Blog Post

American Business History: Syllabus



History 364D/Econ 222D                                                      Professor Edward Balleisen

Duke University                                                                     243B Carr Building

Fall Term, 2012                                                                      684-2699

Office Hours: Tues., 1-3                                              

Lecture, MW 1:25-2:40, French Science 2231                                                                      


"The business of America," United States President Calvin Coolidge famously declared during the Roaring Twenties, "is business."  Although Coolidge's pronouncement remains subject to challenge from numerous vantage points, commercial enterprise has played an extraordinarily important role in shaping American politics, society, and culture since the country’s founding.  This course analyzes the historical development of business in the United States during the nineteenth, twentieth, and early twenty-first centuries.  In addition to providing a broad overview of such crucial processes as the emergence of an integrated, national marketplace, the growth and development of the modern corporation, the impact of governmental policy on the business environment, and the globalization of American enterprise, the class will also intensively examine two additional themes: 1) the sources and consequences of fundamental innovations in business strategy, especially in marketing; and 2) the shifting relations between large-scale employers and the members of their workforces.


REQUIRED BOOKS FOR PURCHASE   (Available at The Duke Textbook Store)


Balleisen, Edward. Scenes from a Corporate Make-over: Health Care Fraud and the

            Refashioning of Columbia/HCA, 1992–2001 (Durham, 2003)

Cowie, Jefferson. Capital Moves: RCA's Seventy-Year Quest for Cheap Labor (New York,


McCraw, Thomas. American Business, 1920-2000: How It Worked (2nd ed., Wheeling, Ill.,


Porter, Glenn. The Rise of Big Business, 1860-1920 (2nd ed., Wheeling, Ill., 1992).


A copy of each of these books is also available on reserve at Perkins Library.  There are also nine Harvard Business School case studies assigned throughout the term, which cost $3.95 each.  You will find instructions about how to download these case studies in the Assignments section of the Sakai site for this course.  Other readings are available through the course web page, or through databases accessible through the Duke Library homepage.  The documentaries assigned for the class will also be available on reserve at Lilly Library.




This "Writing in the Disciplines" and “Research” intensive course meets Monday and Wednesday in lecture, with a Friday section.  During the first six weeks of the term, when we will survey the broad outlines of business history in America from the revolutionary era through the present, the Monday and Wednesday classes will involve a mix of lecture and discussion.  For the remainder of the course, when we will be examining two thematic units through individual case studies, the Monday and Wednesday classes will incorporate an even greater substantial degree of discussion.  Thus it is extremely important that you complete reading assignments before coming to class, that you read carefully, and that you come ready to participate.  Students who read and participate generally report that they get a great deal out of the course.


Other requirements include: a short memo; an in-class test at the beginning of the sixth week; at least two polished contributions to class discussion boards; a 15-page research paper, including a prospectus and a first draft; and a final examination.




We expect you to abide by the rules and regulations of the Duke Honor Code in this course.  You will have plenty of opportunity to share ideas, and even some of your research work with other students.  But your research paper should credit other scholars or other students when you rely on their insights, language, or findings; and your exams should reflect your own conclusions.  At the beginning of the class test and final examination, we will ask you to pledge that you will abide by the Honor Code and Community Standard.  When you turn in a paper or an exam, we further expect that you will attest that you have abided by the Honor Code in completing the paper or test.  For detailed information on the Duke Honor Code and Community Standard, please see




            Class Participation:                             20% (includes posts to discussion forums)

            Annual Report Memo:                         5%

            Class Test:                                          15%

            Research Prospectus:                            3%

            First Draft of Research Paper:                        10%

            Final Draft of Research Paper:           27%

            Final Examination:                              20%




As mentioned above, this course has a Sakai Courseinfo website, which is integral to the class. On it you will find:


            * the syllabus and grading policy;

            * pdf files for many of the readings from texts other than those required for purchase;

discussion questions, and occasionally video clips and images;

            * guidelines for all assignments and examinations;

            * access to the course's discussion forums;

            * access to your grades;

            * class announcements (though I tend to use email for this purpose); and

            * a mechanism for submitting papers to your section leader or to me.





