HISTORY 41: AMERICAN HISTORY to 1877 Peter Frederick Wabash College Baxter 129
"We come to America..."
Some thoughts on the purposes of taking an American/U.S. history course:
Even though young Americans take a survey U.S. history course every third year, myths, misunderstandings, anbd misinformation about our history persist. We have heard stories about college students who cannot place the Civil War within 50 years, who think Peru, Brazil and Versailles exist only in Indiana, or who confuse Andrew Jackson and Andrew Johnson with Lyndon "Magic" Johnson.
Our first responsibility, then is to get our facts straight. Our second is to learn how to "think historically." More of that later. Third, since "history is a means of access to ourselves," we need not only to increase our knowledge of the past but also to understqand where we came from as a society and nation. Moreover we need to think about who we are as individuals in the context of both the Master Narrative of our national history and the diverse multicultural nature of "the American people."
We share a common past and each of us comes from different family, regional, religious, racial, ethnic and cultural pasts; therefore, our views and interpretations of American history will no doubt differ. It is my obligation to terach American history (or is it "the history of the United States"?) as fairly and accurately as possible. It is your obligation to learn it the same way. What we share is the inevitability of interpretation and honest differences of perspective, which is precisely what makes it necessary to study this history over and over again. As we develop and acquire new experiences and insights, our understanding of ourselves and our nation grows and changes. As the (1970!) cartoon by jules Fieffer suggests: [text only] When I wnet to school I learned George
Washington never told a lie--Slaves were happy on the plantation--The men who opened the West were giants--And we won every war because God was on our side. But where my kid goes to school He learns George Washington was a slave owner--Slaves hated Slaverry--The men who opened the west committed genocide-- and the wars we won were victories for U.S. Imperialism. No wonder My Kid's not an American. They're teaching him some other country's history.
"A people without history is like wind upon the buffalo grass." --Lakota (Sioux) saying
Some Thoughts on Learning:
I believe that your learning is enhanced to the extent that the general goals and specific objectives of the course are clear and that the assignments you do are directly connected to these goals; tthat you are actively--and collaboratively--involved in llearning thgough experiencing many different teaching/learning approaches, in class and out; and that you receive frequent feedback on how well you are learning. I will do my best to meet these conditions. Obiviously, there are responsibilities on you part as well, mainly to come to class regulary; to do all the reading--and to reflect on it--prior to th appropriate class; to do the assignments on schedule; to be a responsible member of both small and large groups; to interact with others openly and respectfully; amd tp asl qiestopms abpit wjat upi dp mpt imderstamd.
The value of History is, indeed, not scientific but moral: by liberalizing the mind, by deepening the sympathies, by fortifying the will, it enables us to control, not society, but ourselves. . .it prepares us to live more humanely in the present and to meet the future." --Carl L. Becker
Required Reading: A general textbook and four different kinds of history books: an autobiography by a well-known Great Man; the biography of a lesser known Idian leader, the social history of social class groups in a small northern city; and a monograph (the focused study of one topic) on female slaves.
TEXT: Nash, Jeffrey, ET AL, THE AMERICAN PEOPLE: Creating a Nation and a Society, Vol. I,to 1877, 2nd or 3rd edition (N.Y.: HarperCollings, 1990, 1994.) [Note: see especially the opening anecdote, visuals, charts, maps and the "recovering the past" section in each chapter.]
Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography and Other Writings, ed. Jesse Lemisch. (NY: Signet Clasic) [Note: we red Franklin as THE classic American autobography and original rags-to-riches success story; no young American can possibly make it through life without having read and emulated--Ben's remarkable life.]
R. David Edmonds, The Shawnee Prophet. (Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1983). [Note: we read this to shift our focus westward to the Shawnee Indians in the midwest, in particular to "the Prophent," Tenskwatawa and his brother, Tecumseh, as they struggled to save their land and culture from the invading new nation.]
Paul Johnson, A Shopkeeper's Millenium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815-1837. (NY: Hill and Wang, 19788). [Note: we read this excellent monographic example of social history to see how economic, social class, political and religious forces combined to change people's lives in one city, and to explore the complexity of historical causation.]
Deborah Gray White, Ar'n't I a Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South. (NY: W.W. Norton 1985). [Note: we read this short monograph not only to learn about the historical experience of black women but also to explore the role of mytrhs and images in history.]
