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21H.101 American History to 1865

Fall 2005

Abraham Lincoln.Portrait of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States. (Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [reproduction number: LC-USZ62-58751 (b&w film copy neg.)].)

Course Highlights

This course features an extensive list of readings and detailed descriptions of the assignments. This course also features archived syllabi from various semesters.

Course Description

This course focuses on a basic history of American social, economic, and political development from the colonial period through the Civil War. The colonial heritages of Spanish and British America; the American Revolution and its impact; the establishment and growth of the new nation; and the Civil War, its background, character, and impact are examined. Readings include writings of the period by Winthrop, Paine, Jefferson, Madison, W. H. Garrison, G. Fitzhugh, H. B. Stowe, and Lincoln.



Syllabus

Syllabus Archive

The following syllabi come from a variety of different terms. They illustrate the evolution of this course over time, and are intended to provide alternate views into the instruction of this course.

Fall 2008, Pauline Maier (PDF)



Course Requirements

Attendance and Participation

Class attendance, completion of the readings by the class in which they will be discussed, and participation in discussions is expected of all students. Normally the class will discuss the assigned portion of the textbook and the issues it raises during the first session and the other readings assigned for the week on the second session.

Assignments

Completion of two papers, due Week 4 and Week 10. Suggested topics are listed in the assignments section. 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 direct quotations.

Exam

There will be a midterm examination during Week 7 and a final examination during finals week.



Calendar

WEEK #TOPICSKEY DATES
1Introduction
2The Indians' America; The First European Settlements; The Chesapeake and New England
3The Extension of European Settlement; Empires; British Colonies in the Eighteenth Century
4IndependenceFirst paper due
5Creation of the American Republic: the States
6Creation of the American Republic: the Nation
7Creation of the American Republic: the Nation (cont.); Race and Revolution; ReviewMidterm Exam
8The Politics of the Early Republic
9Politics and Economic Development
10The "Age of Jackson"; An Age of ReformSecond paper due
11Expansion and Its Consequences
12"The Little Lady Who Caused This Big War"
13The Crisis of the 1850's; Secession
14The Civil War
15Results of the Civil War; Review
Final Exam




Readings

Amazon logo Help support MIT OpenCourseWare by shopping at Amazon.com! MIT OpenCourseWare offers direct links to Amazon.com to purchase the books cited in this course. Click on the Amazon logo to the left of any citation and purchase the book from Amazon.com, and MIT OpenCourseWare will receive up to 10% of all purchases you make. Your support will enable MIT to continue offering open access to MIT courses.

This section provides information on the required readings for the course, which are also presented by session.

Every effort was made to locate as complete information as possible for historical documents, and links to online sources were included where available.



Required Readings

Amazon logo Maier, Pauline, Merritt Roe Smith, Alexander Keyssar, and Daniel Kevles. Inventing America: A History of the United States. Vol. 1. New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 2002. ISBN: 9780393974355.

Amazon logo Richter, Daniel K. Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003. ISBN: 9780674011175.

Amazon logo Paine, Thomas. Common Sense (orig. January 1776). New York, NY: Dover, 1997. ISBN: 9780486296029.

Amazon logo Handlin, Oscar. Boston's Immigrants (orig. 1941). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991. ISBN: 9780674079861.

Amazon logo Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (orig. 1845). New York, NY: Dover, 1995. ISBN: 9780486284996.

Amazon logo Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom's Cabin (orig. (in book form) 1852). New York, NY: Penguin, 1981. ISBN: 9780140390032.



Readings by Session


WEEK #TOPICSREADINGS
1Introduction
2The Indians' America; The First European Settlements; The Chesapeake and New England

Maier, et al. Chapters 1 and 2, pp. 3-79.

For this week's discussion:

Winthrop, John. "A Model of Christian Charity." A Sermon of 1630 (abridged). In Volume I of The Puritans: A Sourcebook of Their Writings. Revised edition. Edited by Perry Miller and Thomas H. Johnson. New York, NY: Harper Torchbooks, 1963, pp. 195-199.

