As of December 31, 2014, I retired from full-time teaching in Humboldt State University's Department of History. While this website will remain online, it is no longer maintained.

History 383 - Fall 2015 - Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer
Founders Hall 147
Office Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11-12 and 3-4 and by appointment

The course syllabus - available online at - is divided into three parts:

Please consult this course syllabus online for all questions regarding course requirements and assignment due dates - as well as for any changes in the syllabus and/or assignments. Please note, even though the discussion guides are included for each class meeting, they are not the equivalent of the lecture notes.  In most cases, the guides will not make sense without attending class.  In other words, you must attend class!!! Please also note that I have the right to revise the syllabus at any time during the semester. Please note that this syllabus was revised on November 9, 2015.


Course Description

This course analyzes the historical factors that have produced the very complex and diverse state of California. We will explore California's ethnic, economic, and geographical diversity, we will examine the efforts of those Californians who built the political, economic, and social infrastructure of the state and helped shape what people around the world continue to call the "California Dream," and we will learn about the courageous efforts of many Californians to change the reality of their limited and unequal access to that dream. My goals for teaching History 383 are to help you:

Course Themes: All academic work in this course relates either directly or indirectly to one of more of the following course themes:
  1. Geographical, cultural, ethnic, and geological diversity are primary ingredients in California's history.
  2. Interaction, assimilation, and conflict among racial and socioeconomic groups has shaped California's history.
  3. Since statehood, Californians have manipulated their environment in order to extract resources, build more complex economies, and attract and support larger populations.
  4. California's lack of water is perhaps the central fact of its existence - and various water policies have all depended on the manipulation of this scarce resource.
  5. California is a place of the extreme, the unusual, and the spectacular.
  6. In geographical terms, California is a very old place; in socio-political terms, California is a relatively new place.
  7. The real history of California is complex and filled with stories of both success and failure, power and oppression, interaction and conflict, extraordinary and ordinary individuals, environmental conservation and destruction.
  8. California's society can be characterized by persistent inequality, attempts by certain groups to subordinate others, and inter-group tensions between those in power and those courageous Californians who have resisted social, economic, and political oppression.

Attendance: Class attendance is mandatory. If you miss 3 classes, your final grade in the class will drop a full grade. If you miss 5 classes, your final grade will drop two full grades. If you miss 7 classes, your final grade will drop three full grades. More than 8 absences will result in failure.


Course Requirements

For each class meeting, you will have various reading and Internet-based assignments. Prior to coming to class, please complete all reading and assignments explained in detail on the Course Outline below. Your prior thought and preparation about the assignments will enable us to have a more intellectual conversation during each class meeting. PLEASE NOTE - If you are a History Major or a History Major - Social Science Education Track student, keep all your work for this class with my comments on them for inclusion in your final portfolio for the History Department.

Following are the course requirements:

Book: Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi, Wherever There's a Fight: How ruanaway slaves, suffragists, immigrants, strikers, and poets shaped civil liberties in California. Berkeley: Heyday Books, 2009. Chapters will be assigned as noted in the Course Outline below. Please note that several copies of this book are available on Reserve in the Library.

Primary and secondary documents: Various online primary and secondary documents as noted in the Course Outline below will be required and can be accessed directly online.

Assessments: The following will be completed throughout the semester: cold call reading reviews, three essay assignments, and four unit examinations. All assignments are listed in red on the course syllabus. Please note: You will only get credit for all of the following assignments IF you attend the entire class on the day the assignments are due.

Because I will be cold calling - not asking for volunteers - you must be ready to engage in a collegial discussion about the required reading. You may use any of your notes about the reading to help you formulate your answers. You will be called upon A MINIMUM OF 10 TIMES THROUGHOUT THE SEMESTER. If you are called upon more than 10 times, you will earn extra credit points for your answers. The following point system will be used to determine the score for the answers:

It is possible to accumulate 330 points for this semester's class. Points and grades will be earned as follows:


Course Outline

This course is divided into four units of academic study. Under each of the four units, you will find the topic and a link to the discussion guides for each day's discussion, as well as the required reading/viewing and any required assignments that are due.

8/25 - Introduction: California - Land of Mythology and Geographical Diversity. The discussion guides can be found at

Unit I: Colonizing California

Unit II: Building and Modernizing California
Unit III: Bringing California Into the 20th Century
Unit IV: Getting California through the Tumultuous Decades

Please note that we will not spend a class on the discussion of Brown, Reagan, and Brown: California Governors. (The discussion guides can be found at HOWEVER, you will have a question from the discussion guides on your final exam so you will have to go through the discussion guides on your own AND/OR in a study group.


This course meets the five major skills that the History Department believes historians need and that history majors should develop as they progress through the major: writing, research, critical thinking, historiography and methodology, and oral presentation.

Please note the following information about HSU policies: