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University Bulletin
Undergraduate Degree Programs

These course descriptions are not being updated as of August 1, 2016. Current course descriptions are maintained in LionPATH.

History (HIST)

HIST 451 (US) The Consumer Revolution (3) The origins and impact of American consumer society since 1870.

HIST 451 The Consumer Revolution (3)

(BA) This course meets the Bachelor of Arts degree requirements.

This lecture course shows how the United States became a nation of consumers from 1870 to the present. It is designed both for the business and communications student as well as the liberal arts major. The origins of department stores, name-brand goods, fast-food chains, modern advertising, and mass entertainment show us how American business and culture was transformed by the consumer revolution. We will explore how the automobile became the leading consumer good of the 20th century and analyze its impact on how Americans shopped. The rise of advertising and its linkage to home-based mass entertainment through the radio and TV will interest us. We will also consider how events like the Great Depression, World War II, the counter-cultural movement of the 1960s, the energy crisis of the 1970s, and the economic deregulation of the 1980s and 90s shaped consumer attitudes and advertising. " The Consumer Revolution" also briefly explains how American consumer culture has been globalized (with companies like Coca Cola, Disney, and Ford).

The course also explores how new consumer goods shaped the experience of childhood, youth, family and home life, and retirement. In particular, we will consider how youth-oriented goods in fashion, foods, and entertainment created a unique youth consumer culture. Also important are the intellectual debates about the meaning and value of consumer society: Is mass consumption the real meaning of American democracy or is it a perversion of it? Are consumer needs unlimited and where does the desire for goods come from? Because consumer society seemed to threaten so many traditional values, we will also analyze movements for restricting consumption. We will consider the origins and impact of Prohibition, dieting and health food crazes, and movements to restrict advertising and sale of goods like cigarettes.

In addition to lectures and visual presentations in class, students will read chapters from major studies of the above topics, some of which will be discussed in class. Grades will be based on performance in discussion and essay exams.

General Education: None
Diversity: US
Bachelor of Arts: Humanities
Effective: Spring 2006
Prerequisite: three credits in history marketing or advertising

Note : Class size, frequency of offering, and evaluation methods will vary by location and instructor. For these details check the specific course syllabus.


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