The History of Advertising and Consumer Culture

Curriculum Guideline

Effective Date:
Course Code
HIST 1190
The History of Advertising and Consumer Culture
Humanities & Social Sciences
Start Date
End Term
Not Specified
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Contact Hours
Lecture: 2 hrs. per week / semester Seminar: 2 hrs. per week / semester
Method Of Instruction
Methods Of Instruction

Classroom instruction will include both lectures and seminar discussions. Lectures will provide instruction on weekly topics with opportunities for student inquiry and discussion. Seminars will encourage active class participation in the analysis of assigned primary and secondary readings. Classroom instruction may also include facilitation of student-led projects, student presentations on specific readings and/or topics, and other types of student-led activities. Classroom instruction may also include tutorials and workshops on transferrable skills, including research methods, academic citation practice, and presentation skills.

Course Description
HIST 1190 surveys the history of advertising and modern consumer culture, from the early nineteenth century to the present. Major themes include: the development of advertising and marketing techniques; consumer culture and urbanization; marketing and gender roles; the development of mass media; consumer culture and technology; capitalism and the global economy; consumer culture and commodification.
Course Content

A sample course outline may include the following topics.

Note: Content may vary according to the instructor’s selection of topics.

  1. Introduction
  2. Defining Capitalism
  3. Introduction to Consumer Culture
  4. Prelude to Modern Consumerism
  5. The Industrial Revolution: Mass Production and Consumption
  6. The Evolution of Mass Media
  7. Trademarks and Branding
  8. History of the Advertising Industry
  9. History of Distribution and Retailing
  10. Consuming Minorities: Ethnocultural Identity, Gender, Sexuality and Marketing
  11. Consuming Kids: The Material Cultures of Childhood and Adolescence
  12. Fashioning Consumers: Market Research and Market Segmentation
  13. The Environmental Impact of Consumerism
  14. Hip Culture and Counter-Consumerism
Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course, successful students will be able to demonstrate historical thinking skills, research skills, critical thinking skills and communication skills appropriate to the level of the course by:

  1. Locating, examining, assessing, and evaluating a range of primary sources and secondary scholarly literature critically and analytically (reading history).
  2. Constructing historical arguments, taking historical perspectives, and interpreting historical problems through different types of writing assignments of varying lengths (writing history).
  3. Participating in active and informed historical debate independently and cooperatively through classroom discussion and presentation (discussing history).
  4. Independently and cooperatively investigating the ways that history is created, preserved and disseminated through public memory and commemoration, oral history, community engagement, and other forms of popular visual and written expressions about the past (applying history)
Means of Assessment

Assessment will be in accordance with the Douglas College student evaluation policy. Students may conduct research with human participants as part of their coursework in this class. Instructors for the course are responsible for ensuring that student research projects comply with College policies on ethical conduct for research involving humans.

Students will have opportunities to build and refine their research capacity and historical thinking skills through assessments appropriate to the level of the course. There will be at least three separate assessments, which may include a combination of midterm and final exams; research essays; primary document analysis assignments and essays; quizzes; map tests; in-class and online written assignments; seminar presentations; student assignment portfolios; group projects; creative projects; class participation.

The value of each assessment and evaluation, expressed as a percentage of the final grade, will be listed in the course outline distributed to students at the beginning of the term. Specific evaluation criteria will vary according to the instructor’s assessment of appropriate evaluation methods.

An example of one evaluation scheme:

Class Participation (Quizzes, in-class work, discussion) 15%

Seminar presentation 10%

Primary source analysis 10%

Research project 35%

Midterm 15%

Final exam 15%

Textbook Materials

Textbooks and Course Readers may be chosen from the following list, to be updated periodically.

An instructor’s custom Course Reader may be required. Additional online resources may also be assigned. Additional reading lists and links to specific resources also may be provided online or in the instructor’s course outline.

Fulcher, James. Capitalism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Penold, Steve. The Donut: A Canadian History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008.

Sivulka, Juliann. Soap, Sex, and Cigarettes: A Cultural History of American Advertising. 2nd ed. Boston: Wadsworth, 2011.

Stearns, Peter. Consumerism in World History: The Global Transformation of Desire. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Strasser, Susan. Satisfaction Guaranteed: The Making of the American Mass Market. New York: Pantheon, 1989; Washington, DC: Smithsonian, 2004.

Trentmann, Frank, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Consumption. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.