The Problem of Poverty in American Culture

Spring Quarter, 2019

Thursdays 9:30-11:30 a.m.

C. The Problem of Poverty in American Culture

Henry C. Binford, Associate Professor, History

This course will explore recurrent attempts to define, explain, and ameliorate poverty in the United States from the 18th century to the late 20th. Topics include: the relationship between poverty and the commercial/industrial revolution; the place of poverty in Enlightenment and Utilitarian thought; changing (and unchanging) ideas about the connections between poverty and moral character, education, unemployment, gender, and ethnic/racial inheritance; the periodic emergence of poverty as a political issue; the concept of an “underworld” or “underclass;” and the shifting rhetoric of sympathy and fear concerning poor people and poor neighborhoods in the past two hundred years

A reading list will be available on The Alumnae website:

Link to some course readings:,_1843)

Evaluation Form

Course Documents