OSU logo                                                                                                               




History 387




The American Experience



Winter 2009  MP 1041 MW 9:30-11:18


Professor Childs


Dulles Hall 204  Phone:  292-7014 (w/message machine)  e-mail:  Childs.1@osu.edu

Office Hours:  Tuesday and Wednesday:  12:30 - 2:00 pm, and by appointment.



Description and Objectives


A lecture-reading-discussion course, History 387 offers a perspective on history that surveys the evolution of “American capitalism” within the larger framework of the development of western societies:  from pre-capitalist economies of the medieval period to what some have labeled post-industrial capitalism of the mid-to-late 20th century.  To lend coherence to the course, we shall relate the material to several themes.


The two main themes are evolution of the firm (business strategies, firm structures) and evolution of business-government relations (regulation and antitrust and fiscal and monetary policies).  Three other themes spin off from these two main themes:  evolution of management-labor relations; interactions between business and society; and, general developments in economic thought, science, and technology.  All of these forces shaped human activity within the capitalist political economy.


The student will gain factual and conceptual knowledge of the development of American capitalism.  Together, these two objectives furnish a basis for comparison to other nation states’ experience in the history of business enterprise.


I have designed this course (degree of sophistication, reading assignments, and exams) to be a 300-level course in History.  Students will have to attend lectures and take notes, read the assignments, think about the notes and readings, and then write essays and short answers on topics that require integration of the reading and the lecture material.  Thus, a third objective of the course is to improve the student’s abilities in analysis and writing.


Note:  The above goals and the readings and assignments listed below fit within the Department of History learning objectives for the History Major and the GEC learning outcomes (which follow):


3. Historical Study


History courses develop students’ knowledge of how past events influence today’s society and help them understand how humans view themselves.


1.      Students acquire a perspective on history and an understanding of the factors that shape human activity.

2.      Students display knowledge about the origins and nature of contemporary issues and develop a foundation for future comparative understanding.

3.      Students think, speak, and write critically about primary and secondary historical sources by examining diverse interpretations of past events and ideas in their historical contexts.


How does this course fit into the curriculum?


History 387 is designated in the History Major as a course from the North America Geographical region B and as a Post-1750 course.

History 387 may also fulfill one of the two courses for the GEC Historical Study category. 

History 387 is also listed as an Elective in the International Studies Major—World Economy and Business.

History 387 also serves as an introduction to (but not a required prerequisite for) two other courses in the Department of History:  587.01:  Comparative Business History and 587.02:  Science, Technology, and Business in Japan. 


Note:  All students must be officially enrolled in the course by the end of the second full week of the quarter.  No requests to add the course will be approved by the Chair after that time.  Enrolling officially and on time is solely the responsibility of the student.


Assigned Readings


Students are required to read the following books, except for the last one listed.  Study guides will be furnished for three of the books (click the links below) .  All are available at SBX. 


Horatio Alger, Ragged Dick and Mark, the Match Boy (1867, 1962).  AlgerGuide

Harold Livesay, American Made:   Shapers of  the American Economy (2nd edition; 2006). AmMadeGuide

Glenn Porter, The Rise of Big Business, 1860-1920 (3rd edition; 2007).

Upton Sinclair, The Flivver King:  A Story of Ford-America (1937, 1999).  FlivverGuide

Thomas K. McCraw, American Business, 1920-2000:  How It Worked (2nd edition; 2008).

Recommended but not required:  Blackford and Kerr, Business Enterprise in American History (3rd edition; 1994).


The two novels by Horatio Alger are primary sources (published during the period) and are assigned to introduce some core values of market capitalism and how those values clashed with the emergence of industrialism in the mid-to-late 19th century.  American Made, a secondary source (written on the basis of primary and other secondary sources) presents biographies of significant businessmen whose stories reflect the evolution of the management of large-scale American businesses (thus, this is a “text” marking the first main theme listed above).  Rise of Big Business is another “text” that presents the story of how and why big business arose and how it intersected with American culture and society.  It follows a “strategy and structure” approach to the story that highlights the history of management.  Sinclair’s novel continues to focus on some of the themes established in the Alger novels, but more intently exposes how the forces of industrialism affected workers and prompted them to organize labor unions.  That the novel was a recruitment tool for the automobile industry unions underscores it as a primary source.  Another secondary source, McCraw’s book helps us understand how American business actually operated in the twentieth century; it, too, focuses mainly on management strategies and firm structures and especially the balance between centralized and decentralized management.  The recommended-but-not-required Blackford and Kerr book furnishes a textbook approach to the course content. 


