue they’ve chosen is important, why people made the choices they did and the consequences from an economic perspective.  They also must think critically about the information in their text and other reading in order to understand it well and be able to answer essay questions well.  The economic tools for analysis that they learn can be applied to many other situations and facilitate lifelong learning.   In U.S. history we see many changes that have affected how our economy works and the well-being of our people.  In terms of life-long learning I hope that this also gets across that nothing is static and there always will be new things to learn.  This is especially important for the many future teachers that take this class given the interpretive nature of history and how the “story” sometimes changes as we get more information.  We discuss this in terms of new information on early colonists, wars, statistical data on the impact of the railroads and insights into the causes of the Great Depression.

4.      Information Retrieval and Evaluation: In this class in order to do their papers students must “find, understand, examine critically, and use information from various sources”. 

5.      Interdisciplinary Relationships: Economics looks at how people choose to use their scarce resources to try to meet their unlimited wants.  History looks at the stories of what has happened in the past.  Economic History looks at these stories and relates them to how they help us better understand the choices people make, and hopefully helps us make wiser choices in the future.

6.      Global or Multicultural Perspectives: This course includes discussion of the many different backgrounds and economic institutional arrangements that are part of our history. 

7.      Social Responsibility:  In this class we discuss the motivations for immigration, war, social change, oppression, investment, growth, modifications of economic institutions, efficiency and equity.  All of these involve social and ethical issues.  For example, we discuss the motivations for war, the costs of war, redistributive justice, and the war on poverty.

Text: Jonathan Hughes and Louis P. Cain, American Economic History, 8th ed., Harper Collins, 2011.

Selected readings: Fogel, Robert, Without Consent or Contract, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., N.Y., N.Y., 1989 and Temin, Peter "The Great Depression", National Bureau of Economic Research, 1994. Some materials of interest to students are also available on the Internet, such as through the course web page for this class or through Blackboard.

Grading: Grading is intended to reflect evidence of student knowledge & understanding. Opportunities to provide evidence include: class participation and short assignments, short papers, and exams. The weights used in your final grade for these activities are:


Grading Weight

Class participation & short assignments 


Short papers


First Exam


Second Exam


Final Exam


Pluses and minuses will be included in grades. This class may be taken for a letter grade or for credit/no credit (CR/NC). You must earn a C- or higher to receive credit (CR). If you would like to change to the CR/NC option please use an add/drop form.

Class participation & short assignments: Regular attendance is expected. Reading should be done prior to class to enable participation.  If you must miss a class please contact me in advance or as soon as practical.  In some cases you may have an opportunity to make up work. Attendance will affect the class participation portion of the grade. Short assignments may be announced in class or via email. WASC accreditation standards indicate that for every hour in class students should be spending 2 to 3 hours studying.  This class meets 3 hours per week, so you should be studying 6 to 9 hours outside of class as well.  Please plan your time accordingly and try to use it efficiently.  For example, if you do not understand something, make a note of it and bring it up in class as soon as possible.  Even if you do not have an explicit written assignment to hand in, you always have reading to do and think about.  The chapters relating to the material we will be discussing in each class are indicated in the schedule below. When in class try to engage your mind in the material.  This includes thinking about the topic at hand, respectfully listening to your colleagues’ comments and questions, and offering your thoughtful comments and questions on the topic we are discussing.  Be sure to turn off beepers and cell phones.

Email: All students should join the email discussion list for this class as another way to participate and increase their learning experience.  Please submit your email address to the professor in writing or by sending an email message with your email address, your name, and the name of the class.  In all email messages please try to remember to indicate your full name, the name of the class, and a subject heading.  This basic information helps people know if they want to read your message.  There are a lot of junk emails, viruses, and worms going around so often people will delete your message without reading it if you forget such key information. 


Blackboard access: You can go to the web page and use your student id as your login and your CSU email password to get into a set of web pages restricted to students in the class.  Under ECON3100, “Course Information” are some PowerPoint slide presentations I use in class.  If you decide to access these, I strongly recommend that you DO NOT just hit print.  Some of the slide presentations are quite long. It would be smarter to download them to look them over.  Then if you would like a printed copy go into PowerPoint, under print, choose the slides you want based on the page numbers, under “Print what” choose “handouts”, and under “slides per page” choose “6”.  This will kill fewer trees and less of your budget. Some readings for the class are under “Course Documents”.


