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History 387  History of American Capitalism


Winter 2012                                                                            9:30-11:18 Koffolt Lab 207


Prof. Childs

Dulles 204.  Office Hours:   Monday and Wednesday, 12:30 – 1:30pm, and by appointment.  phone:  614-292-7014.


TA:  Matthew Ambrose  Office Hours:  Monday 11:30 to 1, and Friday, 10:30 to noon in Dulles 322.


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.


Descripton and Objectives.


History 387 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 and global capitalism of the mid-to-late 20th century.  The course focuses on various interactions between business and society within an evolving capitalist political-economy.  These interactions include evolution of the firm (business strategies, firm structures); business-government relations (regulation, antitrust, fiscal, and monetary policies); management-labor relations (unions and other social movements); and economic thought (Adam Smith, Karl Marx, John M. Keynes).  


The student will gain factual and conceptual knowledge of the development of American capitalism.  Together, these objectives furnish a basis for comparison to other nation states’ experience with varieties of capitalism and other political-economic systems (socialism, communism).


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, another 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 courses for the GEC Historical Study category.  (Note:  Five hours of History taken at the 200-level or above may be double-counted for the GEC Historical Study and the History Minor for students entering OSU before Summer 2013.  For students entering under the semester system, up to four courses in History may be used for the new GE and for the History Minor.)

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:  History of Capitalism in Global and Comparative Perspective and 587.02:  Science, Technology, and Business in Japan. 

History 387 used to be “Introduction to Business History:  The American Experience.”  Students with credit for that course (or its previous life as History 564) may not take this version for credit.


Assigned Readings.


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


Horatio Alger, Ragged Dick (1867, 1962). 


Harold Livesay, American Made:   Shapers of the American Economy (3rd edition; 2012).


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


Thomas K. McCraw, American Business Since 1920:  How It Worked (2nd edition; 2009).

Mansel Blackford, A History of Small Business in America (2nd edition; 2003).

Small Business Guide


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


The novel by Horatio Alger is a primary source (published during the period) and is 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.  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 Blackford text on small business offers a balance to the focus on large-scale business in the other readings and lectures.  The recommended-but-not-required Blackford and Kerr book furnishes a textbook approach to some of 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 and economic thought).


Your Grade In This Course.


Your course grade will consist of four assignments.  All are take-home and will be submitted to Carmen.  The first, second, and fourth (final exam) will be typed and double-spaced and also submitted as a paper copy to the instructor.


The first assignment will include short answers and an essay (four-to-five pages) connecting the Alger novel to chapters in the Livesay book; the second assignment will include an essay (four-to-five pages) connecting lecture material to the novel, The Flivver King; the third assignment will be a multiple-choice/fill-in-the-blank exam posted on Carmen that focuses on the Blackford book; and the final exam will include some comprehensive material in the short answers as well as an essay (four-to-five pages) that focuses on the McCraw book.


The course grade will be computed in the following way:


            First Assignment:                                20%

            Second Assignment:                           20%

            Third Assignment:                              15%                

            Fourth Assignment (Final Exam):       45%


Other aspects of your course grade:


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


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


No late papers will be accepted.  Students are expected to submit their electronic essays to the Carmen Dropbox on time and to hand in a paper copy of the assignment in class on the day the assignment is due.  Similarly, if you do not submit your third assignment to Carmen by the ending time, you will receive a zero for that assignment.


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


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.  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, the Department of History Web page for helpful tips, and the Center for the Study of Teaching and Writing home page (CSTW) for tips on writing, and especially its web page on plagiarism.


Below are 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 much evidence from the class materials.


“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.

You are forewarned that I will pursue cases of academic misconduct to the appropriate University committee:  (Faculty Rule 3335-5-487). For additional information, see the Code of Student Conduct (

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;



Schedule of Topics and Assignments


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 novel; click links above for study guide]


Wed. January 4:  Introduction to the course

Overview of the Origins of American Capitalism

Elements of Capitalism

Begin European Origins of American Capitalism


Week 2           [Am Made, Ch 2, 3; Small Business, Introduction.]


Mon. January 9:  Continue European Origins of American Capitalism


Market Capitalism


Political Economy of Colonial America


Wed. January 11:  Business, the Revolution, and the Constitution

Adam Smith:  Prophet of Capitalism?


Week 3           [Am Made, Ch 4, 5; complete Alger novel; Small Business, Ch 1]


Monday January 16:  No class in honor of Martin Luther King Day.


Wed. January 18:  Jefferson vs Hamilton:  Origins of American Business-Government Relations


The First Industrial Revolution


Industrial Revolution Definitions


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


Eli Whitney Museum


            Cyrus McCormick Demonstrating His Reaper 


            Cyrus McCormick Demonstrating His Reaper



Week 4           [Am Made, Ch 7, 8; Small Business, Ch 2, 3 ]



The Second Industrial Revolution:  Emergence of Managerial and Financial Capitalism


Mon. January 23:  Rise of Big Business:  Railroads and Mass Manufacturing


Wed.  January 25:  First Assignment posted here.


American Business Culture:  Discuss the Horatio Alger novels.

Rise of Big Business:  Mass Distribution.


Gross National Product , 1840-1990, GNP 


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


Week 5           [Am Made, Ch 6; begin reading The Flivver King; Small Business, Ch 4, 5]


zoom in  1912 Roadster


Mon. January 30:  Karl Marx:  Critic of Capitalism

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


Wed. February 1:  First Assignment due during class (electronic version submitted to Carmen Dropbox by 11:30am). 


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


Welfare-State Capitalism and Consumerism



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




Week 6           [continue The Flivver King; Small Business, Ch 6, 7]


Mon.  February 6:   The “New Era”:   New Strategies and Structures to Meet the Consumer Economy


Wed.  February 8:  Advertising the American Dream

From Illusion to Crisis in Capitalism


Week 7           [complete Flivver King; begin reading American Business, 1920-2000, Chs 1-5; Small Business, Ch 6, 7, 8]


Mon.  February 13:  Discuss The Flivver King                                                                     


Wed.  February 15:  Second Assignment  posted here.


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


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



Week 8           [American Business, 1920-2000, Chs 7-10, Epilogue; Small Business, Ch 8, 9]


Mon. February 20:  John M. Keynes to the Rescue

World War II and Business


Wed. February 22:  Second Assignment due during class (electronic version submitted to Carmen Dropbox by 11:30am). 


The Affluent Society and the Organization Man


Week 9           [Am Made, Chs 9, 10, 11; Small Business, Conclusion]


Mon. February 27:  Film:  The Corporation (CBS, 1973) (selected portions)

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


Wed. February 29:  Exporting Capitalism:  Americanisation/Globalization during the Cold War

Third Assignment posted on Carmen.  You have 48 hours to complete the assignment and post it on the Carmen Dropbox.  Time-frame:  1pm Wed. February 29 – to 1pm Friday March 2.



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]


Mon. March 5:  Final Exam posted here.


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


Wed. March 7:  Film:  The Corporation, a film by Mark Arhbar, Jennifer Abbott, and Joel Bakan (2003-2004) (selected portions).


The Corporation DVD - Special Edition


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


You will deliver the paper copy of your Final Exam to my office (Dulles 204) on Wednesday March 14 between 9:30 and 11:18am.  You will deliver the electronic version to the Carmen Dropbox by 11:30am that day. 


Student evaluation of instruction will occur through eSEIs.