EH.net is owned and operated by the Economic History Association with the support of other sponsoring organizations.
American Economic History
Economics 305 / HH-A7 / Tu.-Fri 11:30-12:50
Revised: September 24, 2003
Prof. Hugh Rockoff
NJ Hall 209C
Phone: 932-7857 (speak slowly and clearly, say your name and number very slowly, twice).
Office Hours: 3:00-5:00 Tuesday and Friday, or by appointment.
Prerequisites: 220:102 and 103, or 200
Purpose: This course surveys the economic history of the United States from colonial times to the present. The text provides a broad outline of general trends and key developments; the class lectures provide a deeper analysis of some of the key events, emphasizing the application of economic analysis. Certain topics that are important for understanding contemporary economic problems -- the impact of technological change, transportation, financial and monetary history, among others ö will be stressed.
The goal of the course is to increase your knowledge of American economic history and to improve your ability to think critically about the "lessons" of history. Most of the lessons dealt with in this course concern public policy. For example, how do we evaluate the claim the United States should go back to the gold standard, because the world's monetary system worked well from 1879 to 1914, the heyday of the gold standard? But learning to think critically about historical evidence is not something that you will use only in class. It is a skill that is fundamental in every walk of life.
Text: Walton and Rockoff: History of the American Economy, Ninth Edition.
Attendance. Attendance at the Lectures is at your discretion. I do have one requirement: if you do attend, please be on time. When you miss a class you alone bear the cost. When you are late you impose a cost on the whole class. If you must come late or leave early, the polite thing to do is apologize, and try not to disturb your classmates.
Exams and Grading Procedures. There are two exams during the term each worth 100 points, and a final worth 150 points, a total of 350 points.
If you miss an exam, you must make it up. Only students who miss the hourlies or the final for medical or other reasons approved by the Dean will be allowed to take a makeup without penalty. Students without a valid excuse approved by the Dean will be subject to an 11-point penalty on the hourly exams, and a 22 point penalty on the final. Regular exams will consist of multiple choice questions and short written answers. Make-up exams will consist of essay questions. The make-up exams are at the same level of difficulty as the regular exams. The only reason they are essay exams is that it takes a long time to construct a multiple-choice exam, and this is not worthwhile if only a few students are taking the make-up.
The final grades will be curved if a conventional standard is too tough.
Good luck. You are about to study American Economic History, the most exciting and most important intellectual discipline in the entire university.
|Class Meeting, Date||Topic of Lecture||Chapters and pages in the text
(If no pages are shown you are responsible for the entire chapter.)
|Tuesday, Sept, 2||The American Economy in Historical Perspective||1|
|Friday, Sept. 5||Mercantilism||4, 5, 6: pp. 118-121, and the economic insight p. 133.|
|Tuesday, Sept. 9||Revolutionary War||6,7|
|Friday, Sept. 12||Opening the West||8, 9|
|Tuesday, Sept. 16||Financial History, 1830-1860||12: pp. 248-260|
|Friday Sept. 19||No Class||No reading|
|Tuesday, Sept. 23||Financial History, 1831-1860||12: pp. 260-265|
|Friday, Sept. 26||The Economic Impact of the Civil War||14: pp. 294-300|
|Tuesday, Sept. 30||The South After the Civil War I (Sharecropping)||14: pp. 300-314|
|Friday, Oct. 3||The South After the Civil War II
|continued discussion of 14: pp. 300-314|
|Tuesday, Oct. 7||FIRST EXAM
(100 points. Short Answer and multiple choice questions.)
