HSTAA 345 A: Making Modern America: Business and Politics

Spring 2022
MWF 11:30am - 12:50pm / SAV 264
Section Type:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

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

Welcome! This is an upper-division small lecture course surveying the economic and political history of the modern United States. 

Syllabus here.

Course policies here.

How has American capitalism changed over the last century, and who has been responsible for making those changes? How has democratic governance expanded, contracted, and shaped the nature of individual and collective economic opportunity? How have the two major parties changed over time, and how has their relationship to the business community changed over time? Centering these questions, this course explores key moments, movements, and people making modern America from 1920 to the present.

Learning goals:

  • A refined understanding of how governments, markets, and individuals and groups have functioned as agents of historical change;
  • Understanding the causes and contingencies behind America’s transition from an agrarian nation to an industrial and post-industrial superpower;
  • Sharpened critical thinking and writing about history, including ability to distinguish different types of sources (primary, secondary) and analyze their context and meaning;
  • An ability to apply this historical awareness to understanding present-day political, economic, and social structures; and
  • Knowing sources and methods for discerning truth and separating fact from fiction.


This class meets three days a week, MWF 11:30-12:50.  

Mondays and Wednesdays are in-person in SAV 264 and are a mix of instructor lectures and in-class reading and writing. Friday discussion sections are all online via Zoom. 


You are not required to purchase texts for this course. Your only course costs will be renting two streaming films (total cost about $8), and you are welcome to watch together with class colleagues and share the expense, or the popcorn. All other required readings and audio/video are free and in an electronic course packavailable to enrolled students and auditors on the course Canvas website by the start of Spring Quarter. Expect to read approximately 100 pages per week (or multimedia sources that take approximately the same amount of time to consume). To obtain access to all these sources, please make sure you are signed into your computer with your UWnet ID.


  1. Six “mini-essay” discussion posts on reading assignments, target length 700-900 words, to be posted on Canvas no later than 11:59PM on Friday. You write these mini-essays on six of the ten weeks of the quarter; the four you skip (“bye” weeks) are up to you. (10% per post, for 60% total)
  2. Lecture lightning posts, a short paragraph of quick reactions to the day’s content in response to instructor prompt(s) at the end of class lecture. Complete ten over the course of the quarter. (1% per post, for 10% total)
  3. Participation, consisting of quiz section engagement, in-class work during lecture, and additional online “homework” activities. (ongoing; 10% of grade)
  4. Final essay exam, featuring two essays of 800-1000 words each, both drawing on lecture/reading content for the full quarter, taken online on Canvas and due Wednesday of exam week. (20% of grade)

Schedule week by week



Week 1

The “roaring” 1920s

Week 2

The crisis of capitalism, and what the New Deal did

Week 3

The war economy

Week 4

“People’s Capitalism” and the early Cold War

Week 5

The business of suburbia

Week 6

The space race and the birth of Silicon Valley

Week 7

The revolution will be televised: upheavals of the 1960s

Week 8

1970s economic crisis and its legacies

Week 9

Reagan Revolution and financial transformation

Week 10

The “new” economy

Exam Week

Final exam due on Canvas by 11:59pm Wednesday


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:
June 22, 2024 - 7:12 pm