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Steven Hoelscher, Chair Burdine 437, Mailcode B7100, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-7277

Spring 2009

AMS 311s • The American Urban Experience-W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
29245 MWF
12:00 PM-1:00 PM
bur 228

Course Description

This class is intended as a survey of urban history, broadly defined, in the United States from the colonial period to the present day. Students will learn about many aspects of American cities, from the design of cities and civic practices within them to the conflicts and problems created by struggles for power among a wide variety of urban dwellers and city leaders. In general, we will view cities as places where changes within American society become particularly visible. Throughout history, cities often serve as the primary centers of both progress, in housing, human relations, architecture, and planning, among many others, and conflict - racial and ethnic injustice, poverty, and crime. Our task as a class will be to analyze and assess how cities have progressed over time and how cities have reacted to challenges posed by changes in American society. Finally, we will keep in mind that ideally cities are created by people, for people; even when we are discussing things like machines, buildings, and roads, it is important to remember that human beings ultimately decide how to use and deploy these instruments. We want to think about the city as a human creation.

Students will become versed in the history of urban American through engagement with primary texts, secondary texts, and class discussions. By the end of the semester, students should be able to speak and write broadly about important developments in urban America throughout history and analyze these developments in terms of their effects on people. Students should also be able identify the main social and political movements, technological innovations, ideologies, and geographical circumstances that have changed the nature of cities throughout time. In studying these developments, I hope that students leave the class with a greater understanding of growth and change in cities, the plight of marginalized people throughout urban America, and how society in general is affected by what happens in cities and vice versa. Finally, I hope that this class helps you to be more aware of the various environments in which you find yourselves and encourages you to be an active participant in discussions about the role of cities wherever you choose to live.

Grading Policy

Response papers 20% Midterm 15% Final 25% Long Paper 30% Class Participation 10%


Possible Texts 1. Gilje, Paul. The Road to Mobocracy: Popular Disorder in New York City, 1763-1834 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987) 2. Riis, Jacob. How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York (New York: Dover Publications, 1971) Original 1890 3. Sugrue, Thomas. The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996) 4. Course Packet


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