Sect. 01           Friday, 10:05-11:20                Old Chem 123                         Amanda Hughett

Sect. 02           Friday, 1:25-2:40                    Gray 319                                 Michael Stauch

Sect. 03           Friday, 11:45-1:00                  Biological Sciences 154           Ashley Young



Aug. 27     Approaches to American Business History


Aug. 29     The Process of "Creative Destruction"


                  McCraw, American Business, 1-12 [1-9 in 1st edition]

                  William Cronon, Nature's Metropolis, 207-259  [Coursesite]


Aug. 31 The Business Environment before the Large Corporation


Alfred Chandler, The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business (1977),

                  15-78 [Coursesite]

                  Porter, Rise of Big Business, 1-45

                  “A Career of Industry: With Some Account of Hats and Hatting,” Godey’s Lady Book and

                                    Magazine 49 (1854): 149-56 [American Periodicals Series Online {hereafter APSO}]


Sept. 3   The Business of American Slavery      [Discussion Board]


                  Jacob Metzer, "Rational Management, Modern Business Practices, and Economies of Scale in

Antebellum Southern Plantations," 12 Explorations in Economic History (April 1975): 123-150 [Periodicals Archive Online]

Diary of Bennet Barrow (1838-1841), Selections  [Coursesite]

                  Solomon Northup, Twenty Years a Slave (1853), 122-30, 132-39, 145-49, 159-63, 170-73

                                    [“Documenting the American South”]

                  Joseph Acklen, “Rules in the Management of a Southern Estate” (1856-57) [Coursesite]


Sept. 5  Business, Government, and the Myth of Laissez Faire         


            Porter, Rise of Big Business, 43-75

                  McCraw, American Business, 57-125 [67-102 in 1st edition]


Sept. 7 Railroads and the Challenges of Corporate Management      [Discussion Board]


                  Alfred Chandler, "Railroads and the Beginnings of Modern Management," downloadable from

                                    Harvard Business School Publishing website



Sept. 10 and Sept. 12


Introduction to Reseach Papers I – A Visit to Special Collections

Documentary Viewing in Class: The Richest Man in the World: Andrew Carnegie


On Sept. 10, students with last names A-L half of the class will meet in PERKINS LIBRARY’S RARE BOOK READING ROOM, and students with last names M-Z will watch the documentary on Carnegie in the lecture hall; On Sept. 12, students will switch.


Please look over the "Guide to Research Papers" and "List of Research Topics" before coming to Special Collections.


Get started on reading for Friday and next week


Sept. 14   The Rise of Big Business         [Discussion Board]


            Porter, Rise of Big Business, 75-120

                  Thomas McCraw, "The Standard Oil Company, Part A," downloadable from Harvard Business

                                    School Publishing website

                  Colleen Dunlavy, “How Did American Business Get So Big?" Audacity, The Magazine of Busi­ness

                         Experience 2 (Spring, 1994): 41-49 [Coursesite]

                  Henry Demarest Lloyd, “Story of a Great Monopoly,” Atlantic Monthly 25 (March 1881): 317-34


                  Ida Tarbell, “The History of the Standard Oil Company: Chapter V: The Price of Trust Building,”

                                    McClure’s 20 (March 1903): 493-512 [APSO]


Sept. 17  Anti-Trust in Historical Perspective                  


                  Thomas McCraw, "Antitrust Movement: Perceptions and Reality in Coping with Big Business,"

                                    downloadable from Harvard Business School Publishing website


Sept. 19   Creating the Multinational Corporation    [Discussion Board]


Maurice Brungardt, "The United Fruit Company in Columbia," in Henry Dethloff and C. Joseph

                  Pusateri, eds., American Business History: Case Studies (1987), 235-56  [Coursesite]

Ulf Jonas Bjork, "The U.S. Commerce Department Aids Hollywood Exports, 1921-1933, Historian

                  62 (2000): 575-87  [Academic Search Premier]

                  "Finance and Industry: The American Automobile Conquers the World," Current Opinion 55

                                    (1913): 279-81 [APSO]

                  James A Farrell, "Greater Prosperity through Foreign Trade," North American Review 229 (1930):

                                    1-6  [APSO]

                  Alfred Sloan, My Years with General Motors (1963), 313-39  [Coursesite]


Sept. 21  Creating the Multidivisional Corporation      [Discussion Board]


                  McCraw, American Business, 13-31 [10-27 in 1st edition]

                  Henry Ford, “What I Have Learned about Management in the Past 25 Years,” System 49 (Jan.

