HIST 311 American Frontiers : From Contact to Empire

Americans have long idealized the frontier as an untrammeled backcountry, a mythologized landscape of “cowboys and Indians”, prairie and homesteaders, ranchers and sodbusters. In this course, we will draw on colonial and postcolonial theory to reinterpret these stories in the historical context of a set of encounters involving the Americas and the Americans - native and immigrant, from Europe, Asia, and Africa - with the rest of the world, contacts that began in 1492 and are still going on today. In the process, we will explore a diverse array of borderlands between people, environments, mythologies, and histories – spaces of interaction and reinvention. But these borderland spaces are fragile; contact zones devolve, again and again, into conquest, domination, genocide, and empire. Although this is a transnational phenomenon, this course is primarily concerned with the frontier in North America and particularly in the American West and in California. Along the way, we will also be doing our own original archival research, so students will have a chance to make their own mark upon the long history of the American frontier experience.


4 units


HIST 101

Core Requirements Met

  • United States Diversity
  • Pre-1800