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In this course we will cover the history of the State of Utah from its earliest records up to the present. Historical analysis and methodology will also be taught and specific assignments given to help each student understand methodology from within the context of Utah's History. This course is designed for anyone interested in history and there are no specific prerequisites, but it is expected that upper-level work be done for all materials turned in. Please note that this course also fills a Depth Humanities and Depth Communication Intensive requirement for general education. As you survey the assignments you will notice that there are intensive writing assignments. Do not let this daunt you. The assignments are organized for your learning and success.

Course objectives

  1. To study Utah's History and understand how it is unique in western, political, and religious history when compared to the American experience.
  2. To help each student understand what history is, what its role is in academics, and to improve critical thinking, research, and writing skills.

Understanding and Thinking History

The study of history is something that many people sadly do not understand. It is, as most assume, a study of the past, but it is more than that. If we only study the past it becomes an academic mind game and of little real value.

Many of the people who feel some distaste for history likely had a teacher who taught history as an endless memorization of boring dates, facts and figures. Although a part of it, this is not all there is to history! The study of history means examining the past, analyzing and interpreting it, and advancing valid arguments for what occurred, why it occurred, and how it is meaningful (how it may affect us) presently.

As societal evolution continues to change how we perceive ourselves and interact with one another, how we interpret what occurred in that past also changes. Not that the facts about what occurred change—but the way we explain how it relates to us changes. For example: Consider the former USSR. Their truths of just a few years ago were completely centered in a government directed by socialism. Since the USSR broke up, would you expect the interpretation of the social contract—that seems to have failed the Russian people—to be interpreted as it was previous to the breakup? Hardly. So have the facts of Marxist doctrine changed? No, but the interpretation of its application and validity have certainly changed.

One of the most significant factors in history then is the ability to think critically about the material that you read and study. Become familiar with the following questions that should be applied to the books and documents that you will read for this class. As you do so you may notice that you start applying the same evaluation to many other things in your life such as the news, commentary, politics and politicians, or even the movies we watch. No longer do we simply take everything at face value. We question and analyze what we see and hear. This leads us to make our own interpretations on life, not blindly accepting those that some want to share with us. This doesn't make us jaded and cynical about life—just the opposite. We find life filled with a million questions that need to be answered such as: Why did that occur? How did that come about? Where did you get that information? Why are you telling me this? What is the real motive here? How does this relate to...?

How to read Historic Documents (Primary or secondary documents)

Read and re-read the following questions until they become somewhat of an automatic part of your thinking. The major factors in reading and analyzing documents are to question:

  1. What was the primary purpose or motive of the author in writing this document? Secondary purpose?
  2. Who was the intended audience?
  3. What are the author's biases?
  4. What did this document evidence from the time or era? How is this document relevant to gaining an understanding of the contemporary times and people?
  5. What did/does this document mean in a larger scale of the times? To future generations? To us presently? Does this document assist us in understanding the human experience? How?
  6. Often to understand a document we need to gain an understanding of the history of the time and place to evaluate the document fairly and accurately. Then we can assess whether it is consistent with what is generally assumed about the time. And if it is not, how accurate is it? Why does it contradict what is currently thought? Remember: History is a series of arguments to be debated, not merely a body of facts to be memorized . Therefore, if a document does not agree with other contemporary documents we do not necessarily throw it out, but carefully analyze it and advance an argument based on reasonable thought.
  7. One of the hardest parts of reading a document is recognizing our own bias. We cannot judge the past by present standards or our own belief and value system. Are we maintaining objectivity or subjecting the document to a view colored by our own experience and thoughts that may not be reflective of the time or place?

As we seek answers to these questions, we then interpret or advance arguments about the significance and relevance of the document. This is the beginning of critical thinking and analysis, which are key elements in understanding history.


There are 700 points possible from the assignments. At the completion of the assignments grades will then be computed on a percentage breakdown.

A   100 - 94%
A-  93 - 90

B+ 89 - 88
B   87 - 83
B-  82 - 80

C+ 79 - 78
C   77 - 73
C-  72 - 70

D+ 69 - 68
D   67 - 63
D-  62 - 60

F    59 and below

Copyright 2008, John D. Barton. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2005, January 16). Syllabus. Retrieved January 08, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License