HIST 372 History of the American West
CRN: 13590

About the Course

Gunslingers, rowdy saloons, cowboys and Indians all come to mind when we think of the American West. Is this the historic American West or is it the American West we imagine with the help of movies, television, and fiction. Join me as we explore the wild, wild west of the American past and the American imagination.

During the semester we will explore the “place” and the “process” of the history of the U.S. West, a shifting region of Native North America that was the object first of Spanish, French, English, and then American expansionism, and finally as a distinct region with a unique relationship to the U.S. federal government, distinctive patterns of race relations, and a unique place in American cultural memory. While this course is a general survey of the west as a region, it will examine the west as both a place and as an idea in American culture and in the popular imagination. Accordingly, it will spend some time in the east exploring the backcountry frontier during the first years of the republic when the west meant the Ohio Valley and Kentucky, as well as focusing on the historical development of the trans-Mississippi west stretching from the Great Plains to the Pacific Ocean. Using films, monographs, memoirs, letters, and academic articles and literary fiction it will explore the struggle for land, resources, identity, and power, which have characterized the west and its role in the history of the American nation-state.

Course Goals

  • Analytical skills sufficient to distinguish between primary and secondary sources, to analyze arguments and interpretations, and to recognize interpretive conflicts
  • Research skills sufficient to conduct an investigation, consulting appropriate works for developing a bibliography
  • The ability to interpret evidence found in primary sources and develop an historical argument based on and sustained by the evidence available
  • Writing skills sufficient to write historical essays that are coherent, cogent, and grammatically correct

Learning Resources

All assigned readings and materials are available on Blackboard Learn, Purdue Library Database and various web sites.

Course Syllabus

Theme 1: Iconography and Ideology of American Expansion

Theme 2: Evolution of a Native New World on the Great Plains

Theme 3: Rise of Indian Power in the Southwest

Theme 4: Santa Fe Trail and the Republic of Texas

Theme 5: John C Fremont and the Corps of Topographical Engineers

Theme 6: Oregon Trail and Mormon Migration

Theme 7: California Gold Rush

Theme 8: Indian Wars on the Plains

Theme 9: Railroads, Homesteads and Ranching

Theme 10: Labor and Immigration

Theme 11: Conservation and Creation of the National Park System



Use CRN: 13590 to register for the course at myPurdue website.

Course at a Glance

7 weeks

15-20 hours of work per week

Schedule Type: Distance Learning

Instructional Method: Online
(This section is delivered 100% online)

Format: The course is entirely online, and so you can do this course anywhere that you can get access to a reliable internet connection, and you do not have to come to campus at all.

Assessments: There are no exams in this course. The course assignments have deadlines, but there is nothing in the course that requires you to be on your computer at a specific time. This means that you can arrange your course work around other things you are doing.

Course Instructor

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Dr. Dawn Marsh

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