Lectures will establish contexts for the readings and fill-in holes that the readings do not cover in detail (e.g., business-government relations especially, but also labor history, economic thought, women, minorities, and small business enterprises).


Your Grade In This Course


The course grade will consist of 3 assignments.  All are take-home; all will be typed, double-spaced; and, all will be submitted to turnitin.com (see below). 


The First Assignment will consist of 5 Short Answers, each of which will be from one to one-and-one-half pages long.  The Second Assignment will be a 4-to-5-page essay discussing The Flivver King and its relation to the history of business in the 1920s and 1930s.  The Third Assignment, which is the Final Exam, will consist of Short Answers and an Essay.


The course grade will be computed in the following way:


            First Assignment:                                20%

            Second Assignment:                           30%

            Third Assignment (Final Exam):         50%


Other aspects of your course grade:


 Since the University does not record D- grades, students earning a course average below 62 will receive an E in this course.

In order to pass the course, students must pass the Final Exam with a 62 or higher.

I reserve the right to consider improvement when determining final grades.  Extraordinary participation in class discussion could raise your grade.

I will pursue cases of academic misconduct with the appropriate University committee.

Attendance policy.  I will occasionally take roll, but that is only for informational purposes.  Not attending class will ensure poor performance on the assignments.


Final Course-Grade Breakdown


A:  92.6 and above; A-:  89.6-92.5; B+:  87.6-89.5; B:  82.6-87.5; B-:  79.6-82.5; C+:  77.6-79.5; C:  72.6-77.5; C-:  69.6-72.5; D+:  67.6-69.5; D:  62-67.5; E:  below 62


Grading Your Exams


Most of your grade in this course will be based on how well you communicate in writing what you have learned.  On the 4- to 5-page essays especially, you will lose points for poor organization, lack of a thesis, misspellings, and incorrect grammar. 


You should consult my Guide to Writing Short Answers and Essays in History, and the Department of History Web page for helpful tips on writing well.  In addition, I furnish below brief descriptions of how you will earn your essay grades:


            “C” essays will include:  an introductory paragraph that contains your thesis; a body of several paragraphs in which you offer evidence from the class materials to support your thesis; and a conclusion that reiterates your basic argument.

            “B” essays will include:  All of the above requirements for a “C” essay plus more relevant data and analyses than is found in an average essay.

            “A” essays will include:  All of the above requirements for a “B” essay plus more data and some indication of independent or extended thought.

            As for “D” and “E” essays:  Usually, these essays do not include a viable thesis and/or they do not include very much information from the course.


“Evidence from the class materials” includes information from the lectures, the assigned readings, discussions (including other students’ comments), and films.  “Independent thinking” means that you made connections between class materials that were not emphasized in class.


Plagiarism Prevention Program


Please be advised:  Students agree that by taking this course all required papers and exams will be submitted by the student for textual similarity review to Turnitin.com.  All submitted papers will be included as source documents in the Turnitin.com reference database solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of such papers.  Use of the Turnitin.com service is subject to the Terms and Conditions of Use posted on the Turnitin.com site.


More information on this plagiarism-prevention program will be furnished throughout the course.  Essentially, students will have access to lessons on how to avoid plagiarism and will be asked to run a detection program themselves on their own assignments before turning them in.


You are forewarned that I will pursue cases of academic misconduct to the appropriate University committee.


See this web site for additional information on plagiarism and writing handouts:   http://cstw.osu.edu/


Disability Services

Students with disabilities that have been certified by the Office for Disability Services will be appropriately accommodated, and should inform the instructor as soon as possible of their needs. The Office for Disability Services is located in 150 Pomerene Hall, 1760 Neil Avenue; telephone
292-3307, TDD 292-0901; http://www.ods.ohio-state.edu/


Schedule of Lectures, Discussions, and Exams


Each class section will consist of lecture and discussion.  You should have the assigned reading completed before class.


