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History 473
California History II (1900-present)
Spring 2016

Class Meets: Mondays 2-5:40 p.m.
Room: International Hall 201A
Instructor: Steve Estes
Office Hours: M/W 9:45-10:30; T 1:30-3:00
Office: Stevenson 2070 D or 707.664.2424


This course will familiarize students with the modern history and historiography of California, and it will also hone students’ research and writing skills. The Golden State’s distinctiveness lies in its diversity, and we will explore this diversity in California’s changing environment, demographics, economy, and culture. At the conclusion of the course, students will write a 10-12 page research paper that examines primary and secondary source material on a topic in California history of your choosing.

Required Texts

Mark Arax, West of the West
Mark Brilliant, The Color of America Has Changed
Kathleen Cairns, The Enigma Woman
Dave Eggers, The Circle
Frederick Kohner, Gidget
Miriam Pawel, The Union of Their Dreams
Kevin Starr, California: A History
Plus Additional Reserve Articles & Essays

Assignments & Grades
Class Participation (25% of final grade): For this course to work, every student must keep up with the reading and actively participate in class discussion every week. Attendance is mandatory, but you may miss up to two classes without an excuse. After the second absence your participation grade will suffer regardless of the excuse. Your participation grade will be based on the frequency and quality of contributions to the class discussion.

Readings Journal (40% of final grade): Each week, you need to write a typed review of the assigned readings (350-400 words). Books split across two weeks get two journal entries. Your review should briefly summarize the primary argument or topic of the readings, and it should analyze how effectively the author(s) convey central points. What questions did the work(s) raise in your mind? Was the writing engaging? What does the reading teach us about California? Include 1-2 short quotes from the reading that support your points. I will take up the journals twice during the semester during class meetings of my choosing, so you must bring all entries to each class and be prepared to turn them in.

Research Paper (30% of final grade): The final assignment for the class is a 10-12 page research paper based on both primary and secondary sources. Over the course of the semester, you will complete a proposal, introduction, and final draft of this paper. You will make copies of these assignments for the instructor and the other members of your writing group.

Research Presentation (5% of final grade): At the conclusion of the semester, you will present your research to the class. This presentation will be five minutes long, followed by five minutes of Q&A with your classmates. The presentation should explain your paper’s topic (briefly), thesis, and include one example/anecdote from your research that support your thesis. You should conclude by discussing the questions your paper left unanswered and/or possible areas for future research on this topic.   

Extra Credit (possible extra 5% of final grade): One week during the semester, you can bring in a primary source (e.g. newspaper editorial, song, photo collection, painting, poem, or movie clip (no more than ten minutes)) to show the class relating to the topic of that week’s reading. If you have a print source, you will need to bring copies for the class. You need to come up with three discussion questions for the class related to your source. Finally, you need to email me a few days before class with your idea for a source and questions. Each student can only do this one time for up to five additional points on the final grade.


1.25 “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” California in the Popular Imagination
Video Clips: Beach Blanket Bingo, American Graffiti, & Clueless
Audio Clips: Woody Guthrie, Beach Boys, Dead Kennedys, Tupac Shakur, etc.

2.01 Early California History
Kevin Starr, California (Introduction, Chronology, and Chapters 1-5)

2.08 The California Century
Kevin Starr, California (Chapters 6-13)

2.15 LA Noir
Kathleen Cairns, The Enigma Woman

2.22 The Color of California (Part I)
Mark Brilliant, The Color of America has Changed (Introduction-Ch. 5)

2.29 Surfing, CA
Frederick Kohner, Gidget

3.07 The Color of California (Part II)
Mark Brilliant, The Color of America has Changed (Ch. 6-Conclusion)

3.14 Spring Break
[No Class]

3.21 La Causa (Part I)
Miriam Pawel, The Union of Their Dreams (Preface, Prologue, Chs. 1-9, and 14)

3.28 La Causa (Part II)
Pawel, Union of Their Dreams (Chs. 18-19, 21-23, 28 (last “Chris” section), & Epilogue)

4.04 California in Cinema
*****Research Paper Proposals Due.*****
A) Bring three copies of a one-page research proposal that outlines the topic, scope, primary sources, secondary sources, and a list of questions that will drive your research paper.
B) Film Clip Due. Bring in a 1-3 minute film clip that depicts one historical era or event in California history. Have a discussion/analysis question to ask the class to consider while viewing.

4.11 Silicon Valley (Part I)
Dave Eggers, The Circle (Book 1)

4.18 Silicon Valley (Part II)
Dave Eggers, The Circle (Books 2 and 3)

4.25 California Contemporary (Part I)
Mark Arax, West of the West (Prologue, Chapters 1, 3, and 5)
*****[Draft first three pages (introduction) to term paper.]*****

5.02 California Contemporary (Part II)
Mark Arax, West of the West (Chapters 6, 8, and 11)

5.09 Your California (Part 1)
[Begin student presentations]

5.16 Your California (Part 2)
*****Research Papers Due*****
[Complete Student Presentations]