21H.104J | Fall 2010 | Undergraduate

Riots, Strikes, and Conspiracies in American History


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Course Description

This course uses readings and discussions to focus on a series of short-term events that shed light on American politics, culture, and social organization. We will examine closely a series of “middle-level” events — not major events like wars, nor smaller and often private ones such as marriages or deaths — that occurred over considerable periods of time and reveal a great deal about the times and places in which they occurred.

This semester will focus on five events:

  • The Attica Prison Uprising, 1971
  • The Boston Tea Party, 1773
  • The Rendition of Anthony Burns, 1854
  • The Pullman Strike in Chicago, 1894
  • The Student Uprising at Columbia University, 1968

The course places its emphasis on finding ways to make sense of these complicated, highly traumatic events, and on using them to understand larger processes of change in American history. The class also gives students experience with primary documentation research through a term paper assignment.


There are no prerequisites for this course.

Textbook & Readings

Labaree, Benjamin Woods. The Boston Tea Party. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1979. ISBN: 9780930350055.

Papke, David Ray. The Pullman Case: The Clash of Labor and Capital in Industrial America. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1999. ISBN: 9780700609543.


Attendance and Participation in Class Discussions

This subject is taught entirely through discussions. As a result, it is essential that students come to class having read the assigned readings and participate in discussions. Students will also be expected to give brief presentations on their chosen paper topics (see below) in the specially scheduled classes on writing papers. Class performance will be a significant consideration in assigning grades.

Preparation of Three Papers

Students will be required to write three papers, of which the final one will be a research paper on a riot, strike, or conspiracy not discussed in regular class meetings, but which applies the analytic techniques developed there.

Special classes will be devoted to choosing an appropriate paper topic, conducting research, and preparing final papers. Students will be asked to turn in a brief statement of topics on which they might write their papers on or before the class in Ses #6, and those proposed topics will be discussed in class on Ses #7.

Since this is a Communication Intensive Subject, students will normally be asked to rewrite at least one of the first two papers.


There will be no final examination other than the final paper, which should demonstrate the writing and analytical skills developed over the course of the term. Along with class attendance and participation, the papers, and particularly the final paper, determine final grades. Students should therefore invest appropriate time not just in researching and writing their papers, but in editing and proof-reading them.

Syllabus Archive

The following syllabi come from a variety of different terms. They illustrate the evolution of this course over time, and are intended to provide alternate views into the instruction of this course.

Fall 2009, Robert Fogelson and Pauline Maier (PDF)

Fall 2008, Robert Fogelson and Pauline Maier (PDF)

Fall 2007, Robert Fogelson and Pauline Maier (PDF)

Fall 2006, Robert Fogelson and Pauline Maier (PDF)

Fall 2005, Robert Fogelson and Pauline Maier (PDF)

Fall 2004, Robert Fogelson and Pauline Maier (PDF)

Fall 2003, Robert Fogelson and Pauline Maier (PDF)

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2010
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments with Examples