                                     1926): 37-40, 193-95 [Coursesite]

                  Waldemaar Kaempffert, “The Mussolini of Highland Park,” New York Times Magazine, Jan. 8,

                                    1928, 1-2, 22 [Historical New York Times]

                  J. George Frederick, “The Great Automobile Duel of 1927,” The Independent 118 (April 23,

                                    1927): 434-35, 452 [APSO]

                  Alfred P. Sloan, “Getting the Facts,” Automotive Industries 57 (Oct. 8, 1927): 550-51


                  Charles McD. Puckette, “General Motors: A Romance of Business,” New York Times, Aug.

                                    14, 1927, XX, 1-2 [Historical New York Times]



Sept. 24  Conglomerates and the Great Merger Movement of the 1960s


McCraw, American Business, 32-55 [28-58 in the 1st edition]

John Abele, "Conglomerate Mergers Get Spotlight," New York Times, July 10, 1968, p. 49

John Abele, "Giant Mergers Are Stirring up Giant Questions," New York Times, Oct. 6, 1968, p.


John Abele, "Investors in Conglomerates Are Seeing the Other Side of the Coin," New York                                             Times, April 13, 1969, p. F6 [all NYT articles in Historical New York Times]

Norman Berg, “What’s Different about Conglomerate Management?” Harvard Business Review

                  47 (1969): 112-20 [Businesss Source Complete]


Sept. 26   Deconglomeration, Globalization, and the Imperatives of Corporate Management at

            the Turn of the Twenty-First Century


McCraw, American Business, 184-211

Robert H. Hayes and William Abernathy, “Managing Our Way to Economic Decline,” Harvard

                  Business Review 58 (July, 1980): 64-77 [Business Source Complete]

Leslie Wayne, "Buyouts Altering Face of Corporate America," New York Times, Nov. 23, 1985,

                  p. 1

James Sterngold, "Shaking Billions from the Money Tree," New York Times, Sep. 6, 1987, p. 1

                  [NYT articles in Historical New York Times]

                  Frank Dobbin and Dirk Zorn, “Corporate Malfeasance and the Myth of Shareholder Value,” in

                                    Diane E. Davis, ed., Political Power and Social Theory 17 (2005): 179-98 [Coursesite]


Sept. 28  Turning Points in Twentieth-Century Business        [Discussion Board]


                  McCraw, American Business, 157-183, 212-255 [103-216 in 1ts edition]


Oct. 1   Corporate Annual Reports: Windows on the Evolution of Corporate Strategy


Annual Report, United States Steel Corporation, 1937

Annual Reports, General Electric, 1948 and 1949

Annual Report, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Corporation, 1959, 1960

Annual Report, LTV Corporation, 1972

[all available through Proquest Historical Annual Reports]



See Coursesite for details on this class and the associated writing assignment, which must be submitted through the digital dropbox by 5:00, Sept. 30.





Oct. 5  Introduction to Research Papers II – Crafting Good Research Questions

                                                                        Historical Resources on the Worldwide Web






Oct. 8   John Jacob Astor and the Challenges of Intercontinental Management     


            Thomas McCraw, "John Jacob Astor -- 1763-1848," downloadable from Harvard Business School

                                    Publishing website

                  John D. Haeger, "Business Strategy and Practice in the Early Republic: John Jacob Astor

                                    and the American Fur Trade," Western Historical Quarterly 19 (1988): 183-202


                  "John Jacob Astor," Merchant's Magazine and Commercial Review 11 (1844): 153-9  [APSO]



Oct. 10   Getting Going on Research


Work Sessions in Special Collections or Perkins Computer Area


Oct. 12    R. G. Dun, John M. Bradstreet, and the Legitimation of Modern Credit Reporting

                        [Discussion Board]


Rowena Olegario, A Culture of Credit: Embedding Trust and Transparency in American

                  Business (Cambridge, Mass., 2006), 36-79, 165-73 [Coursesite]

R. G. Dun Credit Reports, 1850-1881, reprinted in Regina Lee Blaszczyk and Philip Scranton,

eds., Major Problems in American Business History (2006), 277-89 [Coursesite]

