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Journal of American History

2001 Syllabi
Teaching the American History Survey

Gary J. Kornblith & Carol Lasser
Editors' Introduction | Article

US History to 1865/1877

Douglas Egerton
Le Moyne College

Karl Jacoby
Brown University

Gary Kornblith
Oberlin College

Lewis Perry
St. Louis University

Joshua Piker
University of Oklahoma

Doug Sackman
University of Puget Sound

William Scott
Kenyon College

Virginia Scharff
University of New Mexico

Maris A. Vinovskis
University of Michigan

US History since 1865/1877

Douglas Egerton
Le Moyne College

Doug Sackman
Oberlin College

Virginia Scharff
University of New Mexico

William Scott
Kenyon College

American History to 1865

Pauline Maier

Fall 2000

Prof. Pauline Maier
MIT E51-279


1) Class attendance and participation in discussions. Discussions will normally be held on Thursdays, and will focus on the assigned readings for the week.

2) Completion of two papers, due on October 3 and November 14. Suggested topics are attached. The papers are based on assigned readings and require no outside research. Students may, however, write on topics of their own devising, and may do a research paper based on materials other than those assigned, so long as they receive the instructor's permission before the due date of the paper. Papers should be about five to seven pages long. They must be typed, double spaced, with adequate margins for comments and corrections. Any research paper must include footnotes and bibliography, and all papers must provide page citations for all direct quotations.

3) A midterm examination on October 26 and a final examination during exam period.


James West Davidson et. al., Nation of Nations: A Concise Narrative of the American Republic. Volume I: To 1877. McGraw-Hill; NY, 1996. pb. ISBN 0-07-015739-1

Patrick M. Malone, The Skulking Way of War: Technology and Tactics among the New England Indians. Johns Hopkins University Press; Baltimore and London, orig. 1991, pb. 1993. ISBN 0-8018-4554-8

Ira Berlin, Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America. Harvard University Press; Cambridge, 1998. ISBN 0-674-81092-9.

Thomas Paine, Common Sense. Dover Thrift editions pb. ISBN 048629624.

Oscar Handlin, Boston's Immigrants. Orig. Harvard UP; Cambridge, 1941; Harvard pb. ISBN 0674079868.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin. Orig. (in book form) 1852; Signet Classics pb. ISBN 0451526708.

"Readings for 21H101, American History to 1865." Copy in the Humanities Reserve Room, where students can read it or make their own copies.


Sept. 7. Introduction: the Beginnings of the Story.

Davidson pp. 1-32.

Start Malone.

Sept. 12-14. The First European Settlements: the Chesapeake.

Davidson pp. 33-49.

Malone, Skulking Way of War (128 pages).

Sept. 19-21. The First European Settlements: New England

Davidson pp. 60-76.

Gov. John Winthrop, "A Model of Christian Charity," some New England town covenants, and "John Dane's Narrative," in "Readings"

Sept. 26-28. The Extension of European Settlement; the Organization of Empire; the Colonies in the 18th Century.

Davidson pp. 49-59, 76- 121.

Berlin, Many Thousand Gone, 1-76, 90-194.

October 3-5. Toward Independence.

Davidson pp. 121-65.

Paine, Common Sense.

The "Jefferson" draft of the Declaration of Independence with Congress's editings, in "Readings."

October 10: Columbus Day; holiday.

October 12: Slavery, continued.

Berlin, pp. 214-324, 358-65.

Jefferson, "Query XIV" from his Notes on the State of Virginia (1785), in "Readings."

October 1-19. The Creation of Republican Government: the States and the Nation.

Davidson pp. 166-92, A. 4-A.11 (the Constitution).

Documents on the "First State and Federal Constitutions," in "Readings."

October 24: Ratification of the Federal Constitution; the Bill of Rights.

Excerpt from the Virginia Ratifying Convention of 1788, the New York convention's ratifying resolutions, and Madison's speech in the First Federal Congress, June 8, 1789, in "Readings." See also the federal Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution) in Davidson A. 11-12. How well did it answer the Antifederalists' demands? Was Madison's original proposal any better?

October 26: Midterm.

October 31- November 2. The Politics of the New Nation.

Davidson pp. 193-241.

John Kasson, "The Factory as Republican Community: Lowell, Massachusetts," from Civilizing the Machine (1976/77), 55- 106.

Start Handlin.

November 7-9. Economic Development.

Davidson pp. 242-68, 322-44.

Finish Handlin.

November 14-16. Andrew Jackson's America.

Davidson pp. 269-321, 344-48.

Selections on Garrisonian Abolitionism, and Frederick Douglass's comments on the Anti-Slavery movement, in "Readings."

November 21. Reform and Expansion; Antebellum Women.

Davidson pp. 349-374.

George Fitzhugh's defense of slavery, in "Readings."

November 28- 30. The Crisis of the 1850s.

Davidson pp. 375-94.

Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin.

December 5-7. Secession and the Civil War.

Davidson pp. 395-32.

Lincoln, "House Divided" speech, 1858; R.B. Rhett, "Common Sense," editorial from the Charleston, S. C., Mercury, September 18, 1860; Jefferson Davis's farewell speech to the Senate; Lincoln's first Inaugural address, March 4, 1861, in "Readings."

December 12. Lincoln; A Summing Up.

Davidson, 433-49.

"Abraham Lincoln on Race and Slavery," in "Readings."

The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, in Davidson A. 13-14.


1) Write a review of either Patrick Malone's Skulking Way of War or the discussion of American slavery's early history in Ira Berlin's Many Thousands Gone (esp.pp. 1-76, 90-194). The challenge here is to summarize carefully and accurately the book's argument, that is, what point (or points) the author wanted to make, and then to evaluate that argument. In describing the book, quote critical passages that demonstrate the author's purpose (always providing page citations) to give solidity to your account. Then ask whether the material in the book sustains that argument. If, on either major or minor points, the book failed to convince you, say that, and explain why. In any case, make sure you understand what the author was attempting to say and describe what he says with scrupulous accuracy. You don't need to agree with everything a book says, but you do need to be exact in describing what it does say before criticizing it.

2) The second paper should focus on Oscar Handlin's Boston's Immigrants, which is on immigrants to 19th-century Boston. When first published in 1941; the book was recognized as a pioneering work, and it remains the fullest study of its subject. Still, its interpretation—which sees the Irish as victims of circumstances beyond their control and as a people whose miserable poverty changed Boston for the worse—is out of step with more recent interpretions of immigrants, which (like interpretations of the enslaved) are much more upbeat. They stress, for example, immigrants' strength in adversity, their creative adaptation to the New-World circumstances in which they found themselves, and their critical contributions to the community that became their home.

Is there evidence in Handlin's book that might have sustained such an interpretation? Or do you think Handlin's view of the Irish is justifiably different from these more positive interpretations? If there seems evidence in the book for a more positive view of 19th-century Boston's Irish, why might Handlin have taken the position he took? You cannot, of course, be expected to give a definitive answer to that question, but you might speculate a bit. Is the book still worth reading, or should I find something else to assign next year?