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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

Survey of United States History to 1877

Doug Sackman

History 152b&c
Fall 2000

Survey of United States History to 1877

Seal of Massachussetss Bay Comapny, 1629

Seal of Massachussetss Bay Comapny, 1629

General Info

Instructor: Douglas Sackman
Office: Wyatt 130
email: phone: x3913
Office Hours: M: 2.30-4pm; Th: 2-4pm and by appointment


From the 15th century to 1877, the North American continent underwent profound transformations. Peoples who had largely been separated before this time--Africans, Native Americans, Europeans (and, to a lesser extent, Asians)--came into sustained contact and changed one another in far-reaching ways; new forms of livelihood developed, as economics centered on the village or the empire gave way to industrial capitalism; a new nation was born, promising liberty and equality for all; that nation expanded across the country, but often failed to make good on its egalitarian promise in the pursuit of wealth and more land; and a war shook the very foundations of the United States.

All of this history was made as a result of intense struggles--sometimes violent, sometimes hidden, and sometimes emancipatory. Through their competing actions and visions, different sectors of American society challenged one another about the direction and character of the nation. In the process, they put forward new ideas and forged new identities as Americans. In this course, we will explore the making, near unmaking, and reconstruction of the United States, and trace the nation's remarkable changes over the overlapping domains of culture, society, economics and politics.

Approach, Format, Objectives

One of the goals of this course is to provide students with a basic knowledge of important events and developments of the land that would become the United States from the 15th century to 1877. But the course is not designed as a machine to drill into your heads a disembodied set of names, dates, and events. Learning facts is important, but only if they can be understood in their historical context. Instead of lecturing you on the important facts of American history and then testing you on them, we will explore together how history has been made in America and wrestle with the facts in various ways. Though I will occasionally lecture on some topics and themes, for the most part class time will be devoted to discussing the readings. Thus, your active participation is vital.

In class, we will have a chance to grapple with the complexity of the past--both as it happened and as we come to understand it. A variety of different kinds of readings have been selected: a textbook, a set of documents, two autobiographies, and four history books that deal with different topics in different ways. In addition, we will be working with a web-based archive to explore the meaning of the Civil War. We will be looking for the ways that different kinds of sources open up different windows on the past, and at what those windows allow us to see of the messy process through which history has been made. Doing the reading in time for class is critical to the success of the course. In reading selections, you will find it useful to take notes and write down particular questions you might have or topics you would like to discuss. Please bring the readings to class on the day for which they are assigned.

Ideally, all students in this course will gain a sense of how to ask questions about the past and the ability to propose and evaluate different interpretations of events and documents; will develop their skills of oral and written expression, including how to formulate a position on an open-ended topic and effectively use evidence to support that position; will gain an understanding of how a cultural artifact, like a novel or a painting or a building, can reflect social and political issues of its day; will gain practice working with web-based materials and working cooperatively in groups; will gain a basic understanding of key developments in American history to 1877, and will be able to distinguish as well as see interrelationships among economic, political, social and cultural change; will deepen their understanding of how the promise of liberty, equality and democracy have actually played out and how American identity has been forged.


1. John Mack Faragher, Mari Jo Buhle, Daniel Czitrom & Susan Armitage, Out of Many: A History of the American People, Brief Ed. Vol. I, 3rd edition + Out of Many Documents Set

2. Colin Calloway, New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early America

3. Elizabeth Reis, Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England

4. William Andrews, ed., Classic American Autobiographies [In this volume we will be reading the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and parts of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin]

5. Jon Butler, Becoming America: The Revolution before 1776

6. Stephen Aron, How the West was Lost: The Transformation of Kentucky from Daniel Boone to Henry Clay

[All books will be available on reserve, with the exception of the Documents Set]

Assignments and Evaluation

1. Reading and Discussion Participation, including 10 short prep papers [1-2 pages; graded as , +, or -]. A guideline for the Prep Papers will be distributed, and each student will be assigned to a group. Prep Papers for your group will be due on the days indicated in the course schedule (below). (In addition, informal writing assignments may be included, and, if they become needed in order to encourage reading of the material, quizzes.) [15%]

2. A 4-6 page paper due in Week 5 [20%]. A guideline and set of possible topics will be distributed by week 3.

3. A 4-6 page paper due in Week 10 [25%]. A guideline and set of possible topics will be distributed by week 8.

4. Valley of the Shadow Group Presentation, in Week 14 [10%]. This assignment,. which will involve research on the web and a ten-fifteen minute presentation, will be explained in class on November 20.

5. Final Essay Exam, due on December 13 by 4pm [30%]. A take-home exam. Guidelines will be distributed in Week 15.

Late Policy: Assignments that are up to one-day late will be lowered 1/3 of a grade (e.g. a B becomes a B-); assignments turned in more than one but less than two days late will be lowered 2/3 of a grade; work turned in beyond two-days late will be lowered one full grade.

Course Schedule

[Readings are indicated by a "". Readings should be completed in time for class discussion. Reading averages just under 100 pgs., though in the first half of the course there tends to be more and in the second the amount of reading tapers off somewhat].

Part I: Cross Cultural Encounters in Colonial America

Week 1: Worlds in Contact: 1492, before and after

1.1 (Aug 28) Lenses on America: The Story in History

1.2 (Aug 30) Native Americans and the Consequences of Columbus
Out of Many, chs. 1 and 2
Documents, 1.1, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4

1.3 (Sept 1) The Collision of Indians and Europeans: Destruction and Reconstruction [Group B]
Calloway, New Worlds For All, xiii-xiv, 1-41
Documents, 1.3, 2.5.