"The Mercantile Agency," 24 Hunt's Merchants' Magazine (1851): 46-53 [APSO]

“Mercantile Agencies,” Milwaukee Sentinel, Jan. 17, 1852, 3 [America’s Historical Newspapers]

"Horace Billing v. Edward Russell," 8 Monthly Law Reporter (1856): 699-703 [APSO]

 “Beauties of the Credit System,” Circular, Aug. 14, 1856, 120 [APSO]

"The Mercantile Agency System," 8 Bankers' Magazine (1858): 545-49 [APSO]

“Bankruptcy in the Year 1858,” 8 Bankers’ Magazine (1858): 637-42 [APSO]

                  “Mercantile Agencies,” Albany Law Journal, Aug. 2, 1873, 65-66 [APSO]


Fall Break, Oct. 13-16


Oct. 17    Imagining the Department Store    [Discussion Board]


                  William Cronon, Nature's Metropolis, 310-33 [Coursesite]

                  Nancy Koehn, "Marshall Field and the Rise of the Department Store," downloadable from Harvard

                                    Business School Publishing website

                  Edward Crapsey, "A Monument to Trade," The Galaxy 9 (1870): 94-101 [APSO]

                  John Wanamaker, 1874 Advertisement for Wanamaker’s Department Store, reprinted in Regina

                                    Lee Blaszczyk and Philip Scranton, eds., Major Problems in American Business History

                                    (2006), 298-99 [Coursesite]



Oct. 19   The Rise of Mail-Order           [Discussion Board]


                  William Cronon, Nature's Metropolis, 333-340 [Coursesite]

Boris Emmet & John Jeuck, Catalogues and Counters: A History of Sears, Roebuck & Co.

(1950), 112-17  [Coursesite]                    

Alfred Chandler, Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of Industrial Enterprise

                  (Cambridge, 1990, 2nd ed.), 225-31  [Coursesite]

Documents from Sears, Roebuck & Co., 1889-1919 [Coursesite]

Optional Viewing: "Mr. Sears' Catalogue"



Oct. 22    H. J. Heinz and Brand Creation          [Discussion Board]


            Nancy Koehn, "Henry Heinz and Brand Creation in the Late Nineteenth Century: Making

Markets for Processed Food," 73 Business History Review (1999): 349-94 [JSTOR]

                  Late Nineteenth-Century Advertisements from Processed Food Companies [Coursesite]



Research Prospectus due via email submission to your T.A. or Prof. Balleisen, 3:00 P.M., Oct. 23


Oct. 24  The Shake-out in the Early Automobile Industry         


David Kirsch and Gijs Mom, "Visions of Transportation: The EVC and the Transition from

                  Service to Product-Based Mobility," Business History Review 76 (2002): 75-110


                  David T. Wells, “The Growth of the Automobile Industry in America,” Outing Magazine 51 (Nov.

                                    1907, 207-19 [APSO]

                  “United States Motor Company and Reasons for Its Failure,” Wall Street Journal, April 10,

                                    1913, p. 8 [Historical Wall Street Journal]

                  “Financing of Fake Motor Companies Has Wasted a Billion,” Wall Street Journal, Feb. 25, 1921,

                                    p. 7.

                  Collection of Early Automobile Advertisements  [Coursesite]



Oct. 26     No Sections -- Individual Meetings to Discuss Research




Oct. 29   The Promise and Pitfalls of Exporting “American Business” to Twentieth-Century

                        Europe       [Discussion Board]


Clark Eric Hultquist, “Americans in Paris: The J. Walter Thompson Company in France, 1927-

            1968,” 4 Enterprise and Society (2003): 471-501 [Project Muse]

Christopher McKenna, The World’s Newest Profession: Management Consulting in the Twentieth

                                    Century (New York, 2006), 165-91 [Coursesite]

                  Mostyn Mowbray, “Peculiarities of French Advertising Defended by Agency Head Henault,”

                                    Advertising Age, Jan. 7, 1957, 82 [Coursesite]

                  Milton Moskowitz, “Sun Hardly Ever Sets on J. Walter Thompson,” Advertising Age, March 9,

                                    1959, 2 [Coursesite]

                  Philip Shabecoff, “Agencies Rush to Establish Ties in Western Europe,” New York Times, Nov.

