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HIST 491
The Suburbs Fall 2020
Division II
Cross-listed AMST 490 / ENVI 491 / HIST 491

Class Details

The suburbs transformed the United States. At the broadest level, they profoundly altered spatial residential geography (especially in terms of race), consumer expectations and behavior, governmental policies, cultural norms and assumptions, societal connections, and Americans’ relationship to nature. More specifically, the different waves of post-World War II suburban development have both reflected large-scale shifts in how power and money have operated in the American political economy; and set in motion deep-seated changes in electoral politics, in Americans’ understandings of how their income should be used, and in how the built landscape should be re-imagined. This tutorial will explore the rich historical literature that has emerged over the last twenty years to provide students with a history of the suburbs, to see the suburbs as more than simply collections of houses that drew individual homeowners who wanted to leave urban areas. We will focus most of our attention on the period from 1945 through the 1980s. Some of the questions we will consider will include: how did the first wave of suburban development bring together postwar racial and Cold War ideologies? Is it possible, as one historian has argued, that suburbs actually created the environmental movement of the 1960s? And how have historians understood the role that suburbs played in America’s conservative political turn, leading to the election of Ronald Reagan?
The Class: Format: tutorial; Remote for fall 2020. As in a regular semester, I'll work with enrolled students to set up a schedule for our tutorial meetings, which will occur online. At a couple junctures during the semester, we will also try to meet online as a whole class, as well as have a few small group discussions.
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 2904
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: typical tutorial format; every other week, students will write and present orally a 5- to 7-page essay on the assigned readings; on alternate weeks, students will write a 2-page critique. During two of the weeks of the semester (around the middle of the semester and at the end), all students will write papers that explore a common question or theme.
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: History majors and students with previous coursework in History
Distributions: Division II
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
AMST 490 Division II ENVI 491 Division II HIST 491 Division II

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