|Friday, Oct. 10||Northern Agriculture and Populism||15|
|Tuesday, October 14||Transcontinental RRs (Land Grants)||16: pp. 338-355|
|Friday, October 17||Transcontinental RRs (and Economic Growth)||16: pp. 355-358|
|Tuesday, Oct. 21||The Rise of Big Business||17: all, especially 370-381|
|Friday, Oct. 24||The United States and the Gold Standard.||19: pp. 406-421|
|Tuesday, Oct. 28||Banking Panics and the Founding of the Federal Reserve System||19: pp.421- 427|
|Friday, Oct. 31||World War I (Mobilization)||21: pp. 454-460|
|Tuesday, Nov. 4||World War I (Domestic and Foreign Legacies)||21: pp. 460-469|
|Friday, Nov. 7||The Roaring Twenties||22|
|Tuesday, Nov. 11||SECOND EXAM (100 POINTS, Short Answer and multiple choice. This exam will cover the material since the last exam.)|
|Friday, Nov. 14||The Great Contraction||23|
|Tuesday, Nov. 18||The New Deal||24|
|Friday, Nov. 21||No Class||(No Reading)|
|Tuesday, Nov. 25
|No Class (Follow Thursday Schedule)|
|Wednesday, Nov. 26
|World War II (the military front)||25: pp. 544-553|
|Tuesday, Dec. 2||World War II (the home front)||25: pp. 553-569|
|Friday, Dec. 5||The Growth of the Federal Government in Long-term perspective||26|
|Tuesday, Dec. 9||The Growth of the U.S. Economy in Long-term perspective||31|
|Wednesday, December 17, 12:00 P.M. to 3:00 P.M.||FINAL EXAM (200 points). Location may be changed from the regular classroom -- check the website. The final is cumulative, although it will stress the material since the last exam.|
Frequently Asked Questions.
(1) Do the exams stress the book or the lectures?
Needless to say, there is a good deal of overlap because I wrote the book. Still the exams will stress the class lectures, although some material covered only in the text may be included on the exams as well.
(2) Do I have to know facts and dates?
The exams will stress major themes and economic analysis rather than isolated facts and dates. Generally speaking it is more important to fit particular developments into the era in which they occurred rather than to memorize particular dates. For example, I expect you to remember that the National Banking Act was passed during the Civil War. This is important for understanding why it was established. I will not ask you to remember that it was first passed in 1863 rather than 1862 or 1864, a matter of interest to specialists in banking history. When I want you to know a precise date or number, I will try to warn you explicitly.
You will have to memorize some facts and dates in this course. In some theory courses you can work out a great part of the analysis from first principles. That won't be sufficient in this course. History is partly about remembering.
(3) Do I have to know everything you say in class?
As I indicated above, I try to stress important themes on the exams. However, the bottom line is this: everything discussed in class and everything covered in the assigned readings is fair game for the exams.
(4) How should I use the book?
Itâs best to read or at least skim the chapter before the class lecture. Be sure to look at the pictures, tables, and graphs. After the lecture read carefully those section of the text that correspond to the ideas discussed in class, and rewrite your notes. Many things I cover in class, although not all are also covered in the book. There is some repetition. But I believe that Sesame Street provides the best learning model. It always helps to see the cartoon and to hear the song.
(5) What if I miss class?
If you miss class for any reason it is important to get the notes from another student, and to clarify any problems during office hours. I do not have any lecture notes that would substitute for class attendance. If you can't get adequate notes from a friend, I can suggest some readings that will bring you to the point where you can ask some good questions. I do not give additional lectures during office hours.
(6) How do you get multiple-choice questions or short-answer questions out of your lectures?
One way to see how I do it, is to look at the old exams on my website. Generally, I write an outline of the main points in the lecture on the board. I try to cover each of those points on the exams.
(7) Should I study the Old Exams on your website?
Studying the old exams is one of the best ways of preparing for the exams. Most students find it useful to study with a few friends. One student can read the exam question, and then if the reasoning is not obvious, you can talk over the question, and try to think of likely variations.
But the course changes from semester to semester so you cannot rely totally on old exams. One reason the course changes is that economic history changes. Old questions, such as what caused the Great Depression or how important were the railroads to economic growth, are constantly being reanalyzed in the light of new evidence. The "right" answer may change! I will try to warn you explicitly about this situation. But the bottom line is that itâs what we do this semester that counts, not something on an exam given one, or two, or ten years ago.
(8) Can we have class outside?
(9) What if itâs really nice outside?
The schedule and remarks about exams given above are tentative and subject to change on short notice. If you are absent from class you must check to see if things have changed.
I keep my office hours faithfully, but I like to make an appointment if you want to see me at another time.