Expectations and Assignments (Basis of determining your grade):
class discussions and activities (10%)
Paper #1: A review of/Response to Bejamin Franklin (4 pages due in class on Sept. 20) Write a letter to someone important in your life telling this person what you think (and feel) about Ben Franklin on one of the topics llisted below. Base yoiur judegements on the Autobiography (Part One, to page 133) and on reading aboutr 10-15 pages from Part Two. Your response might include a brief summary of pertinent points about Ben's life, but more important will be how well you base your thoughfull response on specific passages, examples, and short illustrative quotations from Franklin's thoughful response on specific passages, examples, and short illustrative quotations from Franklin's writings. Cite page references in following parentheses, thusly: "Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve." (P. 95).
Paper #2: Recovering the Past (RTP): A Group Preohect: Historians as Detectives (3-4 pp, due in class on Oct. 6)
Working in groups, you will be assigned one of the Recovering the Past (RTP) features from the textbook, Chapters 2-7. For your particular RTP source, go to the library and find 2-3 more examples of the same kind of source/document from the colonial/revolutionary era. Like a detective, tease as much historical information as you can out of these primary sources. You are looking for clues which show how people lived and thought in colonial america. Answer the questions in the RTP section and ask and answer some of your own. AFter doing the micro-analysis of the documents, suggest in a conclusion what your particular RTP sources say about the Big Picture. (Append the additional documents to your paper, and cite the sources where you found them.)
Paper #3: Thinking Like An Historian: Identifying Historical Interpretations: A Cmoparative Book REview (4-5 pages ude in class on November 15)
Compare and contrast two books (Edmonds and Johnson, or HJohnson and White, or White and Edmonds) on how the two authors interpret American History. A book review considers such issues as when and why a book was written, the style, sources and approach of the book, and the interpretive point of view of the author. A comparative book review does all this, but with two books. Successful reviews will show your understanding of the major themes and point of view of both works and will analyze them in terms of a particular focused theme or issue that matters to you! Some examples are the role and impact of religion, or cultural values, or geography, or family relationships, or war, or socio-economic change, or political ideology and practice on people's lives. Do not just summarize the two books; rather show your comparative understanding of the authors' interpretive point of view around a focused theme of your choice. The most successful papers (like essay exam answers) are those which cite many specific examples and which include short illustrative quotations from both books.
The MAP: Instructions to be handed out later, namely a list of places to put neatly, on outline maps I will also distribute, Done in your small groups, due on November 22.
Tentative Schedule and Reading Assignments
N.B.: Reading should be completed prior to the week in which it is assigned, and it would help if you got into the habit of bringing your books to class, including the textbook. I am never entirely shure what will happen on any given day, so it helps to anticipate and be prepared. You need to be in class regularly in order to hear specific assiignments, when I know them, for the next class.
Date Topics and Assignments Reading (text 3rd ed.) Aug 30 Introduction: "A Nation of Immigrants" American Peoples and History: Some Sept 1 Enduring Themes Text, Chapter 1 6 Colonial America: Puritanism Text, Chapters 2,3 8 Two Directions of Puritanism: Edwards and Franklin 13 Quiz on Chapters 1-3; Emerging Autobio on Ben Americanism Franklin 15 Discussion of B. Franklin Text, Chap. 4 20 Paper #1 Due: on Franklin Coming of the Revolution Dec. of Indep. 22 The Dual American Revolution Text, Chap. 5,6 27 The Dual American Revolution and Text, Chap. 7 and Const.-Making U.S. Const. 29 Quiz on Chapters 4-7 Oct 4 The New Nation: 1790's Text, Chapter 8 6 Preview of the 19th Century: Shawnee Prophet Jefferson's Inaugural Paper #2 Due: On RTP Sources 11 Moving into the Old Northwest Text, Chap. 9 13 Discussion on Shawnee Prophet Shawnee Prophet 15-18 MID-SEMESTER BREAK 20 Mid-Term Examination (Notes on 3 x 5 cards) 25 American Politics 1820-1840's Text, Chap. 10 & 12 27 The "Unhinged 1830's"--Discussion of Shopkeeper's Millenium Shopkeeper. . . Nov 1 American Reform (maybe a Quiz) Review Text, 3 The American People: Role Play Chapters 9-12 8 Slavery Text, Chap. 11 10 Slave Culture: Discuss Ar'n't I a Ar'n't I A Woman Woman 15 Paper #3 Due: Interpreting History American Expansionism Text, Chap. 13 17 American Culture at Mid-Century 22 Map Due Coming of the Civil War Text, Chapter 14 23-27 THANKSGIVING BREAK 29 The Civil War Dec 1 The Civil War in Song and Slides Text, Chap. 15 6 Reconstruction Text, Chap. 16 8 Reconstruction & Review for Final ?? Final ExaminationReturn to H-SURVEY Home Page.