                                    12, 1961, F12 [Historical New York Times]

                  Michael Shanks, “Tapping the Rising Flow of Business Ideas,” London Times Sept. 21, 1967, 23

                                    [Times Digital Archives]

                  Robert Allbrook, “Europe's Lush Market for Advice, American Preferred,” 80 Fortune (July, 1969):

                                    128-31 [Coursesite]


Oct. 31    Michael Dell and the Custom-Made Computer          [Discussion Board]


                  Nancy Koehn, Brand New: How Entrepreneurs Earned Customers Trust from Wedgwood to

Dell (Cambridge, 2001), 257-306 [Coursesite]

                  Marcia Stepanek, "What Does No. 1 Do for an Encore," Business Week, Nov. 2, 1998 

                                    [Lexis-Nexis -- Business News, Business and Finance]


Nov. 2    Chain Stores in the Twentieth Century          [Discussion Board]


                  Thomas McCraw, "Chain Stores," downloadable from Harvard Business School Publishing


Sandra Vance and Roy Scott, "Sam Walton and Walmart Stores, Inc.: A Study in Modern

Southern Entrepreneurship," 58 Journal of Southern History (1992): 231-252 [JSTOR]

                  Tim Larimer, "Chain Store Reaction," Washington Post Sunday Magazine, Dec. 1, 1991

                                    [Lexis-Nexis -- General News, Major Papers]

Jonathan Walters, "Store Wars," 8 Governing Magazine (1995)  [Lexis-Nexis -- General News,


                  Leslie Kaufman, "As Biggest Business, Wal-Mart Propels Changes Elsewhere," New York

Times, Oct. 22, 2000, A1  [Proquest]


Nov. 5   Remaking the World of Healthcare: Columbia/HCA at the Turn of the 21st Century                                                                                            [Discussion Board]

                  Balleisen, Scenes from a Corporate Makeover

                  Andrew Ross Sorkin, “HCA Buyout Highlights Era of Going Private,” New York Times, July 25,

                                    2006 [Proquest]

                  Vince Galloro, “For Profits Feel Global Warming,” Modern Healthcare, March 3, 2008 [Lexis-

                                    Nexis, Business News]


Nov. 7  Remaking the World of Mortgage Finance: Innovation and Crisis in the Era of

Deregulation                            [Discussion Board]


Washington Mutual Television Ads, “The Power of Yes,” circa 2004



Countrywide Bank Television Ad, circa 2006


Casa America Mortgage Company Ad, circa 2007


Total Integrity Mortgage Company Ad, circa 2007


CBS Sixty Minutes, “House of Cards,” May 25, 2008   (14 minutes)


                  Joseph Stiglitz, “The Fall of Lehman Brothers,” Big Think, Sept. 15, 2008  (6 minutes)


                  Gretchen Morgenson, “Merill Lynch and the Mortgage Crisis,” Fresh Air, Nov. 13, 2008

                           (first 27 minutes)

                  Eric Lipton and Stephen Labaton, “Deregulator Looks Back, Unswayed,” New York Times, Nov.

                                    17, 2008 [Proquest]

                  Michael Lewis, “The End of Wall Street’s Boom,” Portfolio Magazine (Dec. 2008)



Nov. 9    Continuing Research Work


Work Sessions in Special Collections or Perkins Computer Area





Nov. 12   Craft, Slave, and Factory Workers in the early 19th Century          [Discussion Board]


                  Thomas McCraw, "Work: Craft and Factory in Nineteenth-Century America," downloadable from

                                    Harvard Business School Publishing website

                  John Bezís‑Selfa, "A Tale of Two Ironworks: Slavery, Free Labor, Work, and Resistance in the

Early Republic," 56 William and Mary Quarterly (1999): 677‑700 [JSTOR]


Nov. 14   The Rise of "Scientific Management"          [Discussion Board]


            Thomas McCraw, "Mass Production and the Beginnings of Scientific Management,"

                                    downloadable from Harvard Business School Publishing website

                  Daniel Nelson, "Taylorism and the Workers at Bethlehem Steel," 101 Pennsylvania Magazine

of History and Biography (1977): 487-505  [Coursesite]