Some New England town covenants:
- Dedham, Massachusetts: Smith, Frank. The History of Dedham, Massachusetts. Dedham, MA: The Transcript Press, 1936, pp. 7-9 and 9-10 for inhabitants' and freemen's oaths.
- Springfield, Massachusetts: Burt, Henry M. Volume I of The First Century of Springfield. Springfield, MA: Henry M. Burt, 1898, pp. 156-60.

"John Dane's Narrative." New England Historical and Genealogical Register VII (1854): 147-56.

To be discussed next week:

Richter. pp. 1-109.

3The Extension of European Settlement; Empires; British Colonies in the Eighteenth CenturyMaier, et al. Chapters 3 and 4, pp. 81-154.

Richter. pp. 110-254.
4IndependenceMaier. Chapter 5, pp. 157-92.

Paine. Common Sense.

Mason, George. Draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights. Pennsylvania Gazette, June 12, 1776.

The committee or "Jefferson" draft of the Declaration of Independence, with Congress's editings (June-July 1776). In Amazon logo Maier, Pauline. Appendix C of American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence. New York, NY: Knopf, 1997, pp. 236-241. ISBN: 9780679454922.
5Creation of the American Republic: the States

Maier, et al. Chapter 6 and the first parts of chapter 7, pp. 195-243.

The first state constitutions and declarations of rights of Virginia (1776), Pennsylvania (1776), and Massachusetts (1780):
- The Virginia Constitution and Virginia Declaration of Rights
- The Pennsylvania Constitution (which included the a Declaration of Rights)
- The Massachusetts Declaration of Rights and Constitution. In Handlin, Oscar, and Mary Handlin. The Popular Sources of Political Authority: Documents on the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1966, pp. 441-72.

The Articles of Confederation, in Maier, et al. (appendices).

6Creation of the American Republic: the NationMaier, et al. Chapter 7, pp. 195-247.

Gov. Edmund Randolph's speech presenting the Virginia Plan from the Constitutional Convention, May 29, 1787. Available at: The Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 reported by James Madison: May 29.

The Constitution  in Maier (appendices).

Excerpt from the Virginia Ratifying Convention; the Virginia and New York instruments of ratification (1788).
7Creation of the American Republic: the Nation (cont.); Race and Revolution; Review

Midterm Exam

Jefferson, Thomas. "Query XIV: The Administration of Justice and Description of the Laws?" In Notes on the State of Virginia (written 1781, published 1785).

(Scroll down to the part where Jefferson discusses what he proposes to do with Virginia's slave population, and why it couldn't just stay in Virginia.)

8The Politics of the Early RepublicMaier. Chapters 8 and 9, pp. 249-314.

Madison's speech in the First Federal Congress, June 8, 1789 , proposing amendments to the Constitution and the amendments as they emerged from Congress. (You need to go down a bit to get the relevant part of his speech.)

The first ten amendments to the Constitution (the bill of rights), in Maier (appendices).

Start Handlin.
9Politics and Economic DevelopmentMaier. Chapters 9 and 12, pp. 283-314 and 373-405.

Finish Handlin.
10The "Age of Jackson"; An Age of ReformMaier. Chapters 11 and 13, pp. 343-371 and 407-432.

Documents on Abolitionism: William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Philips.

Garrison, William Lloyd. Editorial from The Liberator, January 1, 1831.
---. “Declaration of the National Anti-Slavery Convention," 1833.
---. Speech at the Fourth National Women’s Rights Convention, 1853.
---. "No Compromise with Slavery” speech, 1854.

Amazon logo Philips, Wendell. “The Constitution, a Pro-Slavery Document.” In Against Slavery: An Abolitionist Reader. Edited by Mason Lowance. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2000, pp. 103-04, 119-30, and 241-45. ISBN: 9780140437584.

