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Dr. Lee M. A. Simpson

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History 194: Public History Research Seminar

Syllabus :: Objectives :: Assignments :: Grading ::
Text and Materials


Goals and Objectives::

Course Purpose:  This course is an introduction to the field of public history and public history research techniques.  Students will be reading literature on the profession in addition to working on a public history project.  Students will complete a number of short research based assignments, and all students will work on one of two large group project.  For this course, the class will be preparing a database of New Deal Era sites and projects in Sacramento. This is a research intensive course and students should be prepared to work independently at libraries, archives and other historical sites around the city and county of Sacramento.


1)  Historic Site Critique:  For this assignment you will visit a local historic site and critique it as a public history site in a 3-5 page essay.  You may choose any site that you wish, but it should be open to the public.  Your critique should include the following:

  • Name and location of site
  • Hours and days of operation (is this sufficient?)
  • Target audience and ability to serve this audience
  • Mission statement and ability to meet the mission statement
  • Narrative description of the site and any significant exhibits (keep this brief)
  • Assessment of the quality and quantity of the presentation and whether the site meets its stated goals

I suggest the following sites:

Sutter’s Fort
Governor’s Mansion
Folsom Power House
Fountain-Tallman Museum (Placerville)
Old Sacramento
Golden State Museum
California Indian Museum
California State Railroad Museum

2) Book Review / Article Review:  A book review should include the following elements:

  • Title (your own – not the book’s)
  • Full citation of the book reviewed on the first page (including total pages, and cost)
  • introductory paragraph that states the theme of the review and the importance of the review
  • body should address the book’s thesis, methodology, sources and audience
  • conclusion which addresses the book’s overall effectiveness

3-5 pages, typed, double spaced.

Potential books for review include:

Michael A. Bernstein, The Great Depression: Delayed Recovery and Economic Change in America, 1929-1939 (1988)

Peter Temin, Lessons from the Great Depression (1989)

William E. Leuchtenburg, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932-1940 (1963)

Paul Conkin, The New Deal 3rd ed. (1992)

Theodore Rosenof, Dogma, Depression, and the New Deal: The Debate of Political Leaders Over Economic Recovery (1975)

Donald Worster, Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s (1980)

Harvard Sitkoff, Fifty Years Later: The New Deal Evaluated (1985)

Roger Biles, A New Deal for the American People (1991)

Douglas L. Smith, The New Deal in the Urban South (1988)

JoAnn E. Argersinger, Toward a New Deal in Blatimore: People and Government in the Great Depression (1988)

Mark I. Gelfand, A Nation of Cities: The Federal Government and Urban America, 1933-1965 (1975)

William N. Mullins, The Depression and the Urban West Coast, 1929-1933: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle (1991)

Charles H. Trout, Boston, The Great Depression, and the New Deal (1977)

Potential articles for review include:

Udo Sautter, “Government and Unemployment: The Use of Public Works Before the New Deal” Journal of American History, vol. 73, no.1 (June 1986), 59-86.

Roger Biles, “The Urban South in the Great Depression” Journal of Southern History, vol. 56, no. 1 (Feb. 1990) 71-100.

Roger Biles, “The New Deal in Dallas” in Raymond Mohl’s The Making of Urban America (1997)

Final Project:  Your grade for this portion of the class will be based on your ability to work with your other group members and to integrate your research into the class database.  In addition to your raw data and photographs, you will write a 15-20 page essay summarizing your research findings and conclusions about the role of the New Deal in Sacramento history. 

I suggest the following sources on local history:

Joseph McGowan’s History of the Sacramento Valley

Steven Avella’s Indomitable City

Sacramento Bee

Sacramento Union

Oak Park Ledger

Private papers of local residents

School Board Records

Sacramento Northern Records

Southern Pacific Records

Livermore family records


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Grading will be based on one historic site critique (25%), book review(25%), participation in, and completion of the group project (50%).

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Text and Material ::

  • David E. Kyvig and Myron A. Marty, Nearby History: Exploring the Past Around You, (2000)

  • Anthony Badger, The New Deal (1985)


Last Updated November 8, 2002 top of page