Exams: You are encouraged to work together in studying, but not during exams. Cheating will result in a failing grade.  Exams will involve essays. Essays should be well organized and thorough to indicate understanding and thought regarding the material covered. Examples of practice essay questions used last semester can be found through the course web page for this class Please note the dates of the exams in the schedule below and avoid scheduling conflicting activities.  In the event of an emergency remember my doctorate is in economics, not medicine.  After receiving appropriate medical treatment, as soon as practical, please get in touch with me by phone or email.  When leaving phone messages please remember to speak slowly and leave your full name, class, and phone number.  Say the phone number slowly.


Short papers: You have the opportunity to write 3 short papers on areas of U.S. economic history that interest you. Your 2 highest graded papers will be used for the paper portion of the course grade. The third paper may be a rewritten version of one of your earlier two papers, but you need at least 2 different papers.

*For the first paper you are required to submit a brief Paper Topic Report in writing in advance, including 1) your name 2) your tentative title 3) at least one specific reference (author, title, name of article or book, date, pages) you plan to use other than your text. (Note Due date in the schedule below.)

Choosing an interesting feasible topic is one of the parts of research and writing that most people find difficult. Therefore, you should probably start thinking about what you might like to write about immediately. Once you have a few ideas you should try to determine if they are feasible as paper topics given the due dates in the syllabus, the page guidelines, and the resources you have available. Frequently you may start with a broad area in which you are interested.  Then as you learn more about the topic, you can narrow what you will write about to a particular aspect, question, group of people, or time frame. Your topic should clearly tie to U.S. Economic History. Some people find looking through the table of contents and lists of references in the text a good way to stimulate topic ideas.  Sometimes thinking about what is missing may stimulate ideas, but be sure you can find information on your topic.

Some of you may also find the library’s website of research guides helpful

Your paper should briefly summarize key ideas or interpretations of economic history relevant to your topic and analyze the issues involved from an economic perspective.   The papers should be 3-4 double spaced pages, plus a title page and a reference page with complete citations.  All sources should be cited. Please use a 12 point font, one inch margins, and number your pages.  Be careful to use your own words.  If you choose to quote anyone keep in mind that you need to include quotation marks in addition to citing the source of the general information. Plagiarism will result in a failing grade for the course.

You are strongly encouraged to visit the writing center in the student union building. You can go in person to make an appointment or call 667-3465. They usually need a couple of days to give a reasonable response, but may also have some drop in hours (call to check). Keep in mind in a private setting these services would usually cost $10-$25 and hour, yet here you can receive them at no additional cost other than your time if you sign up. You are also welcome to submit preliminary drafts to me prior to the due dates for comments.

You may also discuss your papers together and give each other helpful comments on your papers. If you receive substantial help from another student in the class you should cite them in your paper. In the economics field professional recognition is given for frequent citation.  Similarly if your paper is good, they will be given extra credit towards the class participation portion of their grade.

Be sure your paper has basic required elements before you turn it in such as:

Your name

Paper Title


Relates to U.S. Economic History

Includes your analysis from an economic perspective

Papers should be submitted electronically to BlackBoard where they will be scanned by and compared to many sources available on the internet for plagiarism. An advantage of this approach is that you should be able to see the report from  If you submit your paper early to this program and find an unintended omission of quotation marks you can correct the problem and resubmit your paper overwriting the original submission.  It also may help make you aware if you have a tendency to over use quotes and should think about how to sum up key ideas in your own words more.  To submit the electronic copy of your paper go to    Login using your CSU Stanislaus email login and password. Select the course Economic History of the U.S.  On the left hand side select Assignments. Then select View/Complete. Enter the fields and upload your paper.  Please also give me a paper copy of your paper.

Your paper MUST include references. The key concept in citing references is to give sufficient information so that the busy but interested reader can very easily find the information that you are using for your paper.  For more guidance visit  In your papers a web address alone is not considered a full citation.  For more advice on citing web sources you may wish to visit: Elizabeth Angeli, Jodi Wagner, Elena Lawrick, Kristen Moore, Michael Anderson, Lars Soderlund, Allen Brizee, Russell Keck, Reference List: Electronic Sources (Web Publications), Sept, 2013,

Some examples of acceptable citation formats include:

Fogel, Robert, "Robert William Fogel - Autobiography",, 1993,, accessed Jan. 27, 2011


Jonathan Hughes and Louis P. Cain, "Chapter 10: The Debate Over Slavery", American Economic History, 6th ed., Harper Collins, 2003, p. 182-199.


