Niagara University, Fall 2015

Thomas A. Chambers

Mondays and Fridays, 10:10-11:05 a.m., Academic Complex 229.

Office Hours: MF 9-10 a.m., TTh 9-9:30am and 11am-12:30pm, or by appointment.

Phone: 286-8091;  Cell:  696-0049

email: chambers@niagara.edu


            In 1784 George Washington coined the term "Empire State" in reference to New York State's vast geographic expanse and economic power. This course investigates the state's development into an "empire" from the period before European contact to the 21st century. Students will learn about the statess history, its continuous multicultural nature, and the tension between economic development and environmental conservation. Topics include native cultures, the Iroquois Great League of Peace, Dutch colonization, the fur trade, English conquest and settlement, the Revolution, early national politics, westward movement and the Erie Canal, industrialization, urbanization, and immigration, New York City as the statess and the nationss economic powerhouse, upstate vs. downstate culture and economics, the Hudson River's environmental history, the Adirondack Park, and September 11, 2001.


Course Requirements:

  • Class participation. Students should faithfully attend class and be prepared to discuss each day'ss reading. Quality, not just quantity, of discussion counts. I assign a participation grade each day (very good, good, present, unprepared/absent). You only hurt yourself by not attending class having done the reading and ready to participate. I reserve the right to hold unannounced reading quizzes.
  • Hybrid Days. For each Hybrid session noted on the Class Schedule, you will comment on a reading, video, online exhibit or question posted on the course Blackboard site. Your comments will be assigned points based on its quality, and a percentage of the total possible points will equal your hybrid grade (20 % of course grade).
  • Map Quiz. Identify the state's counties, key cities, and geographic features. Download outline map and quiz item list.
  • Two short (4-5) page papers, based on assigned monographs. One is due as a traditional paper, the other as an in-class essay.
  • Art Response Paper:  in-class response to painting in the Castellani Museum.
  • Simulation: present, as part of a group, one of several sides in the 1764 Niagara Indian Conference. You will research the conference through primary sources (Papers of Sir William Johnson) in the Library. Grade (part group, part individual) based on written work and oral presentation.
  • Class debate on Hydrofracking in New York State. Students will represent either the pro or con position in a group; written outline with evidence required.
  • Local History Laboratory: prepare a local history resource guide for your hometown. Include museums, historic sites, web pages, newspapers, books, and genealogical sources. Proper citations required. Bring five hard copies to class.
  • Take-home exam: essay questions based upon course themes and readings. Future teachers only: Half of your exam grade: find a lesson plan online, critique it, and use this course's content to improve it. Assignments must conform to N.Y.S. Standards and must include a full bibliography.



1) No late assignments. Period. 2) I take academic honesty seriously, and will punish ANY offense with failure of the course (consult the Student Handbook or me if you have questions). 3) All assignments must be submitted as stapled hard copies, double-spaced, with one-inch margins all around on 8.5x11 inch paper.  4) Click here for Academic Support and Counseling statements.  5) This syllabus is subject to change; any alterations will be posted on this webpage and via Niagara University email.



  • Participation 10%
  • Hybrid 20%
  • Map Quiz   5%
  • Two papers 20% (10% each)
  • Simulation 10%
  • Local History 10%
  • Debate 10% (half individual, half group)
  • Take-home 10%
  • Art Paper   5%

Scale: 60-63, D-; 63-67, D; 67-70, D+; 70-73, C-; 73-77, C; 77-80, C+; 80-83, B-; 83-87, B; 87-90, B+; 90-93, A-; 93-95, A; 95+, A+.


Required Readings

Oberg, Michael Leroy. Peacemakers: The Iroquois, the United States, and the Treaty of Canandaigua, 1794. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Schlett, James. A Not Too Greatly Changed Eden: The Story of the Philosophers' Camp in the Adirondacks. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2015.

Stradling, David. The Nature of New York: An Environmental History of the Empire State. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010.

Additional articles and documents will be posted on the course webpage.

