*How and why did Americans craft an ideal of limited government, and what forces and events have challenged or sustained this model?
*How have the tensions between the ideal of equality and the realities of various historical inequalities shaped the nation? What has led to the challenging of these inequalities, and to what degree have they changed?
*What forces have shaped U.S. approaches to foreign policy, and what are the impacts of these policies?
*To what degree has individualism shaped American society, and in what ways is this ethic a positive or negative one?
*How has religious enthusiasm shaped the nation’s history?
*How do economic and technological forces transform society?
*How to analyze challenging texts, focusing on the main ideas and key supporting evidence
*How to identify and articulate interactions between economic, cultural, technological and political factors, leading to multicausal explanations of phenomena
*How to answer a complex paper question, with clarity, focused argument, and rigorous use of evidence and reasoning
*How to participate in and sustain a vigorous, intellectually fruitful classroom atmosphere
Essays (both conventional thesis-driven arguments and non-conventional, such as a historical guide to the film, Black Robe, and a Dinner Party Dialogue of antebellum characters.)
Tests (essay based)
The American story, in its essence, is a multiracial, multi-ethnic and culturally fragmented story; to tell it otherwise would be highly unadvisable. Hence, our approach focuses not only on such traditional themes as slavery, European conquest of Native America, Japanese-American Internment and the Civil Rights movement, but seeks to centralize race as ever-present theme in constructing American culture and politics. We approach this in many forms, including, but not limited to:
*a multi-lens focus on Iroquois/Algonquin/Huron contact with French/Dutch/English in the colonial era
*a close look at the role that slavery had in defusing boiling class resentments in colonial Virginia
*the role of non-whites in defining “whiteness” for generations of immigrants
*the evolution and political impact of American Gay and Lesbian communities
1. How did trade and religion reshape Native American societies?
2. How did race, class, and gender intersect in the origins of slavery and democracy in the Chesepeake?
3. Was the American Revolution revolutionary?
4. Why was the Constitution created and ratified, and how has it structured U.S. government? What tensions and conflicts are embedded in the document, how did they play out in Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian philosophies, and which approach to governance is personally preferable?
Primary texts by Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Alexander Hamilton, John Hutchinson and others
Freehling, William F.. “The Founding Fathers and Slavery.” American Historical Review (February 1972), 81-93.
Jennings, Francis. The Invasion of America: Indians, Colonialism, and the Cant of Conquest. New York: W.W. Norton, 1975.
Morgan, Edmund S. American Slavery-American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia. New York: W.W. Norton, 1975.
Richter, Daniel K. The Ordeal of the Longhouse: The Peoples of the Iroquois League in the Era of European Colonization. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992.
Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750. New York: Vintage Books, 1991.
Wood, Gordon. The Radicalism of the American Revolution. New York: Vintage Books, 1993.
Zinn, Howard. The People's History of the United States: 1492-Present. New York: Harper Perennial, 2003.
What impact did slavery have on slaves, masters, and bystanders?
Why did views about slavery become more divergent and strident in the 19th century?
How did economic and religious transformations influence these changes?
How did gender and immigration influence the debate on slavery?
Why did compromise become increasingly elusive, eventually collapsing the Jacksonian Party System, and culminating in the Civil War?
What were the possibilities for transformation in the Civil War and Reconstruction, and why were so many basic injustices left in place (or reinstated) by the 1890s?
Primary Documents: Frederick Douglass, David Walker, John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, William Lloyd Garrison, Angelina Grimke, William Henry Seward, Abraham Lincoln, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois and others.
Selected Secondary Sources:
Greenberg, Kenneth S., Editor. The Confessions of Nat Turner and Related Documents. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1996.
Johnson, Paul, A Shopkeeper’s Millineum: Society and Revivalism in Rochester, 1815-1917. New York: Hill and Wang, 1978
McPherson, James, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.