Hist 150c6, Spring 2019

Introduction to Political History
Hist. 150c6, Section 1
Offered by the Department of History, University of Arizona

Spring semester, 2019
Tuesday and Thursday, 2-3:15pm
Location: Pacheco ILC, Room 120

David N. Gibbs, Professor of History
Office: Chavez 338
Office Hours: Monday and Wednesday, 8:30-10:00am
Tel: 621-5416

Graduate Teaching Assistant:
Nicole Crisp, crispn@email.arizona.edu 
Office hours: Thursday, 11:30-1:30, Chavez 422

URL for Syllabus:

** Class Announcements **
Students should check the above site regularly.


This class will focus on persuasion and propaganda, and their role in political history. The course will have four components: First, it will examine the role of propaganda in totalitarian regimes, such as Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany. Second, we will examine more "modern" forms of propaganda, as it appears in political advertising, speeches, and newspapers in the United States and other western democracies. Third, we will study the use of logical political arguments, and how these differ from propagandistic arguments. Fourth, this course aims to improve basic skills, especially the incorporation of logical thought and analysis into the writing of student papers.

The overall purpose of this course is to provide training on how to recognize political propaganda, and how to distinguish propaganda from reasoned, logical political arguments.


This class contains offensive material. If this is a problem for you, then you should select a different class.


Students with Disabilities

I am happy to arrange the exams in any reasonable way that is consistent with the student's needs, in cooperation with the UA Disability Resource Center. It is the student's responsibility to find out what the Center requires, to fill out the forms, and to undertake the necessary "foot work" for special arrangements. The student is responsible to make sure that all deadlines are met.



There will be three midterm exams and an optional final. If you opt not to take the final, then each of the three midterms will be worth one third of your final grade. The grades are apportioned as follows:

       Midterm 1 (in-class) 20 percent;
       Midterm 2 (take-home paper) 20 percent;
       Midterm 3 (in-class) 20 percent;
       Final (optional, take-home paper) 40 percent.

Note that for Midterm 2: Students who are dissatisfied with their grade have the option of revising their papers within one week of having the original paper returned to them; for students who revise, their second midterm grades will be an average of the first and second drafts of their paper.

Students must take the exams on the scheduled dates. Please look at the syllabus and make sure that the exam dates are open for you. If you have an engagement scheduled for one of the required dates -- if you have a wedding or a sports event, for example -- then you should take another class. The following circumstances constitute legitimate reasons to miss an exam: illness, death in family, religious holiday, or mandatory military service. Students who present such reasons must be prepared to present documentation, such as a note from a doctor, clergy, or commanding officer.

On the take-home exams, the clarity and conciseness of the writing style will count toward your grade. The class teaching assistant, Nicole Crisp, can help you draft your papers. You can also seek writing assistance at the UA Writing Center

When turning in the take-home exams, students should attach copies of the first page of all research materials that were used in preparing the papers. Students should also keep copies of papers on their computers. The reason for these requirements is to dissuade plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty. If I have any doubts about a student paper, I may ask the student to produce a computer disk and research materials. For further information on the issue of plagiarism, see the UA History Department's Policy on Academic Dishonesty.



The following readings are required and may be purchased at the University Book Store:

Frank Boardman, Nancy Cavender, and Howard Kahane, Logic and Contemporary Rhetoric: The Use of Reason in Everyday Life, Thirteenth edition (New York: Cengage, 2017).

George Orwell, 1984 (New York: Signet, 1950).

Several articles listed below are available through electronic databases, as indicated below. Other materials are available through D2L.

I may make small changes in the reading list -- with advance notice -- during the course of the semester.


January 10
First Day of Class

No readings.


Week of January 17
Logical Reasoning: What is an Argument?

Boardman, Cavender, and Kahane, Logic, chaps. 1, 2.


Week of January 24
Logical Fallacies I

Boardman, Cavender, and Kahane, Logic, chap. 3.


Week of January 31
Logical Fallacies II

Boardman, Cavender, and Kahane, Logic, chap. 4.


Week of February 5
Logical Fallacies III

Boardman, Cavender, and Kahane, Logic, chap. 5.


Week of February 12
Review of Fallacies

No readings.


Week of February 19
Review of Fallacies

No readings.

First (in class) midterm exam: February 21.


Week of February 26
Analyzing Arguments

Boardman, Cavender, and Kahane, Logic, chaps. 6, 8.


March 2-10, Spring Break; no class.


Week of March 12
Writing Essays

Boardman, Cavender, and Kahane, Logic, chap. 9.


Boardman, Cavender, and Kahane, Logic, Appendix ("More on Cogent Reasoning").

Second (take-home) midterm exam: Handed out March 12; due March 19.


Week of March 19
What is Propaganda?

"How to Detect Propaganda," Propaganda Analysis, November 1937. Available through D2L.

"Some ABCs of Propaganda Analysis," Propaganda Analysis, December 1937. Available through D2L.


Boardman, Cavender, and Kahane, Logic, chap. 7.


Week of March 26
Propaganda in Totalitarian States I

Orwell, 1984. Read the whole book.


Week of April 2
Propaganda in Totalitarian States II

George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language," in George Orwell: A Collection of Essays (Garden City, NY: Doubleday-Anchor, 1954). For full text, click here.


Week of April 9
Propaganda in U.S. Politics

Boardman, Cavender, and Kahane, Logic, chaps. 10, 11.

"How to Analyze Newspapers," Propaganda Analysis, January 1938. Available through D2L.


Week of April 16
Propaganda in the Cold War

Daniel Golden, "After Sept. 11, the CIA Became a Force on Campus," Wall Street Journal, October 4, 2002. For full text, click here.

Elizabeth Nickson, "Mind Control: My Mother, the CIA, and LSD," London Observer, October 16, 1994. For full text, click here.


Week of April 23
Case Study: War in Afghanistan

A. Petrov, "A Soviet Perspective on the Invasion of Afghanistan," in Current Digest of the Soviet Press, January 1980 (translated article originally in Pravda). Available through D2L.

Ronald Reagan, "Proclamation 5034 -- Afghanistan Day," March 21, 1983. For full text, click here.

Arnaud de Borchgrave, "Osama's New Strategy," Washington Times, December 29, 2004. For full text, click here.


David N. Gibbs, "Forgotten Coverage Afghan 'Freedom Fighters: The Villains of Today's News were Heroes in the 80s," Extra, January/February 2002. For full text, click here.

Third (in-class) midterm: April 25.


April 30
Last Day of Class.

Optional (take-home) final exam to be handed out; due on May 6, 5:00pm. Please place the papers in my mailbox, Chavez 415.


REQUIRED BOILERPLATE (sorry, but I am required to include this; don't bother to read)

Expected outcomes from the course:

Understand more clearly issues of social status, and the effects of major institutions on individual experiences.

Demonstrate knowledge of the formal and informal structures and processes that make social systems, governments, and economies work.

Have an informed opinion about socio-cultural problems and issues, which can be expressed orally or in writing, and based on knowledge about social, political, economic, and philosophical theory.

Demonstrate a well-developed critical faculty for distinguishing among the various theoretical and ideological interpretations of world events as they are presented in the media.


Return to D. Gibbs' Homepage


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