                  John Frey, "Scientific Management and Labor," 23 American Federationist (1916): 358-64


                  Video Clip, "A Job at Ford's" [Coursesite]


Nov. 16   Company Towns in the Late Nineteenth Century          [Discussion Board]


Nelson Lichtenstein, et al., Who Built America?, 47-50, 122-129

                  Richard Ely, "Pullman: A Social Study," 70 Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1885): 452-66

Samuel Gompers, "The Lessons of the Recent Strike," North American Review (1894): 201-07

                  Nelson Miles, "The Lessons of the Recent Strike," North American Review (1894): 180-88

                  Edward Porritt, "The Cotton Mills in the South," 18 New England Magazine (1895): 575-86

                  [all readings in Coursesite]


Nov. 19   The Limits of Welfare Capitalism in Interwar America          [Discussion Board]


                  Nelson Lichtenstein, et al., Who Built America? (2000), 172-74, 197-200  [Coursesite]

                  Paul Street, "The Swift Difference: Workers, Managers, Militants, and Welfare Capitalism in

Chicago's Stockyards, 1917-1942," in Stromquist and Bergman, eds., Unionizing the Jungle: Labor and Community in the Twentieth-Century Meatpacking Industry (1997), 15-50  [Coursesite]

                  Joseph Willits, "The Labor Turnover and the Humanizing of Industry," 61 Annals of the

American Academy of Potitical and Social Sciences (1915): 127-37  [JSTOR]

Video Clip, "The Killing Floor"


FIRST DRAFT OF RESEARCH PAPER DUE with submission through digital dropbox, Nov. 20, 7:00 p.m.

There will be individual meetings to discuss your drafts scheduled throughout the week of Nov. 26th


Thanksgiving Break


Nov. 26   Labor Relations at RCA, I   [Discussion Board]


                  Cowie, Capital Moves, 1-72

                  Selection of New York Times articles on labor relations at RCA, 1936-1951 [Coursesite]



Nov. 28   The Price of Peace at General Motors, 1935 to 1950         


            Nelson Lichtenstein et al., Who Builit America? (2000), 432-34, 439-44, 528-34, 576-79

                  Editorials, Business Week, March 20, April 10, 1937

Charles Madison, "Walter Reuther and the New Unionism," n.s. 39 Yale Review (1949): 275-93

C. E. Wilson, "Five Years of Industrial Peace" (1950)

                  Alfred Sloan, My Years with General Motors, 390-406  [all readings available through the



Nov. 30      Labor Relations at RCA, II     [Discussion Board]


Cowie, Capital Moves, 73-151, 201-209


Dec. 3     Nike and the Sweatshop Campaign          [Discussion Board]


Jennifer Burns, "Hitting the Wall: Nike and the International Labor Practices," in

Harvard Business School Reader

"Put Your Foot Down! Be a Sneaker Activist," Buffalo News, July 30, 1996, N5

                  [Lexis-Nexis – General News, Major Papers]

Danielle Knight, "Nike Initiative to Improve Factory Conditions," Interpress News Service, May 12,

            1998 [Proquest]

                  Louise Lee, "Can Nike Still Do It?" Business Week, Feb. 21, 2000 [Lexis-Nexis – General News,

Major Papers]


April 23, 2000, M2 [Lexis-Nexis, General News, Major Papers]


Dec. 5   Taking Stock/Review -- Lecture


Dec. 7   Taking Stock -- Section Review Sessions


FINAL RESEARCH PAPER due at 5:00 on Dec. 7, through the Digital Dropbox


FINAL EXAM – Dec. 11, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.




