HSTAA 345 A: Making Modern America: Business and Politics

Autumn 2022
MWF 1:00pm - 2:20pm / SMI 304
Section Type:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

Colllage of 20th c images   

HSTAA 345A - Autumn 2022 - University of Washington - Prof. Margaret O'Mara  (she/her)

Meeting time and location: MWF 1:00-2:20 in Smith 304


How has American capitalism changed over the last century, and who has been responsible for making thosechanges? How do politics and policy shape markets and business enterprise, and vice versa? How has the United States’ capitalist democracy defined and enabled economic opportunity over the course of a century? Centering these questions, this course explores the people, ideas, institutions, and movements making modern American business and politics, 1920 to present.


This class meets three days a week. Monday and Wednesday are mainly lectures with some discussion and writing breaks. Fridays will be mostly discussion of the week’s readings or films. We will spend some class periods doing online/offline research work instead having class (details in Key Dates below).


All required readings are free and available to enrolled students on the course Canvas website. Two required films are available on various streaming platforms (total cost about $8 without platform subscription). Plan to read approximately 100 pages per week.


Reflection essays on reading assignments and research project ideas, responding to prompts on Canvas, target length 300-500 words, posted by 11:59PM on Thursdays. There is no post the first week of the term (Sept 29). You also take a ‘bye’ week of your choice at any point in the term. (5% per post, eight posts, 40% total )

Lecture lightning posts, paragraph-long quick reactions to Monday or Wednesday lecture content in response to instructor prompt(s) at the end of class lecture. Complete ten over the course of the quarter. (2% per post, for 20% total)

Participation, consisting of in-class engagement, consistent communication with professor about research project and other class work, and additional online “homework” activities. (ongoing; 10% of grade)

Final research project, a historical examination of a topic of your choosing on the politics, business, or economy of the US since 1920. This is an opportunity to go deeper on a subject that intrigues you, and to explore different ways to present qualitative historical research and analysis. You choose the format:

  1. a footnoted paper of 1500-1750 words (10-12 double-spaced pages) in length;
  2. a scripted podcast of 20 minutes or less;
  3. a web exhibit; or
  4. a visualization, photodocumentary, or another piece of visual art.

The project will be evaluated on the quality and extent of primary and secondary sources it uses, how effectively it makes an argument based on these sources, and its successful integration of major themes and content of HSTAA 345 lectures and readings. All projects should include a separate written bibliography. A project description and source list (ungraded but required) is due Monday, November 21. The final project is due Wednesday, December 14. (30% of grade)

Key Dates

Wed Sept 28: First day of class, lecture lightning post due 11:59PM if you choose (complete ten after M or W lectures over the course of the quarter)

Thu Oct 6: First reflection post due 11:59PM, continuing weekly except chosen ‘bye’

Fri Oct 7: No class – research work day #1 

Fri Nov 11: No class - Veteran’s Day

Wed Nov 16: No class – research work day #2

Fri Nov 18: No class – research work day #3

Mon Nov 21: Research project summary and source list due 11:59PM

Fri Nov 25: No class – Thanksgiving break

Wed Dec 14: Final project due 11:59PM

Student Office Hours

My Autumn 2022 office hours are from 12-1 on both Monday and Tuesday (except holidays). You can drop in if my door is open (Smith 312A), or sign up in advance for an in-person or virtual appointment here.

Class policies

Class policies regarding public health precautions, grading procedures, religious accommodations and more are here

Your final grade for the class will be a percentage of 100%, converted into the 4.0 UW grade scale. For my grading conversion scale, go here



Catalog Description:
History of American politics, business and interconnections from 1920s to today. How has American capitalism changed over the century? Who is responsible for these changes? How has democratic governance expanded, contracted, and shaped individual, collective economic opportunity? How have the two major parties and their relationship to the business community changed over time? Cannot be taken for credit if credit received for HSTAA 235.
GE Requirements Met:
Social Sciences (SSc)
Last updated:
March 3, 2024 - 8:36 am