STS.038 | Fall 2006 | Undergraduate

Energy and Environment in American History: 1705-2005


This section includes instructions for the essays and response papers.

First Essay

We have seen that historians today often prefer the term “industrialization” to the older term “Industrial Revolution,” principally because “revolution” implies a single, rapid change, while “industrialization” suggests a more gradual and complex process.

That said, was industrialization revolutionary?

In a 5-8 page essay, use specific evidence from the first six sessions of readings and lectures to answer this question. Be sure to specifically identify the changes you are discussing, when they occurred, to whom or what, and make sure you clearly state your argument.

Second Essay

For most Americans, the energy crisis of the 1970s struck swiftly, impacting their view of the economy, authority, and politics. But as we have seen, the roots of the energy crisis are deep.

Question: Was the 1970s energy crisis inevitable or avoidable?

In a 5-8 page essay, use specific evidence from the second half of this course to answer this question. Be sure to cite your sources (try to have at least one citation per paragraph, if not more!), and be sure your argument is clearly stated.

Response Papers

The weekly response paper is an exercise in clarity and analysis. In a page or two, you are asked to address some theme, topic, or question you’ve found in the week’s reading. Despite this assignment’s short length and open-endedness, it is sometimes difficult to figure out exactly what to write about.

There is no magic formula. The idea is to engage critically with the readings and to prepare your reactions for class discussion. While reading the assigned books and articles, try to come up with at least two or three substantive questions. You may use one or more of these questions in your response paper, and be prepared to share these observations in class.

Many writers find it far more challenging to write a short piece than an indefinitely long one. On the other hand, structure provides freedom! That is to say, practicing writing in a single format makes it increasingly easy to write in that format.

Here are some guidelines to help you:

  • Do not summarize the readings!! You may safely assume that I have already read them, and I trust that you have as well. Use the space instead to delve into an idea that has perplexed you, an argument you agree or disagree with, or an approach that interests you, for example.
  • For historical works, what argument does the author employ? What evidence does he or she muster to prove this argument? Is it convincing? Why or why not? Does the author leave out some evidence that might be used as a counterargument?
  • What other historical questions or avenues for future research does the piece suggest to you, and how might you go about pursuing these questions?
  • How does the current work relate to other ideas we have discussed or read about in the course?
  • Try to stay focused on the one or two ideas you write about.
  • Before printing out your response paper, take a moment to run a spell check and also read it over yourself - are you being clear? Does your sentence structure make sense?