History 364D/Econ 222D


Professor Balleisen

Duke University

Fall Term, 2012





The goal of this exercise is to produce a research paper of 15 pages, inclusive of footnotes. Your paper should explore one of the central themes of the course through intensive examination of a particular historical episode, issue, or context.  It most cases, this approach will require a focus on one aspect of one business in a defined period.  Your essay should:


a) tackle of one of the topics listed in the Guide to Research Topics.  The list is long, so you should find something that interests you.  Each topic relates primarily one of the two thematic units in the latter two-thirds of the course.  Most of these topics require extensive research in archival collections at the Rubenstein Special Collections Library.  We strongly encourage you to think about choosing one of these topics.  Most years about 2/3 of students do so, and generally enjoy the experience of engaging with the messy but revealing shards of evidence in archival documents (memos, diaries, correspondence, account books, legal sources, advertisements, newsletters,


You may write on a different topic, but if you wish to do so, you must get permission from Professor Balleisen for your alternative choice by Oct 13th.  That permission will hinge on your having identified an appropriate historical problem/question, AND appropriate sources.  So anyone wishing to pursue this option will need to initiate a conversation about other possible topics well in advance of Oct. 13th.


b) be based primarily on "primary" sources -- the "raw material" of historical interpretation -- and not on secondary sources -- the work of historians or other scholars.  You MAY draw on secondary sources, and I have suggested secondary works you might wish to consult for particular topics.  You may certainly also draw on the historical scholarship you read for class.  But your argument should reflect sustained engagement with the primary documents that you have analyzed.  If a discussion of scholarship plays an important role in your paper, we expect you to make clear how your own research in primary sources relates to the scholarly literature that you have read.  Perhaps you will wish to disagree with some aspects of the analysis by other scholars, or to build on that analysis in some way, or to test the applicability of its conclusions/generalizations against the evidence contained in the primary documents that you examine.


For many of the research topics, I have laid out many more sources than you would need to consult to write a first-rate paper.  Your choice of sources within a given topic will almost certainly reflect the particular questions you decide to pursue.


c) make an interpretive argument.  Thus if you choose to write about the labor management practices on antebellum slave plantations, perhaps focusing on a comparison of a cotton plantation in the Lower South with a tobacco plantation in the Upper South, you should not simply describe the ways that managers treated slaves and oversaw work processes, as well as the apparent consequences of those strategies for the individuals concerned and for economic outcomes.  You should also link those findings to broader questions about the nature of slavery as a key facet of the nineteenth-century American business environment.


d) draw connections and/or comparisons with the material that we will be examining throughout the semester.  The most obvious points to consider will fall within the "thematic unit" identified with each topic, but other linkages or comparisons may certainly occur to you as well.  Thus in writing about P. T. Barnum's innovations in mass entertainment, you should do much more than simply describe the key episodes in his career.  You might consider the connections between his various business strategies and the growth of a national market, or the nature of his responses to the deep-seated cultural opposition that his (and similar) approaches to business engendered.  In other words, you should engage in historical analysis, assessing the significance of continuity and/or change over time, and developing explanations for that continuity and/or change.





There are several discrete assignments associated with the research paper, which are designed to keep you from trying to pull something together in a wild frenzy at the end of the term.  On Oct. 10 and Nov. 9, you will have the obligation to spend a session working on your research either at the Special Collections Library, or the Perkins computer area.  We have set up these sessions to ensure that you get going on your work early, and that you have ample opportunities to ask questions of the professor, T.A.s, and librarians/archivists.


TAs will grade the assignments associated with the research paper for 3 out of every 4 students in their sections, and meet individually with those students; Professor Balleisen will grade and meet with the remainder of students.  We’ll let you know which group you are in after the midterm.  The written assignments associated with the research paper are as follows:


a) GENERAL STATEMENT OF PROPOSED RESEARCH, submitted to your section leader (or Professor Balleisen) by 3:00 on Oct. 23rd, via email.  This two-page "prospectus," which counts for 3% of your grade, should constitute an initial "road map" for your research.  It should lay out the particular question or questions that you wish to answer (these questions may change as you get deeper into the subject matter), and indicate what documents will allow you to develop answers to these questions. You should append:


--  a tentative bibliography that demonstrates the existence and availability of sources that will enable you to tackle your question or questions. (For most topics, I have given you an extensive list of specific documents from which to work, because finding relevant sources would prove especially difficult and time consuming.  If you choose one of these topics, your prospectus should: identify the key sources on which you expect to focus; dig into the kinds of questions you wish to answer; and discuss the relevance of those sources to your questions.  You can, of course, identify other relevant sources beyond those I have given you, if you so choose); and


-- two to three pages of notes that you have taken on relevant primary sources, so that we can get a sense of how you have started on the project, and offer you suggestions about effective note-taking practices.  (For suggestions about approaches to note-taking and brainstorming, you may wish to consult to some of the websites listed in the Coursesite’s “External Links” Section.)


