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HIS 76 A — The American West: Past, Present, and Future

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Wednesdays
Course Format: On-campus (About Formats)
Duration: 6 weeks
Date(s): Jan 18—Feb 22
Time: 7:00—9:00 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Jan 20
Unit: 1
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $405
Instructor(s): David M. Kennedy, Alexander Nemerov, Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Bruce Cain, David Freyberg
Limit: 400
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
7:00—9:00 pm (PT)
Jan 18—Feb 22
6 weeks
Refund Date
Jan 20
1 Unit
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
David M. Kennedy, Alexander Nemerov, Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Bruce Cain, David Freyberg
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
For nearly a century, the West has been the most demographically, economically, politically, and culturally dynamic region in the United States. One in three Americans now lives west of the 100th Meridian; one in five in either Texas or California, the two most populous states, both Western; and one in eight lives in California alone. The Western states account for nearly 40 percent of GDP and over half of US exports to Asia. But can the West’s successes extend into the decades ahead?

In this course, we will focus on four questions central to a deep discussion about the role of Western states in American history, culture, politics, economics, and more: (1) What makes the West a distinctive region. What are its unique features and challenges? (2) Who has lived and now lives in the West? What factors have shaped whether or not they thrive? How have they made their living? What obstacles and challenges have they faced? (3) How can we separate fact from fiction, mythology from reality, in our understanding of the region’s culture and development? (4) What guidance can history provide about factors that may shape the region’s future?

Many scholars have defined the Westward movement as the single most powerful determinant of the national character. Students will learn through lectures by a host of instructors spanning two schools and five departments in what is arguably one of the most multidisciplinary academic journeys through the American West.

Students who enroll in Section A of this course will attend in person on campus. Students who enroll in Section B of this course will participate live over Zoom. Students will have access to class recordings for the duration of the course.

Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History, Emeritus; Founding Faculty Director, Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford

David M. Kennedy has long taught courses in the history of the 20th-century United States, US foreign policy, American literature, and the history of the North American West. His book Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 recounts the history of the American people in the two great crises of the Great Depression and World War II, both of which episodes deeply shaped the Western region.

Carl and Marilynn Thoma Provostial Professor in the Arts and Humanities, Stanford

Alexander Nemerov has been voted one of Stanford’s top 10 professors by The Stanford Daily. He is the author of many books on art and cultural history. His newest book is Fierce Poise: Helen Frankenthaler and 1950s New York. He is the chair of Stanford's Department of Art and Art History.

Joseph S. Atha Professor of Humanities; Professor of English; Director of American Studies, Stanford

Shelley Fisher Fishkin is the author, editor, or coeditor of 48 books, including Writing America: Literary Landmarks from Walden Pond to Wounded Knee and The Chinese and the Iron Road. She is also author of over 150 articles, essays, and reviews, many focusing on American literature and social justice. Her research has been featured twice on the front page of The New York Times.

Spence and Cleone Eccles Family Director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West; Charles Louis Ducommun Professor in Humanities and Sciences, Stanford

Bruce Cain holds appointments at Stanford’s Political Science Department and in the Doerr School of Sustainability. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000 and has received the Richard F. Fenno Prize for research, teaching awards from Caltech and UC Berkeley, and the Zale Award for Outstanding Achievement in Policy Research and Public Service.

Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering; Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford

David Freyberg has been on the faculty of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford since 1981. His teaching and research range broadly across hydrology and water resources, including international watershed collaborations, the exchange of water between reservoirs and their trapped sediments, and the spatial scaling of wastewater resource recovery in urban environments. He maintains a strong interest in water resources development, policy, and history, particularly in the American West.

Textbooks for this course:

There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.