Faculty in the Department of History take the position that note-taking makes an important contribution to enhancing the analytical skills necessary to perform good historical work.  Thus, I have NOT authorized a “note-taking” company to take and sell notes from this class.  In addition, I do not allow tape recorders in class.


Think about your fellow students:  If arriving in class late, take the nearest seat available unobtrusively; if you must leave a few minutes early, sit near an exit and leave quietly. 

Turn off telephones and beepers.


Note:  For the outlines of the lectures-discussions, click the links for each “Week.”


Week 1           [Am Made, Intro; begin Horatio Alger novels; click link above for study guide]


Introduction to the course

Overview of the Origins of Business History

Elements of Capitalism

European Origins of American Business History


Week 2           [Am Made, Ch 2, 3]


Market Capitalism


Political Economy of Colonial America

Business, the Revolution, and the Constitution

Adam Smith:  Prophet of Capitalism?


Week 3           [Am Made, Ch 4, 5; complete Alger novels]


Monday January 19th:  No class in honor of Martin Luther King Day.


Jefferson vs Hamilton:  Origins of American Business-Government Relations



Eli Whitney museum:  http://www.eliwhitney.org/inventor.htm


            Cyrus McCormick Demonstrating His Reaper 


            Cyrus McCormick Demonstrating His Reaper



The First Industrial Revolution


Industrial Revolution Definitions


Early Industrialism:  From General to Specialized Manufacturers and Merchants, 1790-1860



Week 4           [Am Made, Ch 7, 8; Rise of Big Business, all ]



The Second Industrial Revolution:  Emergence of Managerial and Financial Capitalism


Rise of Big Business:  Railroads and Mass Manufacturing

American Business Culture:  Discuss the Horatio Alger novels  Alger Discussion


First Assignment  posted here by Wednesday January 28th.




                                    Gross National Product , 1840-1990, GNP 


Gross National Product, U.S., 1840-1990




Week 5           [Am Made, Ch 6; begin reading The Flivver King; click link above for study guide]           


zoom in  1912 Roadster


Rise of Big Business continued:  Mass Distribution

Karl Marx:  Critic of Capitalism



Welfare-State Capitalism and Consumerism


            Nipper, RCA's mascot Nipper, RCA's mascot


First Assignment due to Turnitin.com by 9am and to me during class on Wednesday February 4th. 



Week 6           [continue The Flivver King]


Industrialism and the Worker:  Beginnings of a Labor Movement, 1860-1900

Origins of the Administrative State:  Regulation & Antitrust through World War I



Week 7           [complete Flivver King; begin reading American Business, 1920-2000, Chs 1-5]


The “New Era”:   New Strategies and Structures To Meet the Consumer Economy

Advertising the American Dream

Discuss The Flivver King                                                      



Second Assignment  posted here by Wednesday, February 18th.



The Third Industrial Revolution and American Capitalism in a Changing Global Setting


Week 8           [American Business, 1920-2000, Chs 7-10, Epilogue]


Second Assignment due to Turnitin.com by 9am and to me during class on Wednesday, February 25th.


From Illusion to Crisis in Capitalism

From Hoover to Roosevelt:  The Mixed Economy & Welfare State Capitalism

John M. Keynes to the Rescue

World War II and Business



Week 9           [Am Made, Chs 9, 10, 11]


Film:  The Corporation (CBS, 1973) 

The Affluent Society and the Organization Man

The Administrative State, 1960s-1970s:  New Societal Regulations and Economic Deregulation                                 





Map of Cold-War era Europe showing countries that received Marshall Plan aid. The red columns show the relative amount of total aid per nation.

Marshall Plan countries with relative USA financial support indicated.





Week 10         [Am Made, Ch 12; catch up on your reading!]


Final Exam posted here by Wednesday, March 11th.


Exporting Capitalism:  Americanisation/Globalization during the Cold War

The American Corporation, Organizational Capabilities, and Global Competition in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries

Film:  The Corporation, a film by Mark Arhbar, Jennifer Abbott, and Joel Bakan (2003-2004)

The Corporation DVD - Special Edition


Discuss American Made, Chs 11 & 12; Discuss American Business, 1920-2000



Student evaluation of instruction will occur through eSEIs.


The Final Exam will be due to Turnitin.com by 11:30am and to me in my office (Dulles 204) between 9:30 and 11:18am on Wednesday, March 18th.