History 216, Spring 1013:   History of the American West
Lectures:  Mon/Fri 9:05-9:55, Axinn 109
Discussions:  X: Wed 12:30-1:20, Atwater Seminar Room (off dining hall)
Discussion Y:  Wed. 1:45-2:35, Atwater Seminar Room
Discussion Z:  Wed:  2:50-3:40, Atwater Seminar Room

Prof. Kathryn Morse, x2436; kmorse@middlebury.edu
Two offices:  Starr-Axinn 240/Hillcrest 119
Office Hours, Spring 2013:   Mondays 10am-12pm and 2-4 pm, Starr Axinn 240;
Fridays:  10:15am-12pm, Hillcrest 119 (except Apr 5 and 19); and by appointment.

Office hours, syllabus, and other info on web page:

Course Description:  In this course we will focus on the history of that part of North America usually defined as the trans-Mississippi American West (with some consideration of the other side of that river as well).  Though we will touch on earlier patterns and conflicts, the bulk of the course will cover the period from the mid-1840s to the mid-1990s (roughly the Alamo to the Rodney King riots).  The central themes of the course include violence, conquest, inter-racial and inter-ethnic conflict over who gets to claim an identity as American and as western, and the role of western mythology in both western history and American popular culture more broadly.

Learning Goals: 1) To introduce students to central themes and questions of the history of American West from the 1840s to the 1990s.  2) To develop skills in reading and analyzing primary historical documents and using them to make historical arguments in discussion and in formal writing.  3) To develop skills in reading current scholarly work on American history, and thus to see historians practicing their craft as an example of how historians form arguments and draw evidence from primary documents to tell compelling stories about the past.  4) To increase understanding of how mythology and history—as distinct but related forms of storytelling—have shaped and continue to shape historians’ understandings of the past and of the present.  5) To increase understanding of history as a set of multiple, contested stories rather than a timeless narrative of truth.  6)  Overall, to increase students’ understandings of how the West developed into the complex and fascinating place it is today.

Assigned Readings:  The following books will be available at the college store.  The books are also available at various on-line booksellers.  All are on reserve at the Davis Library, and may be available to take out from other college libraries through NExpress or Interlibrary Loan.  There will be many additional readings provided electronically as well, either on the web through Middlebury’s library subscriptions, on the general web (outside Middlebury’s system), or in our class share folder through the classes server.  See weekly assignments for details.Please familiarize yourself with our class folders on the server.  All registered students will have access to the class folder.

Books for purchase or loan:
Karl Jacoby, Shadows at Dawn:  An Apache Massacre and the Violence of History
Marilynn S. Johnson, Violence in the West:  A Brief History with Documents
John Steinbeck,  Harvest Gypsies:  On the Road to the Grapes of Wrath
Sherman Alexie, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

Films: Because a major theme of the course is the role of the West in American popular culture, students are required to view five western films during the course of the semester (and can see more if they want to):  These films constitute basic research for the final paper, and are quite entertaining in their own way, as well.  The films are:  Stagecoach (1939); Shane (1952);  The Searchers (1956); The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962); and Lone Star (1996).  All DVDs will be on 4-hour reserve at Davis Library. We will not hold formal class screenings, to allow students maximum flexibility in organizing their viewing time.  However, students should see the films by the deadlines indicated in the syllabus.

YouTube access:
Stagecoach : 
Key scenes from My Darling Clementine (not required by helpful for discussion):
Lone Star: 

Netflix Streaming:
Man Who Shot Liberty Valance


Requirements: Students must turn in all required assignments to pass the course.
1. Attendance is required at all classes.  See attendance policy below under course policies for specifics and exceptions.
2. Reading and discussion:  Students are required to complete assigned readings and come to discussion sections on Wednesdays (and occasionally other days) prepared to discuss those with other students.
3. Films:  As above, students will view five western films as listed by the deadlines indicated.
4.  Five formal graded assignments:  a) one closed-book in-class hour exam, Fri Mar 8; b) one 3-hour closed-book final exam, Fri May 17 at 9am; c) one 3-4 pp. film essay due Fri Mar 22; d) one 3-4 pp. primary documents essay due Fri Apr 12; e) one 10 pp. myth & history paper due Fri May 3.  Further details on all assignments TBA.