Douglass. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. pp. 96.
11Expansion and Its ConsequencesMaier. Chapter 14 and 15, pp. 435-462 and 474-76.

George Fitzhugh's Defense of Slavery. In Fitzhugh, George. “Slavery Justified,” a newspaper editorial from the Fredericksburg [Virginia] Democratic Recorder, circa 1849-51, republished as an Appendix to Sociology for the South: Or, The Failure of Free Society. Richmond, VA: A. Morris, 1854, pp. 226-78 (esp. 445ff).

Start Stowe. Uncle Tom's Cabin.
12"The Little Lady Who Caused This Big War"Maier. Chapter 15, pp. 474-76.

Stowe. Uncle Tom's Cabin.
13The Crisis of the 1850's; Secession

Maier. The rest of chapter 15, pp. 465-474 and 476-494, and chapter 16, pp. 497-502.

Abraham Lincoln's "House Divided" speech, June 1858.

"Common Sense," an editorial of September 18, 1860, in the Charleston, SC, Mercury.

South Carolina's Secession Ordinance, December 21, 1860.

"Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Union," December 24, 1860.

(Note: The South Carolina documents and other secession ordinances are available at: Ordinances of Secession.)

Jefferson Davis's farewell speech to the Senate, January 21, 1861.

Lincoln's first inaugural address, March 4, 1861.

14The Civil WarMaier. The rest of chapter 16, pp. 502-33.

Amazon logo Abraham Lincoln on Race and Slavery: A selection of documents from Abraham Lincoln: A Documentary Portrait Through His Speeches and Writings. Edited by Don E. Fehrenbacher. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1964. ISBN: 9780804709422.
15Results of the Civil War; ReviewMaier. Chapter 17, first two sections, pp. 535-553.

The 13th14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution in Maier appendices (and while you're at it take a look at the 11th and 12th  amendments, too).
Final Exam




Assignments

Amazon logo Help support MIT OpenCourseWare by shopping at Amazon.com! MIT OpenCourseWare offers direct links to Amazon.com to purchase the books cited in this course. Click on the Amazon logo to the left of any citation and purchase the book from Amazon.com, and MIT OpenCourseWare will receive up to 10% of all purchases you make. Your support will enable MIT to continue offering open access to MIT courses.


Suggested Paper Topics

First Paper

Write a review of: Amazon logo Richter, Daniel. Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003. ISBN: 9780674011175.

The challenge here is to summarize the book carefully and accurately, and then to evaluate it. The historians who wrote "blurbs" on the back of the paperback edition praise the book to the hilt. They say it "frees us from the blinders of a European perspective on the early American experience" (James Merrill), "radically shifting our perspective on the past," and also that the book "is essential to understanding our place in time on this continent" (Alan Taylor). Of course, the purpose of a "blurb" is to sell books. Does Facing East from Indian Country measure up to that praise? Why or why not?

Quote critical passages that demonstrate the author's purpose (always providing page citations) and also to support your evaluation of the book. In any case, make sure that you understand what the author was attempting to do 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 says before evaluating it.

Second Paper

The second paper should focus on: Amazon logo Handlin, Oscar. Boston's Immigrants, 1790-1880: A Study in Acculturation. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1991. ISBN: 9780674079861.

The book focuses on immigrants, particularly Irish 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, in short, 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 interpretations 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.

Start your paper with a succinct summary of Handlin's argument, citing critical passages to demonstrate his point of view. Then ask if the book includes evidence that might have sustained a more positive interpretation such as that summarized above. Or do you think Handlin's view of the Irish is justifiably different from other, more positive interpretations, as described above? If there seems to be adequate 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. Finally, is the book still worth reading, or should I assign something else next year?





Related Resources

Civil War Songs

Civil War songs are available on several Web sites including:

The Music of the American Civil War (1861-1865)

More American Civil War Music (1861-1865)

Poetry and Music of the War Between the States. This site gives both lyrics and melody for Civil War songs.




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