  Economic History of the United States Spring 2014 Schedule




M Jan. 27

Introduction & Overview; The Colonial Period


W Jan. 29

European Settlement and Colonial Institutions 

Ch. 1 & 2

F Jan. 31

Colonial Institutions & Economic Development 

Ch. 2 & 3

M Feb. 3

Economic Development and The Revolution

Ch. 3 & 4

W Feb. 5

Economic Development and The Revolution

Ch. 3 & 4

F Feb. 7

The Revolution and new U.S. Institutional Development

Ch. 4 & 5

M Feb. 10

New U.S. Institutional Development & Westward Expansion

Ch. 5

W Feb. 12

Westward Expansion


F Feb. 14

Population & Labor

Ch. 6

M Feb. 17

Law, Property Rights & Capitalism First Paper Topic Report Due


W Feb. 19

Infrastructure & Urbanization  


F Feb. 21

Infrastructure & Urbanization & Early U.S. production 

Ch. 8 & 9

M Feb. 24

Early U.S. production 

Ch. 9

W Feb. 26

Developments in Agriculture & Industry 

Ch. 9 & 11

F Feb. 28

Developments in Agriculture & Industry 

Ch. 9 & 11

M Mar. 3

Economic questions regarding slavery First Paper Due 

Ch. 10

W Mar. 5

Economic questions regarding slavery (continued) 
"The Moral Problem of Slavery"      

Fogel Ch. 3 & Afterword

F Mar. 7

The Financial System and International Trade 

Ch. 12

M Mar. 10

Economic Effects of the Civil War 

Ch. 13

W Mar. 12

Economic Effects of the Civil War 

Ch. 13

F Mar. 14

First Exam 


M Mar. 17

Post Civil War Overview & Development

Ch. 14 

W Mar. 19

Economic Development & Examining the Role of the Railroads

Ch. 14 

F Mar. 21

Post Civil War Agriculture

Ch. 15

M Mar. 24

Post Civil War Immigration and Population growth 

Ch. 16 

W Mar. 26

Post Civil War Urbanization and Industrialization 

Ch. 17

F Mar. 28

Post Civil War Big Business & Antitrust 

Ch. 18 

M Mar. 31

Cesar Chavez Day Campus Closed


W Apr. 2

Early Post Civil War Finance 

Ch. 19

F Apr. 4

Post Civil War International Relations 

Ch. 20

M Apr. 7

Post Civil War Organization of Labor 

Ch. 21

W Apr. 9

Income Taxes, World War I Economy, & Influenza

Ch. 22 

F Apr. 11

Income Taxes, World War I Economy, & Influenza Second Paper Due

Ch. 22

M Apr. 14

"Normalcy" to the Great Depression   

Ch. 23 & 24

M Apr. 16

The Great Depression 

Ch. 24 & Temin paper 

W Apr. 18

The Great Depression 

Ch. 24 & Temin paper 


April 21 – 25 Spring Break


M Apr. 28

The New Deal 

Ch. 25

W Apr. 30

Second Exam


F May 2

Wartime Prosperity 

Ch. 26

M May 5

Early Post-World War II 

Ch. 27

W May 7

Comparing the New Deal & the War on Poverty

Ch. 27

F May 9

Tertiary Sector & the Labor Force,

Modern Industrial Developments, the “New Economy” & Agriculture

Ch. 28 & 29


M May 12

Continue Tertiary Sector and the Labor Force   Third Paper Due

Modern Industrial Developments, the “New Economy” & Agriculture

Ch. 28 & 29


W May 14

The “New Economy” & Agriculture, Camelot, Supply Side economics 

Ch. 30 

F May 16

1990s + …Glimpses Ahead Shaped by the Past (last class) 

Ch. 31

W May 21

FINAL EXAM 8:30 am – 10:30 am in room where class is regularly held (Comprehensive)