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Los Angeles: study of a city


Minor American Studies: 5 ECTS
BA History students & non-minor students: 10 ECTS

Admission requirements

BA History students: beide tweedejaars BA-werkcolleges behaald.


This course explores the development of Los Angeles from its origins to the present. What began as a Native American settlement, and then became a pueblo on the margins of the Spanish Empire, over time rose to become a global metropolis and center for entertainment and trade. Through successive wars, reform movements, urban rebellions, and demographic change, the city seemingly transformed itself with each new generation. Some aspects, however, remained the same. In considering reasons for its alternating portrayal as both urban ideal and disaster, we will examine change and continuity in Los Angeles in terms of society, culture, politics and the environment, with a special emphasis on music and film. We will further place Los Angeles within a national and transnational context.

Course objectives

The objectives of this class are:

  • to analyze the rise of Los Angeles from village to metropolis

  • to evaluate the relationship between Angelenos and their environment, especially in terms of music, film and literature

  • to place Los Angeles within the larger context of Californian, American and transnational history


See timetable Geschiedenis

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

5 ects:

  • 3 response papers (1-2 pp. each) (30%)

  • participation in discussion (20%)

  • essay (1500-2000 words) 50%

10 ects:

  • 3 response papers (2-3 pp. each) (20%)

  • oral presentation + participation in discussion (30%)

  • research essay (2500-3000 words) (50%)


A number of additional short texts will be made available through Blackboard, and research papers will be submitted to Blackboard via SafeAssign

Reading list

  • Kenneth Marcus. Musical Metropolis: Los Angeles and the Creation of a Music Culture, 1880-1940. Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. Includes CD of original recordings. ISBN 1-4039-6419-X. The book is also available as e-book

  • Becky Nicolaides. My Blue Heaven: Life and Politics in the Working-Class Suburbs of Los Angeles, 1920-1965. University of Chicago Press, 2002. ISBN 0-226-58301-5

  • Carey McWilliams. Southern California Country: An Island on the Land. Peregrine Smith Books, 1973. ISBN 0-879-05007-1. Also available online via google.books.

  • Additional short texts via Blackboard


Via uSis

Contact information



As mentioned above, students can take this course for either 5 or 10 ects. Students who are extending the course to 10 ects will write a research essay on the basis of extra readings. The extra readings for the 10 ects research essay will be determined in consultation with the instructor and the chosen subject of the essay might be historical, literary, or cultural (e.g., music, art, or film).