The American West Since 1845

History 126B

Spring 2011
101 Moffitt
Day & Time: 
TuTh 11-12:30P
  • This course satisfies the American Cultures Requirement.
  • This course surveys the history of the American West since 1845. We will pay particular heed to the history and historiography surrounding those aspects of the West that are typically associated with the region's distinctiveness as both a shifting region on the national map and a potent metaphor in the national imagination. These include: a cultural history propagated in film and literature in which the region occupies center stage in the drama of America's development as a democratic society; an ethnoracial history that consists of a complex, multiracial (as opposed to biracial) pattern of race relations; an environmental history shaped by a scarcity of water amidst an abundance of extractive resources; an urban history characterized by the nation's highest concentration of urbanization and an approach to metropolitan development that shaped that of the rest of the nation; and a political history shaped by an especially pervasive federal government presence in the region's development along with being a national bellwether for both liberal action and conservative reaction. Throughout the course, we will reflect on whether claims about the West's distinctiveness are in fact regionally and analytically distinctive, or whether its time, as some historians have recently declared, to abandon the history of the American West as a historical sub-field.