KC Johnson

Literature of American History II


Required Books:


  • Weekly reading
  • Two 1000 word essays (due Tues. at 5, via e-mail, as assigned below) summarizing the review literature on the common assignment and examining the book’s role in the historiography
  • Six supplementary book assignments, with bullet-point summary to be posted on the course website
  • Final examination at the end of the semester

My Contact Information:


Feb. 3: Reconstruction

Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877

Feb. 10: Late 19th Century

Charles Postel, The Populist Vision (Amanda Brennan)

Supplementary readings:

  • Morton Keller, Affairs of State: Public Life in Late Nineteenth Century America (Harvard University Press, 1977) (Alexander Gailing)
  • Sven Beckert, The Monied Metropolis: New York City and the Consolidation of the American Bourgeoisie, 1850-1896 (Cambridge University Press, 2001) (Alexander Gambaccini)
  • Richard Franklin Bensel, The Political Economy of American Industrialization, 1877-1900 (Cambridge University Press, 2000) (Marc Kagan)

February 17: Progressive Era

Daniel Rodgers, Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age ; Mae Ngai, Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (Parts 1 and 2) (Alexander Gailing)

supplementary readings:

  • Michael McGerr, The Decline of Popular Politics: The American North, 1865-1928 (Oxford University Press, 1986) (Amanda Brennan)
  • Robert Wiebe, The Search for Order, 1877-1920 (Hill and Wang, 1966) (Todd Fine)
  • Moshik Temkin, The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair: America on Trial (Yale University Press, 2011) (Andrew Lang)

February 24: New Deal, World War II

David Kennedy, Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945; Ngai, Impossible Subjects (Part 3) (Todd Fine)

Supplementary readings:

  • Alan Brinkley, End of Reform: New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War (Vintage, 1996) (Alexander Gailing)
  • Colin Gordon, New Deals: Business, Labor, and Politics in America, 1920-1935 (Cambridge University Press, 1994) (Alexander Gambaccini)
  • William Leuchtenburg, Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal (2009 or earlier editions) (Marc Kagan)

March 2: Mid-Century Race & Gender

Michael Klarman, From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality; Ngai, Impossible Subjects (Part 4) (Alexander Gambaccini)

supplementary readings:

  • George Chauncey, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 (Basic, 1994) (Amanda Brennan)
  • Michael Pfeifer, Rough Justice: Lynching and American Society, 1874-1947 (2004) (Todd Fine)
  • Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era (Basic Books, 1990) (Andrew Lang)

March 9: Race, Liberalism & Urbanization

Thomas Sugrue, Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Andrew Lang)

supplementary readings:

  • David Freund, Colored Property: State Policy and White Racial Politics in Suburban America (University of Chicago Press, 2007) (Alexander Gailing)
  • Karl Boyd Brooks, Before Earth Day: The Origins of American Environmental Law, 1945–1970 (University of Kansas Press, 2009) (Alexander Gambaccini)
  • Owen Gutfreund, Twentieth-Century Sprawl: Highways and the Reshaping of the American Landscape (Oxford University Press, 2005) (Marc Kagan)


March 16: United States & The World

Fredrik Logevall, Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam (Marc Kagan)

supplementary readings:

  • Tim Naftali and Alexandr Fursenko, “One Hell of a Gamble“: Khrushchev, Castro, and Kennedy, 1958-1964 (WW Norton, 1997) (Amanda Brennan)
  • John Lewis Gaddis,George F. Kennan: An American Life (Penguin, 2011) (Todd Fine)
  • Kurkpatrick Dorsey, Whales and Nations: Environmental Diplomacy on the High Seas (University of Washington Press, 2014) (Andrew Lang)

March 23: Transition Day

March 30: The 1970s

Judith Stein, Pivotal Decade: How the United States Traded Factories for Finance in the Seventies (Amanda Brennan)

supplementary readings:

  • Jefferson Cowie, Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class(New Press, 2010) (Alexander Gailing)
  • Nelson Lichtenstein, State of the Unions: A Century of American Labor(Princeton University Press, 2002) (Alexander Gambaccini)
  • William Graebner, Patty’s Got a Gun: Patricia Hearst in 1970s America (University of Chicago Press, 2008) (Marc Kagan)

April 6:  Conservatism

Alan Brinkley, “The Problem of American Conservatism,” American Historical Review, Volume 99, Issue 2 (Apr. 1994), 409-429; Matthew Lassiter, The Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South (Alexander Gailing)

supplementary readings:

  • Joseph Crespino, In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution (Princeton University Press, 2007) (Amanda Brennan)
  • Kevin McMahon, Nixon’s Court: His Challenge to Judicial Liberalism and Its Political Consequences (University Press of Chicago, 2011) (Todd Fine)
  • Steven Miller, Billy Graham and the Rise of the Republican South(University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009) (Andrew Lang)

April 13: History & Memory

Patrick Hagopian, The Vietnam War in American Memory: Veterans, Memorials, and the Politics of Healing (Todd Fine)

supplementary readings:

  • Philip Napoli, Bringing It All Back Home: An Oral History of New York City’s Vietnam Veterans(Hill and Wang, 2013) (Alexander Gailing)
  • Linethal and Engelhardt, eds., History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past (Holt, 1996) (Alexander Gambaccini)
  • Alessandro Portelli, They Say in Harlan County: An Oral History(Oxford University Press, 2010) (Marc Kagan)

April 20: Recent History                                      

Sean Wilentz, The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974-2008 (Alexander Gambaccini)

Supplementary readings:

  • Louis Hyman, Debtor Nation: The History of America in Red Ink (Princeton University Press, 2010) (Amanda Brennan)
  • Colin Gordon, Dead on Arrival: The Politics of Health Care in 20thCentury America (Princeton University Press, 2004) (Todd Fine)
  • Susan Levine, School Lunch Politics: The Surprising History of America’s Favorite Welfare Program (Princeton University Press, 2008) (Andrew Lang)

April 27: Spring Break

May 4:  Civil Rights & Civil Liberties

Dale Carpenter, Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas (Andrew Lang)

supplementary readings:

  • Lauri Lebo, The Devil in Dover: An Insider Story of Dogma v. Darwin in Small-Town America (New Press, 2009) (Alexander Gailing)
  • David Garrow, Liberty and Sexuality: The Right to Privacy and the Making of Roe v. Wade (Berkeley: University of California Press, rev. ed.) (Alexander Gambaccini)
  • Kristin Luker, When Sex Goes to School: Warring Views on Sex—And Sex Education—Since the Sixties (WW Norton, 2006) (Marc Kagan)

May 11: History & Biography

David Nasaw, The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life of and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy (Marc Kagan)

supplementary readings:

  • Robert Caro, Master of the Senate: Years of Lyndon Johnson, Vol. 3 (Knopf, 2002) (Amanda Brennan)
  • Jean Baker, Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion (Hill and Wang, 2011) (Todd Fine)
  • Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-1963 (Simon and Schuster, 1989) (Andrew Lang)

May 18: Review

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