The Catastrophe in American History

History 103D.002

Spring 2016
Section: 
002
Instructor: 
Location: 
332 Giannini
Day & Time: 
W 400-600
CCN: 
39369
Units: 
4

This seminar examines catastrophes in America since the turn of the eighteenth century. We will push back against the instinct to see catastrophes as natural or beyond comprehension and instead examine their historical production. We will consider what qualified as a catastrophe or distinguished catastrophes from disasters, and how each term changed over time. We will also explore how ordinary people, states, and experts attempted to foresee, explain, locate responsibility for, and remedy catastrophes. How did catastrophes around the world change the everyday experience of inhabiting a building, praying, donating to charity, marking time, and using mass transit? To answer these questions, we will consider earthquakes, fires, epidemics, explosions, bombings, hurricanes, tsunamis, famines, and economic depressions.

Course Books

The Rise of American Air Power: Creation of Armageddon by Sherry, Michael Yale. ISBN: 978-0300044140 Required
This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Faust, Drew Gilpin Vintage. ISBN: 978-0375703836 Required
The Day Wall Street Exploded: A Story of America in Its First Age of Terror by Gage, Beverly Oxford. ISBN: 978-0199759286 Required
The Sympathetic State: Disaster Relief and the Origins of the American Welfare State by Dauber, Michele Landis University of Chicago. ISBN: 978-0226923499 Required
The Sympathetic State: Disaster Relief and the Origins of the American Welfare State by Dauber, Michele Landis University of Chicago. ISBN: 978-0226923499 Required
The Earthquake Observers: Disaster Science from Lisbon to Richter by Coen, Deborah University of Chicago. ISBN: 978-0226212050 Required
Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America by Steinberg, Ted Oxford. ISBN: 978-0195309683 Required