Course Policies:

1) Honor Code:  The honor code is in effect for all work in this class, and should be stated and signed on all formal written work (papers and final exam).  The honor code applies to both exam-related academic integrity (cheating), and also to issues of plagiarism.  Plagiarism includes the taking of others’ work (language or ideas)  intentionally or mistakenly, without direct attribution to the source.  It also includes the taking of others’ language as and ideas paraphrase, with direct citation, when that language and ideas so closely approximate the source material as to require quotation marks.  Any paraphrased material—EVEN WITH A CORRECT CITATION—which TOO CLOSELY approximates the source without quotation marks, constitute plagiarized material.  Take notes with great care and check all of your material carefully before turning in any formal written work.

2) Grades: 
As the semester progresses, I will provide handouts and further information on specific criteria for grading on specific assignments.  Final grades will be determined by the following percentages, though there is always room for adjustment:  Attendance:  10%  Discussion Participation:  10% Hour exam: 15% ; Final exam: 20%;  Film essay: 10%; Primary Documents Essay: 15%  Myth & History Paper: 20%.

Note on numerical (1-100) vs. letter grades (A, A-, B+ etc.):  Grades on exams and some papers may take numerical form, as this allows for a more fine-grained approach to evaluating student work (a B may range from 82-86, for instance).  However, numerical grades do not represent a specific point value for any given student answer or response to a given question.  Example:  There is no specific point awarded for a correct date in an essay answer, so missing a date (or a name, or a place, or an idea) does not automatically result in a specific loss of points.  Nor do grammatical or proof-reading errors correlate to a specific loss of points on a paper.  Grades in this class take in a wide range of factors for any given answer and thus are not always directly correlated with math.  If you have any questions about the general standards for “A” work, “B” work, etc., please feel free to ask.

3) Pass/D/Fail option:  Students choosing the pass/d/fail option should note the following:  To pass the course (grade of C-/70 or above) students must hand in all the assigned work, take all exams, and attend at least 80% of all scheduled classes.

4)  Attendance:  Students are required to attend all classes, but given the realities of illness and other demands, students may miss three total scheduled classes during the semester without any penalty.

5)  Late Papers and Extensions:  Paper due dates are specified in the schedule below.  With regard to these deadlines,  each student has two (2) “extension days” to use or spend to extend paper deadlines without penalty.  As a result a student may turn in one paper two days late without penalty, or two papers one day late (each) without grade penalty.  However, the student is responsible for NOTIFYING the professor when turning the paper in that a free “extension days” is in effect.  A day is considered 24 hours, and Friday-Monday will count as one (1) 24-hour period.  Students may consider a 12-hour extension a one-half (1/2) day extension. 

Beyond those allowed “extension days” any paper turned in after the deadline will be penalized two points (i.e. grade of 80 to grade of 78) for every 24 hours late.  Friday to Monday will count as one (1) 24-hour period. 

6) Intercollegiate Athletics and Other Activities:  If you are a member of a team or engaged in other campus activities, on or off campus, you may, at various times during the semester, have athletic or other events scheduled during our class times.  Although no other activity can require that you miss class or other academic events, you may need to choose which activity (class or non-class) you would prefer, or have a responsibility, to attend.  Those choices are entirely your own, and I will respect them as valid choices.  However, be aware that according to college policy such absences are explained rather than excused.  It is your responsibility to inform me of your schedule, what work you will miss, and how and when you intend to make up that work.  I do not regularly check sports schedules or know team departure times, so it is your job to present me with that information, well in advance of the absence itself.

7) Email Policy.  Students are welcome to email (or call my office phone) with questions at any point.  Please be advised that I do not read and answer email constantly or immediately, and that I usually take an “email sabbath” from college-related email from Friday around 5pm until Sunday around 2pm.  Outside of those exceptions, I will attempt to return your email or call within 24 hours, if possible.

I do assume that you read your Middlebury college email on a regular basis, several times a week.  If you do not read your email with any regularity, please remember to ask me in class whether I have sent out any information or updates.

BEFORE emailing, ANY professor, ask yourself this important question:  Is there ANY other way to gain this information or answer this question without asking a professor?  If so, use that other method!  NOTE:  The above does not apply to true emergencies, such as those involving serious illness or loss.  In the event of such an event, emailing your professors and your dean, with an urgent alert in the email, is always a good choice.  I will respond as quickly as possible.

