Political Cartoon, ca. 1860.
HSTAA 521: US History to 1870
Professor Josh Reid | Fall 2018
Recently, scholars of US History from the colonial era through the Civil War have applied a range of new interpretations to the period. This work highlights exciting new ways of thinking about topics critical to understanding the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries. The course begins with the early colonial period before moving into the American Revolution and its immediate aftermath when the nation grappled with the legacy of independence from Great Britain. Then we will move into the Early Republic, paying close attention to the ways that race, class, and gender intersected as people sought to make sense of the new opportunities and challenges brought on by forging an expanding nation based on republican principles. We will next examine the institution of slavery and its connections to American freedom, to the growth of this nation’s economy, and to American Indian nations and families. Tensions over slavery and expansion culminated in the Civil War, and we will analyze ways that Americans in the third quarter of the nineteenth century—and today—tried to make sense of the bloody conflict.
With an eye toward historiography, this course introduces topics that will be relevant to your exams and for your own studies of US History. Each week, we will read and discuss as a group a variety of important books that illustrate major themes in this field and expose you to some of the ongoing historical debates. We will also engage with several state-of-the-field essays that will help you place these monographs into the larger historiography of this nation. You will be assessed on several short writing exercises, participation in the seminar, and a final project in which you will craft a polished historiographical paper analyzing the important works on a topic of your choice within this period of US History.
In this course, students will understand:
- How colonists from different nationalities shared common attitudes and behaviors yet differed in their reactions to, and actions toward, Indigenous peoples.
- The strategies that Indigenous nations, families, and individuals used to make the best of colonial and US expansion across their homelands and waters.
- The range of experiences of captivity, servitude, and slavery that complicates the traditional narrative of unfree labor in North America.
- How the legacy of the American Revolution shaped US History, especially in the antebellum era.
- The ways that race, class, and gender intersected as people sought to make sense of the new opportunities and challenges brought on by forging an expanding nation based on republican principles.
- How slavery, the unfinished business of the American Revolution, supported republican freedom and the growth of the US economy in the antebellum era.
- How tensions over slavery and expansion culminated in the Civil War, which left a legacy that shaped the post-bellum years and still resonates today.
The complete digital copy of the syllabus is now available.