Even if several students choose the same topic, I would expect substantial differences in research agendas, sources, and eventual analyses, since there are many, many potential approaches to every "topic." (See the comments about discussion boards on research topics below.)  On either Oct. 25th or Oct. 26th, you will have an individual meeting with your section leader (or with me) to discuss your prospectus and notes.


b) 3000 WORD FIRST DRAFT, submitted to your section leader (or Professor Balleisen, as appropriate) by 7:00 p.m. on Nov. 20th, through the coursesite’s Digital Dropbox.  This draft, which counts for 10% of your course grade, need not be a perfectly polished essay; but it should be much more than just disconnected fragments.   It should:


-- clearly identify what you view, at least at this stage in the proceedings, to be your central argument;


-- convey a working narrative structure (you may wish to turn in an accompanying tentative "outline," especially if you have left out a section or two of your paper);


-- demonstrate substantial analysis of primary sources related to your topic (In other words, you need to have accomplished meaningful research before you sit down to write the draft);


-- furnish appropriate footnotes.  Those students who do not already own a guide to term papers such as Turabian's Guide or The Chicago Manual of Style can avail themselves of the links provided by the Duke Honor Council at:



-- include a two-dimensional chronology of events and historical processes related to your topic, based on the format of the chronology that we gave you in the class before the in-clase test; and


-- include some conceptual diagram/schematic of your argument at this stage.



You might also, in an accompanying note, flag potential criticisms of your analysis, or other difficulties/problems that you have encountered in translating your research into a tightly constructed argument. 


On Nov. 26th, Nov. 27th, and Nov. 28th, there will be individual meetings to discuss your drafts, including: the persuasiveness of your analysis; the clarity of your writing style and organization; your use of evidence; and possibly, additional avenues of research that you should pursue.


c) FINAL PAPER (15 pages), due at 5:00 on Dec. 7th, again with submission through the Digital Dropbox.  This polished, proof-read (not simply spell-checked) final draft, which will be worth 27% of your grade, should respond substantially to the constructive criticism on the first draft, as well as flesh out the argument where necessary; it should also have a full bibliography and appropriate footnotes.





The course website includes discussion boards for each of the suggested research topics, available through its "Communications" link.  Students pursuing the same general research topic should feel free to converse with one another through the relevant discussion board, especially about useful sources that they have uncovered either in the library or online.  You may also, if you choose, throw out ideas or questions that you are pursuing and/or respond to the approaches, questions, and ideas of others addressing the same topic.  Participation in a research discussion board is not required, but will help your participation grade for the course.


This semester, archivists will be monitoring the research discussion boards for the topics that require research in sources housed at Special Collections.  If you post questions about sources or research strategies to the archivists, they will respond through the site within a few days.


NOTE WELL:  If you find out about a source through a fellow student, or if you receive especially useful feedback from another student, you should credit that student appropriately in your footnotes.  Although we encourage conversation about your research efforts with other students tackling the same general topic, we expect each student to develop his/her own approach to the topic, to engage in independent research of whatever sources he/she relies upon, and to construct his/her own arguments and prose.





Duke furnishes ALL of its students (yes, even those of you who already write with great clarity, sophistication, and flair) with a remarkable opportunity to improve writing skills -- appointments with tutors at the Duke "Writing Studio." The Studio furnishes tutors at both Lilly and Perkins Libraries, who are available during most afternoons and evenings.  Everyone in the class can benefit enormously from discussing their writing assignments with a Writing Studio tutor.  Have a look at their website:





Any student who bases her/his research paper on archival materials in the Special Collections Library is eligible for the Middlesworth Award, which is presented every year to the student (or students) who produce the best research paper at Duke using such evidence.  (Several students have received recognition from the Middlesworth Committee for papers written for this course.)  At the final exam, we'll let students know if we would like to nominate their research papers for this award.





Students who complete a research paper based on primary sources not in Special Collections are still eligible for the Durden Award, which is presented every year to the student (or students) who produce the best research paper at Duke based on inventive use of library resources writ large.  At the final exam, we’ll let students know if we would like to nominate their research papers for this award.


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