8) Classroom etiquette and technology policy:  Cell phones, smart phones, and other small mobile devices must be OFF or silenced and put away in ALL classes.  Laptop computers may be used in class lectures and discussions, though when discussing digital readings, it is better to bring printed versions to class, rather than electronic versions, if at all possible.


IF AT ANY POINT the use of laptop computers or tablet computers becomes distracting to myself or others, I will ask you to change how you are using them or shut them off until we can find a good compromise.


Please respect your classmates.  Our goal is to critically engage and discuss historical events and ideas, but not to criticize or intimidate each other as human beings.  Be kind, be thoughtful, and engage each other as colleagues with respect.  If at any time you feel limited by me or others in your ability to express your ideas openly, please let me know in person or by email.


Disruptive Classroom Exits:  Please do not leave the classroom during class time unless in the event of a physical or personal emergency.


9) Accessibility, Accommodations, Abilities:
We all have varying abilities; we all carry various strengths and weaknesses. Some of these might even be “documented” with a place like the ADA Office.  If so, please just let me know.  With or without documentation, it is my intent to make our learning experience as accessible as possible.  With documentation, I am especially interested in providing any student accommodations that have probably been best determined by the student and the ADA Coordinator (Jodi Litchfield) in advance.  Please let me know NOW what we can do to maximize your learning potential, participation, and general access in this course.  I am available to meet with you in person or to discuss such things on email.   
The ADA Office is located at Meeker House 003.  [46 Porter Field Road]
Jodi Litchfield, coordinator: 802.443.5936;


Weekly Schedule of Topics and Assignments (Subject to changes announced in class and by email well ahead of time): 

Week 1:

Mon. Feb 11:  Introductions and Themes:  Myth and History: Remember the Alamo!



Wed. Feb 13:  Discussion Sections: Read primary documents:   Background info:
In 1830s in the United States, a new two-party political system emerged:  Democrats vs. Whigs.

Democrats:  Andrew Jackson, John C. Calhoun; the common man; westerners and southerners, expansion, weaker federal government stronger local control; tended to be pro-slavery, but not all

Whigs:  Henry Clay, New England, stronger federal government; support for industrial growth and trade; tended to be anti-slavery; opposed expansion

John Calhoun (1782-1850):  A Democrat from South Carolina (once Andrew Jackson’s Democratic party emerged into being) Calhoun served various Presidents as Secretary of War and Secretary of State and as Vice President; he also served South Carolina in both the House the Senate, and was one of the most powerful politicians of the pre-Civil War era.  In a speech in January 1848, excerpted here in your reading on its own and then quoted also at length in the American Whig Review, he argued vehemently against the incorporation of all of Mexico into the United States for a range of reasons, all explained in his speech.  Mostly, he knew northerners would not accept slavery in the expanding western territories.  He feared, rightly, the growing North vs. South conflict over slavery when it came to incorporating western territory into the United States, but died in 1850 before that conflict reached the crisis that began the Civil War. “The day of retribution will come,” Calhoun declared in this 1848 speech, “awful will be the reckoning.” He was right.

1) John L. O’Sullivan, “The Great Nation of Futurity,” United States Democratic Review 6:23 (November 1839), 426-30.  At:

2) John C. Calhoun and John Dix debate the incorporation of  Mexico (in share folder)

3) Reaction to Calhoun’s speech:  “Calhoun’s Speech on the Conquest of Mexico,” American Whig Review 7:3 (March 1848), 217-230; read 217 through the first column on p.223 (you are welcome to read more—it descends into some wild party politics.  This 19th century magazine in accessible digitally through Cornell’s Making of America Primary Documents website.  Search for American Whig Review in Midcat under Titles (or by title under “Journals,”) then select electronic resource:  “Making of America” from Cornell, and find the issue for March 1848 and open this article to its first page (217); continue through (as above) the first column on 223.

4) AND scholarly article:  Brian DeLay, “Independent Indians and the U.S.-Mexican War,” The American Historical Review, 112:1 (February 2007): 35-68. Available through JSTOR and in share folder sub-folder for Feb 13.


Fri Feb 15:  Winter Carnival, No class.  Watch Stagecoach (on reserve in library, also on YouTube), by Monday Feb. 18’s class.

Week 2:  

Mon Feb 18:  Brief discussion of Stagecoach:  Lecture:  The West before 1848.