Week 2: Making New Worlds

2.1 (Sept 4): No Class, Labor Day

2.2 (Sept 6) Economy and Religion [Group C]
Calloway, New Worlds For All, 42-91
Documents, 2.6, 2.7

2.3 (Sept 8) Warfare, Diplomacy, Displacement, Dispossession [Group A]
Calloway, New Worlds For All, 92-151
Documents, 3.1, 3.2

Week 3: Colonial Frontiers & Fears

3.1 (Sept 11): [Group B]
Calloway, New Worlds For All, 152-198

3.2 (Sept 13): The Policies and Practices of Colonialism [Group C]
Out of Many, ch. 3
Documents, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6, 3.9

3.3 (Sept 15) : The Devil in the Shape of a Woman? [Group A]
Reis, Damned Women, xix-xviii, 1-54
Documents, 5.7

Week 4: Religious Belief and Gender Relations in Puritan New England

4.1 (Sept 18): [Group B]
Reis, Damned Women, 55-92

4.2 (Sept 20): [Group C]
Reis, Damned Women, xix-xviii, 93-163, 194-204

4.3 (Sept 22): Culture of the Colonies
Out of Many, ch. 5
Documents, 5.3, 5.4

Part II: Toward Political Independence: Social, Cultural and Economic Metamorphosis in the 18th Century

Week 5: The Character of 18th Century Colonial Society

5.1 (Sept 25) The Repeopling of America [Group A]
Jon Butler, Becoming America, 1-49
<<First Paper Due on Tuesday September 26 by 4pm>>

5.2 (Sept 27) Making Slavery, Making Race: Labor, Slavery, and the Economy [Group B]
Out of Many, ch. 4;
Jon Butler, Becoming America, 50-88
Documents, 4.2, 4.4, 4.6

5.3 (Sept 29) Politics [Group C]
Butler, Becoming America, 89-130

Week 6: Becoming America

6.1 (Oct 2) Material Culture [Group A]
Butler, Becoming America, 131-184

6.2 (Oct 4) Religion [Group B]
Butler, Becoming America, 185-224

6.3 (Oct 6) The Strange Career of Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father [Group C]
The Autobiography of Ben Franklin (In Classic American Autobiographies), 70-95

Week 7: Declaring Independence

7.1 (Oct 9): A Plan for Personal and Civic Improvement [Group A]
The Autobiography of Ben Franklin, 135-172

7.2 (Oct 11) 1776 [Group B]
Butler, Becoming America, 225-248
Out of Many, ch. 6
Documents, 6.2-6.8

7.3 (Oct 13) No Class; Away at the Western History Conference in San Antonio

Week 8: Revolution and Nationhood

8.1 (Oct 16): Fall Break

8.2 (Oct 18): Revolution [Group C]
Out of Many, ch. 7
Documents, 7.1-7.6

8.3 (Oct 20): Constitutional Debate:
Film: An Empire of Reason
Out of Many, ch. 8

Part III: Economic and Territorial Expansion:  Market Revolution and Manifest Destiny

Week 9: National Development, Westward Expansion and Democracy

9.1 (Oct 23) [Group A]
Out of Many, chs. 9 and 10
Documents, 9.6, 9.7, 10.1, 10.2, 10.4, 10.8

9.2 (Oct 25): Making the Frontier [Group B]
Aron, How the West was Lost, 1-81.

9.3 (Oct 27): Commercializing the Frontier [Group C]
Aron, How the West was Lost, 124-149

Week 10: The West and the Industrial North

10.1 (Oct 31) [Group A]
Aron, How the West was Lost, 170-200

10.2 (Nov 1): The Market Revolution [Group B]
Out of Many, ch. 12
Documents, 12.2-12.8

10.3 (Nov 3): The Mexican-American War
Film: Neighbors and Strangers
<<Second Paper Due in class>>

Week 11:

11.1 (Nov 6): Manifest Destiny [Group C]
Out of Many, ch. 14
14.3, 14.4, 14.7, 14.8, 14.9

Part IV: Toward Civil War

11.2 (Nov 8): Suffrage and Abolitionism [Group A]
Out of Many, ch. 13
Documents, 13.1, 13.3, 13.6, 13.7, 13.8, 13.9

11.3 (Nov 10): The Voice of a Former Slave [Group A]
Out of Many, ch. 11;
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (in Classic American Autobiographies), pp. 230-280 (chapter 1-9).

Week 12: Slavery and Sectionalism

12.1 (Nov 13) [Group B]
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, 280-327 (chapter 11-end)
Documents, 11.8

12.2 (Nov 15): The Sectional Crisis [Group C]
Out of Many, ch. 15
Documents, 15.1, 15.3, 15.6, 15.8, 15.9

12.3 (Nov 17): Why did they fight? [Group A]
Out of Many, ch. 16
Documents, 16.2, 16.3, 16.4, 16.5

Week 13: The War Between the States

13.1 (Nov 20):
Introduction to the Valley of the Shadow website and assignment

13.2 (Nov 22):
film: The Civil War

13.3 (Nov 24): Thanksgiving/No Class

Week 14: The Valley of the Shadow: Using the Virtual Archive

14.1 (Nov 27): Small group discussion

14.2 (Nov 29): Valley of the Shadow Presentations

14.3 (Dec 1): Valley of the Shadow Presentations

Week 15: Reconstruction

15.1 (Dec 4) Reconstruction, Race and the Promise of American Democracy [Groups A,B, and C]
Out of Many, ch. 17

15.2 (Dec 6): Reviews

<<Final Essay Exams Due Wednesday December 13 by 4pm>>