Recommended reading (Students are NOT required to purchase these books, both are available in the Library):

The Encyclopedia of New York State (2005). Comprehensive and insightful.

Milton M. Klein, ed. The Empire State: A History of New York (2001).


Class Schedule


31M:  Introduction, Algonquian Peoples.


Three Worlds Collide          Read Stradling, pp. 1-23.


2W:    Hybrid—see Blackboard. Read: Juet journal (read page 591-595).

4F:     Map Quiz. Iroquoian Peoples. Web: Champlain.

7M:    Iroquoian Peoples. Web: Parmenter.. [yes, we have class Labor Day!]

9W:    Hybrid—see Blackboard. Read: Dutch Expansion. Web: Flushing Remonstrance.

11F:   Dutch Culture. Web: Middleton.

14M:  Dominion. Web: Merwick.

16W:  Hybrid—see Blackboard. Read: Kalm.


Case Study: Indian-European Interaction

18F:   Project Introduction, Sir William Johnson Papers. Meet in Library.  Shannon excerpt--model conference

21M:  Work day—meet in Library.

23W: Hybrid—meet in your groups.

25F:   Meet with professor at assigned times (regular classroom).

28M: Class simulation: 1764 Niagara Indian Conference: Presentations.

30W: Hybrid—meet in groups to revise presentations, negotiate with other groups.


2F:     Class simulation: 1764 Niagara Indian Conference: Responses.


War, Independence, and Dispossession. Read Stradling, pp. 23-26.

5M:    Expansion. Web: Smith.

7W:    Hybrid—see Blackboard. Read: Albany Congress.

9F:     Frontier War. Web: Sullivan's Instructions; Oriskany.

12M: Fall Break, no class.

14W:  Hybrid—see Blackboard. Read: Van Buskirk.

16F:   1812. Web: Taylor.

19M:  Clinton's Ditch. Read: Sheriff.


Westward Settlement. Read Stradling, pp. 26-45, Ch. 2.

21W: Hybrid—see Blackboard. Burned Over District. Web: Finney.

23F:  Discussion of Oberg, Peacemakers. Paper due in class.


Cultural Tourism                 Read Stradling, pp. 76-96.

26M:  Northern Tour. Web: Chambers.

28W: Hybrid—see Blackboard. Read: Cole, Gilman (read pages 106-116).

30F:   Hudson River School:  Meet in the Castellani Art Museum.


Urbanization and Industrialization. Read Stradling, Ch. 4.


2M:    New New Yorkers—Immigration. Reading assignment on Blackboard.

4W:    Hybrid—see Blackboard. Read: Riis.

6F:     Home of the New Deal. Stradling, pp. 155-172; Web: Red Tape

9M:    African-American New York. Web: Wolcott; Malcolm X (search the New York Times for relevant February 22, 1965 articles).


Upstate New York

11W: Hybrid—see Blackboard for Local History Laboratory assignment.  

13F:  Local History Laboratory: bring five hard copies of your resource guide to class. 

16M: Niagara Falls. Read: Love Canal Testimony; Stradling, pp. 210-217. 

18W: Hybrid—see Blackboard. A.P.A.: development or conservation? Web: McKibben.

20F:  Adirondack Lumberjacks. Stradling, pp. 96-105; Web: TimberHopsicker

23M: In-class essay on Schlett, A Not Too Greatly Changed Eden.



25W: Thanksgiving Break, no class.

27F:   Thanksgiving Break, no class.        

30M:  Hydrofracking. Read Stradling, pp. 173-199, 217-242.


2W:    Class Debate, Hydrofracking: Online Presentations.

4F:     Class Debate, Hydrofracking: Responses.


September 11, 2001

7M:    September 11 Digital Archive <http://911digitalarchive.org/> Consult one source from each of the main categories (Stories, Still Images, Moving Images, Audio, Documents). Be ready to tell the class what each source says. Considering all five sources, answer the questions: Why did these attacks happen? How did the attacks affect these people? How will they be remembered in history?


Monday, December 14. Take-home exams due by 12:00 p.m. (noon), Timon Hall 130.