Wed Feb 20:  Discussion Sections: Readings:

Excerpts from the letters of Narcissa Whitman from the PBS website, according to dates listed below: http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/two/whitman0.htm

Read Whitman letters at website for:
June 3rd, July 18th-August 7th, Sept 22nd, 1836;
June 25, 1839;
May 2, 1840;
March 1, 1842;
September 29, 1842;
October 9, 1844;
April 2, 1846;
May 15, 1846; April 6, 1848

Excerpts from Louisa A.K.S. Clappe, The Shirley Letters:  From the California Mines, 1851-52.

Two laws: Foreign Miners Act, California: 1850
An Act to Punish Vagrants, California: 1855.

And two scholarly articles: (read these efficiently, for argument and shared themes):  Benjamin Madley, “California’s Yuki Indians:  Defining Genocide in Native American History,” Western Historical Quarterly 39:3 (Autumn 2008): 303-32; Albert L. Hurtado, “Empires, Frontiers, Filibusters, and Pioneers: The Transnational World of John Sutter,”  Pacific Historical Review 77:1 (February 2008): 19-47.

Fri Feb. 22:  Lecture:  Westward Ho!  Migrations

Week 3:  Watch Shane by NEXT Monday’s class, Mar 4.

Mon Feb 25:  Lecture: Federal Power:  Land and Indian Policy

Wed.  Feb. 27:  Discussion Sections:  Reading:  Karl Jacoby, Shadows at Dawn, Introduction and all of Part One (through p. 180).

Fri Mar 1:  In lecture reading for group discussion:  Shadows at Dawn, Part 2, “Justice,” plus lecture: Railroad


Week 4:  Watch Shane by Monday’s class (a bit slow, but a classic).

Mon Mar. 4:  Beyond Camp Grant:  Sand Creek, Little Bighorn; brief discussion of Shane.


Wed. Mar 6:  Discussion Sections and review for hour exam.
Jacoby, Shadows at Dawn, Part 3, “Memory” and Epilogue.


Fri Mar 8: In class Hour Exam, with focus on Shadows at Dawn, but covering weeks 1-4.


Week 5  (watch The Searchers by next Monday’s class, Mar 18).

Mon Mar 11: Lecture:  Whose West?

Wed. Mar 13:  Discussion Section readings:  Chinese and Mormons in the West

Primary documents related to Chinese in the West: 
Spend 15 minutes exploring the Angel Island website: 

And read:

Legislation: The Page Law of 1875:  links at:  http://library.uwb.edu/guides/USimmigration/1875_page_law.html

Dennis Kearney, President, and H. L. Knight, Secretary, “Appeal from California. The Chinese Invasion. Workingmen’s Address,” Indianapolis Times, 28 February 1878:  At History Matters Primary Source website:  http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5046

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882:  at Yale Avalon Project:


Memorial of Chinese Laborers, Resident at Rock Springs, Wyoming Territory, to the Chinese Consul at New York (1885). Reprinted in Cheng-Tsu Wu, ed., Chink! (New York: The World Publishing Company, 1972), 152–164:  At History Matters Primary Source website:



American Federation of Labor, Some Reasons for Chinese Exclusion. Meat vs. Rice. American Manhood against Asiatic Coolieism .Which Shall Survive? Senate Doc. No. 137, 57th Congress, 1st Session (Washington D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1902):  at History Matters documents web site:  http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5036


Ho Ah Kow v. Nunan, 12 F. Cas. 252 (C.C.D. Cal. 1879):


Annie Clark Tanner, Mormon Mother:  An Autobiography (1941; Salt Lake City, UT, 1969), ch. 4, 6.
The Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act of 1882;  brief excerpts from 1887 Act.
The Utah Commission Report of 1883.
The 1890 Manifesto (LDS Church renounced polygamy).

Fri Mar 15:  Lecture: The Mormon West  (watch The Searchers by Monday’s class).

Week 6: 

Mon Mar 18:  Native Americans + brief discussion of The Searchers

Wed.  Mar. 20:   Readings: on Native Americans, Treaties, Land, Assimilation
The Cherokee Treaty of 1866:  http://digital.library.okstate.edu/kappler/Vol2/treaties/che0942.htm
The 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie: 

The Dawes Act of 1887, at Avalon Project:  http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/dawes.asp

Capt. Richard C. Pratt on Educating Indians, 1892:  On History Matters Website:



Luther Standing Bear on his experiences at Carlisle Indian School, 1933:

At:  http://faculty.whatcom.ctc.edu/mhaberma/hist209/luthsb.htm


Rules for Indian Schools, 1890:




Fri Mar 22:  The Johnson County War on film
Due by 8 pm by email (details TBA):  Short film paper focused on or first three films.  Detailed instructions will be handed out well ahead of the deadline.

