American Immigration History: People, Patterns, and Policy


Widely considered a wellspring for US greatness, immigration has also been an abiding site of our deepest conflicts. The republican foundation of the United States, with its promises of democracy and equality for all, seems to strain against the high numbers of immigrants from parts of the world barely imagined by the Founding Fathers, much less as sources of new citizens.

What is the breaking point for the assimilating powers of US democracy, and how much does national vitality rely upon a continued influx of diverse immigrants with their strenuous ambitions and resourcefulness? Today we remain divided by competing beliefs about how immigration shapes our nation’s well-being and to what ends we should admit, exclude, or grant citizenship to immigrants, and in what numbers.

Professor Madeline Y. Hsu’s course explores how to better understand how immigration functions as a core aspect of US national identity.


  • Twelve lectures led by Professor Madeline Hsu
  • Primary and secondary source readings that supplement Professor Hsu’s lectures
  • A certificate of completion for 15 hours of professional development credit

Readings: The optional readings for each seminar session are listed in the “Resources” tab on the course page. Please note that you are not required to read or purchase any print materials. Quizzes are based on the content of the seminar recordings rather than the readings.

(Learn more about the Gilder Lehrman Affiliate School and Library Affiliate Programs.)

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Madeline Y. Hsu is a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin and served as director of the Center for Asian American Studies for eight years (2006–2014). She is president of the Immigration and Ethnic History Society and vice president of the International Society for the Study of Chinese Overseas. She was born in Columbia, Missouri, but grew up in Taiwan and Hong Kong between visits with her grandparents at their store in Altheimer, Arkansas. She received her undergraduate degree in history from Pomona College and her PhD from Yale University. Hsu’s first book was Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home: Transnationalism and Migration between the United States and South China, 1882–1943 (Stanford University Press, 2000). Her most recent monograph, The Good Immigrants: How the Yellow Peril Became the Model Minority (Princeton University Press, 2015), received awards from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, the Immigration and Ethnic History Society, the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association, and the Association for Asian American Studies. Her third book, Asian American History: A Very Short Introduction, was published by Oxford University Press in 2016 and the co-edited anthology A Nation of Immigrants Reconsidered: U.S. Society in an Age of Restriction, 1924–1965 was published in 2019 by the University of Illinois Press.

Standard Price: $39.99 Affiliate Price: $29.99