SYLLABUS: The American Built Environment
This course will examine the historical development of the American built environment, from rural settlements and regional vernacular architectural styles to landscapes of industrial agriculture in the countryside, and from colonial ports to nineteenth-century industrial cities and the sprawling metropolitan regions of today. We will explore the ways that Americans have shaped their environments and their reasons for doing so by looking at the influence of changing ideas about race, class and gender, while also developing the skills to identify buildings and landscapes in both time and space. How have ideas about American democracy and individual rights influenced our everyday surroundings? What about our ideas about sacred spaces that need preservation or special consideration that concern preservationists, public historians and historians of the environment and urban landscapes?
Students will develop the practical skills of place-based historical research by studying change over time in the Atlanta region. We will also think about the city and suburb as artifacts of material culture, looking at both archival and physical evidence to construct spatial biographies. As a practical exercise in historical research, which will be a valuable addition to any professional or academic portfolio, students will study individual sites in the local environment and develop a walking tour to explain their relationship to the larger history of Atlanta.