__________Spring Break___________________

Week 7:

Mon Apr 1:  Lecture: The Progressive West  

Wed Apr 3:  Discussion Sections: Readings:  1) Frederick Jackson Turner, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History” (1893).  On-line: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/TURNER/
Click on chapter I, which is the essay in question.

2) John Muir, “The Wild Parks and Forest Reservations of the West,” in Our National Parks.

3) Selection from Theodore Roosevelt, Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter (1908), 315-317.

4) “The Yellowstone National Park Protection Act” and “The National Park Protective Act,” in Theodore Roosevelt and George Bird Grinnell, Hunting in Many Lands: The Book of the Boone and Crockett Club (1895).

5) Brief other conservation documents (location TBA).


Two scholarly pieces, both in Share Folder:

Richard White, “Frederick Jackson Turner and Buffalo Bill,” In James Grossman ed., The Frontier in American Culture ( Berkeley:  Univ of California Press, 1994), 7-65.

Mark David Spence, “Dispossessing the Wilderness: Yosemite Indians and the National Park Ideal, 1864-1930,” The Pacific Historical Review 64:1 (February 1996): 27-59.


Friday April 5:  No class :  Watch The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance by next Monday, April 8.

Week 8:  Mon Apr 8:  :  Lecture:  Farmers and Cowboys + Brief discussion of Liberty Valance

Wed. Apr 10: Reading:  1) Marilynn Johnson, Violence in the West,  Documents on Johnson County War (don’t read any intro or prefatory material:  focus on the primary documents);

2) Nat Love, The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known in the Cattle Country as ‘Deadwood Dick’ (1907; Lincoln, NE, 1995), ch. 9, 13, 18, 19. 
one other cattle industry reading TBA.


Friday Apr 12:  Lecture:  Extracting the West:  Labor and Nature

Due by 8pm by email:  Short essay on primary documents for final myth and history paper, (details TBA).


Week 9:  Watch Lone Star by NEXT Monday’s class, April 22.

Mon  Apr 15:  Lecture:  Labor and the Corporate West

Wed. Apr 17:  Discussion Sections:  Reading:  From Marilynn Johnson, Violence in the West:  Ludlow Massacre documents; ALSO: Special media assignment (1 hour):  listen to episode 479 of the radio show “This American Life,” entitled “Little War on the Prairie.”  Available on the show website at:  http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/479/little-war-on-the-prairie
The website provides various ways to listen, including iTunes (for 99 cents).

Fri Apr 19:  No class or office hours:  Spring Symposium!  Watch Lone Star for Monday.


Week 10: Watch Lone Star for Monday!

Mon Apr 22: Lecture: The Great Depression and War/discussion of Lone Star.

Wed. Apr. 24:  Discussion Sections:  Read John Steinbeck, Harvest Gypsies:  On the Road to the Grapes of Wrath;  also spend 20 minutes or so at:http://braceroarchive.org/

  (specific instructions to follow); and scholarly chapter (in share folder):  George J. Sanchez, “Chapter 10: Where Is Home?: The Dilemma of Repatriation,” in Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945 (NY:  Oxford Univ Press, 1995).

Fri April 26:  Japanese Internment


Week 11:

Mon Apr 29:  Blazing Saddles and the Post-war Urban West

Wed  May 1 Discussion Section:  Readings all in share folder or through announced links: Tourism documents TBA; Joan Didion, “Trouble in Lakewood,” New Yorker 69 (July 26, 1993): 46-65; excerpt from Anna Deavere Smith, Twilight:  Los Angeles 1992; William Kittredge, “Owning It All,” from Owning It All (1988).


Fri May 3:  Lecture:   New West/Old West
Due by email by 8 pm: Final Myth & History Paper, Details TBA. 


Week 12: 

Mon May 6:  In class:  Lecture:  Legacy of Conquest/Discussion of Lone Star

Wed May 8:  Discussion Sections: Read, Sherman Alexie, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

Fri May 10:  Conclusions


Exam:  Closed book 3-hour exam during exam period:  Friday May 17, 9am-12pm.