Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2012-2013 (archived)

Module HIST3441: History of American Capitalism

Department: History

HIST3441: History of American Capitalism

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2012/13 Module Cap None.


  • • A pass mark in at least ONE level 2 module in History


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • to introduce students to interdisciplinary historical scholarship on American political economy, post-1865
  • to give students the conceptual tools to identify, distinguish among, and critique different interpretive approaches and theoretical frameworks in the history of capitalism
  • to enable students to engage in active historiographical debates among historians of the U.S.


  • Academic history seldom makes it onto the front page of the New York Times. The “history of capitalism” did just that in April 2013. In the last several years, historians of the U.S. working across a broad range of disciplines have coalesced to create a new subfield that has already spawned several research institutes, summer seminars, and a book series. This course will engage students in cutting-edge debates among historians of American political economy by exploring the new history of American capitalism. How did independent truck drivers help spur neoliberal deregulation? What does Moby Dick tell us about the Panic of 1837? We will read foundational texts and cutting-edge research that spans business history, cultural history, environmental history, labor history, and the history of finance and the corporation, and we’ll investigate how firms, market relations, and the economy were shaped by politics, culture, and the actions of everyday people. At the same time, this course will inquire into the scholarly politics of disciplinary paradigm shifts and involve students in real-time debates among historians. What forces, inside and outside of the academy, animate the explosive growth of the history of capitalism? What is magnified or elided when research is reorganized around a new scholarly pole? How are historians intervening in contemporary debates about the economy, the prerogatives of corporations, and the politics of debt; or, in other words, how are developments in contemporary capitalism producing the “history of capitalism?”

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • The ability to develop arguments about the way historians debate the place of capitalism in modern American history;
  • An understanding of contemporary debates about capitalism and its history;
  • Developing skills in critical reading and historiographical analysis.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Subject specific skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/
Key Skills:
  • Subject specific skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Student learning is facilitated by a combination of the following teaching methods:
  • lectures to set the foundations for further study and to provide the basis for the acquisition of subject specific knowledge. Lectures provide a broad framework which defines individual module content, introducing students to themes, debates and interpretations. In this environment, students are given the opportunity to develop skills in listening, selective note-taking and reflection;
  • seminars to allow students to present and critically reflect upon the acquired subject-specific knowledge, methodologies and theories, and to identify and debate a range of issues and differing opinions. The seminar is the forum in which students are given the opportunity to communicate ideas, jointly exploring themes and arguments. Seminars are structured to develop understanding and designed to maximise student participation related to prior independent preparation. Seminars give students the opportunity to develop oral communication skills, encourage critical and tolerant approaches to reasoned argument and historical discussion, build the students' ability to marshal historical evidence, and facilitate the development of the ability to summarise historical arguments, think in a rapidly changing environment and communicate in a persuasive and articulate manner, whilst recognising the value of working with others and, occasionally, towards shared goals.
  • Assessment:
  • Examinations test students' ability to work under pressure under timed conditions, to prepare for examinations and direct their own programme of revision and learning, and develop key time management skills. The examination gives students the opportunity to develop relevant life skills such as the ability to produce coherent, reasoned and supported arguments under pressure. Students will be examined on subject specific knowledge. In addition, seen Examinations (with pre-released paper) are intended to enable Level 3 students to produce more considered and reflective work;
  • Summative essays remain a central component of assessment in history, due to the integrative high-order skills they develop. Essays allow students the opportunity to recognise, represent and critically reflect upon ideas, concepts and problems; students can demonstrate awareness of, and the ability to use and evaluate, a diverse range of resources and identify, represent and debate a range of subject-specific issues and opinions. Through the essay, students can synthesise information, adopt critical appraisals and develop reasoned argument based on individual research; they should be able to communicate ideas in writing, with clarity and coherence; and to show the ability to integrate and critically assess material from a wide range of sources.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 21 Weekly in Terms one & two and 2 in Term three 1 hour 21
Seminars 7 4 in Term one, 3 in Term two 1hour 7
Preparation and Reading 172

Summative Assessment

Component: Essays Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 maximum of 2000 words, not inclusive of scholarly apparatus 50%
Essay 2 maximum of 2000 words, not inclusive of scholarly apparatus 50%
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Seen examination [paper to be made available not less than twenty-four hours before the start of the examination] 2 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

Coursework essays are formative as well as summative. They are to be submitted in two copies, of which one will be returned with written comments and a standard departmental feedback sheet; Preparation to participate in tutorials; At least one oral presentation or short written assignment.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University