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  • Dr. Stephen A. Colston Department of History San Diego State University

                                   A Syllabus                                       
                            The American Southwest                                  

    General: This course surveys the more significant social, economic, political, and cultural features of the U.S. Southwest (a region comprised principally of the four border states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas) from the Spanish period up to the present. Some attention will be devoted to examining the history of southern California as a kind of "laboratory" for interpreting selected features of Southwestern history. Instruction will incorporate a variety of formats including lectures, class discussions, and audio-visual materials. Another feature of this course will be interpreting the history of the Southwest from an interdisciplinary historical perspective, that is, integrating traditional historical studies with the methodologies and sources of other disciplines such as archaeology, architecture, art history, ethnography, and literature.

    Course requirements: Course requirements include quizzes, a midterm examination, a research paper, and class participation. The quizzes and midterm exam will be based on the required materials. Required materials constitute assigned readings, lectures, discussions, and slides and films shown, and materials distributed in class. Four unannounced quizzes will be given during the semester. Each quiz will be based upon the required materials presented during the previous class meeting and/or the required readings for the week in which the quiz is given. Only the three highest scoring quizzes will be counted. The quizzes wil comprise 30% of the course grade (10% each). No make-up quizzes will be given. The midterm exam (given on October 17) will test required materials from the first through seventh weeks, and will comprise 30% of the course grade. There will be no final examination.

    A research paper will constitute 30% of the course grade. The paper (excluding notes and bibliography, c. 10-15 double-spaced pages for undergraduates and c. 15-20 double-spaced pages for graduate students) will treat some aspect(s) of the cultural history of the southwestern-most part of the Southwest, namely, the grreater San Diego region. Developing this paper will, then, provide students with the opportunity of learning about a feature of Southwestern history by actually working as research historians. Guidelines for the paper will be provided in class. Each student will have the opportunity of selecting a topic of his/her choice (within the aforementioned topical perimeter), but the topic of the paper must have the approval of the instructor. Papers are due in class on Tuesday, November 28, at 12:30pm. The final draft will be submitted at this time along with one photocopy which will be kept on file with the instructor. No late papers will be accepted for any reason; of course, papers may be submitted any time before the deadline. Students are required to summarize orally their papers to the class during the last two weeks of this class (this summary need not be more than the equivalent of a tw0-three page abstract); failure to deliver this presentation will result in the lowering by one full grade that assigned to the paper.

    Class participation, which includes discussing assigned readings and commenting upon students' oral summations of the research papers, will comprise 10% of the course grade.

    Stephen A. Colston, (ed.) APPROACHES TO HISTORICAL ARCHAEOLOGY: THE CASE OF THE ROYAL PRESIDIO OF SAN DIEGO (San Diego History Research Center/San Diego State University, 1982).

    Richard Henry Dana, TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST (Penguin, 1987).

    Jo Ann Levy, THEY SAW THE ELEPHANT: WOMEN IN THE CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH (University of Oklahoma, 1992).

    Carey McWilliams, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: AN ISLAND ON THE LAND (Peregrine Smith, 1973).

    David Rieff, LOS ANGELES: CAPITAL OF THE THIRD WORLD (Simon & Schuster, 1991).

    David J. Weber (ed.) NEW SPAIN'S FAR NORTHERN FRONTIER: ESSAYS ON SPAIN IN THE AMERICAN WEST, 1540-1821 (Southern Methodist University, 1988).

    Nathanael West, THE DAY OF THE LOCUST (New American Library, 1983).

    Recommended reading: David J. Weber, THE MEXICAN FRONTIER, 1821-1846: THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST UNDER MEXICO (University of New Mexico Press, 1982).

    Required reading assignments for each week are given below in the Course Outline. Students may begin the assigned readings at any time, of course, but they shopuld be aware that the readings which appear for a given week are to be completed before the first class meets that week, and lectures will be presented with this premise in mind. Because the lengths of these readings vary weekly, students should plan their study schedules accordingly. Discussions will be held on the required readings throughout the semester.

    The lectures have been developed to provide students with perspectives to Southwestern history which differ in varying ways from those presented in the assigned readings. Additional perspectives will be offered through several documentary videos and films shown in class.


    Week 1 Introduction to course. Southwest as a region. Historians of the Southwest. Native culture history. Reading assignment: McWilliams, Chapters 1,2 (21-29); Weber, Chapter 1.

    2 Spanish Southwest: background, explorations; early settlement. Weber, Chapters 2,3.

    3 Spanish Southwest: institutions. Weber, Chapters 4-7,12. Thursday: Tour of Special Collections, San Diego State University Library, featuring the San Diego Historical Collection.

    4 Spanish Southwest: economic, social, and cultural life. Colston; Weber, Chapters 8,9,16.

    5 Mexican Southwest: church and state. Russian California. Start Dana.

    6 Mexican Southwest: social, economic, and cultural life; separation and rebellion. In retrospect: the Hispanic Southwest as a frontier. Complete Dana; McWilliams, Chapter 2(29-41); Weber, Chapters 10-11.

    7 Mexican War. Consolidation after conquest. Filibusters. California convention. McWilliams, Chapter 3.

    8 Exploiting the land: mining, ranching, land booms. Levy; McWilliams, Chapter 6,10,11. Tuesday: Midterm.

    9 Transportation. A world of enclaves: Mormons, Chinese, Native Americans. McWilliams, Chapters 2(41-48), 5,9.

    10 Progressive era and the 1920s. Dust Bowl and the New Deal. McWilliams, Chapters 12,13,14,15.

    11 A mosaic of many cultures. McWilliams, Chapters 4,8,16,17; West.

    12 Modern times: 1940-present. McWilliams, Epilogue; Rieff.

    13 Toward the twenty-first century and the continued "Mexican connection."

    14 Student presentations. Discussion. Nov.28: Research papers (final drafts and photocopies) due in class.

    15 Student presentations. Discussion.

    Information provider:
    Unit: H-Net program at UIC History Department Email: H-Net@uicvm.uic.edu
    Posted: 12 Sep 1995

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