HISTORY 366 - Crime and Drugs in Modern America
Fall 2023, Section 001
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: History (HISTORY)
Department: LSA History
See additional student enrollment and course instructor information to guide you in your decision making.


Requirements & Distribution:
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:
Start/End Date:
Full Term 8/28/23 - 12/6/23 (see other Sections below)
NOTE: Drop/Add deadlines are dependent on the class meeting dates and will differ for full term versus partial term offerings.
For information on drop/add deadlines, see the Office of the Registrar and search Registration Deadlines.


This course explores the various government wars on crime and drugs in the United States during the twentieth century, from alcohol prohibition through the crack cocaine and opioid “epidemics,” from anti-vice crusades in the Progressive Era through the recent rise of mass incarceration under what critics label the American prison-industrial complex. The U.S. currently incarcerates almost 2 million people, a higher percentage of its citizens than any other nation in the world; counting probation and parole, on any given day more than 7 million Americans live under the supervision of the criminal justice system. At least 24 million Americans violate drug prohibition laws monthly, primarily by smoking marijuana or the illicit use of pharmaceuticals; of the half-million people imprisoned for nonviolent drug offenses, two-thirds are African American or Latino. This course will examine the deep historical roots of this contemporary landscape, especially the fuzzy and shifting boundaries between legality and illegality and the ways in which race, class, gender, and urban/suburban space have shaped policing practices, criminal justice enforcement, and media representations of criminality. Topics range from Mafia syndicates and Mexican cartels to the FBI and Big Pharma, from “stop and frisk” policing to the “just say no” campaign against teenage drugs and alcohol, from immigration controls to the criminalization of political dissent, from crusades against juvenile delinquency to panics over kidnappers and sex offenders, from Attica and the prisoners’ rights movement to racial controversies such as the Rockefeller Drug Laws, Central Park Five, and Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson. This is an active learning course with minimal lecturing that revolves around in-class discussion of readings and films, in-depth analysis of historical documents and digital archives, small-group collaborative research projects and presentations, field trips to campus archives, and a policy report in the form of a multimedia digital exhibit for the final project.

Course Requirements:

3 group presentations, weekly blog posts, active participation, final project

Intended Audience:

All undergraduates; students considering careers in law and public policy; course counts for Minor in History of Law and Policy as well as in the History of Health and Medicine Minor, and the RC’s Crime and Justice Minor.

Class Format:

2 large (flipped lecture) meetings, 1 discussion section (includes workshops, presentations, field trips) per week.


HISTORY 366 - Crime and Drugs in Modern America
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
 In Person
MW 4:00PM - 5:30PM
8/28/23 - 12/6/23
002 (DIS)
 In Person
Th 12:00PM - 1:00PM
8/28/23 - 12/6/23
003 (DIS)
 In Person
Th 1:00PM - 2:00PM
8/28/23 - 12/6/23

Textbooks/Other Materials

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Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

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CourseProfile (Atlas)

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CourseProfile (Atlas)