US History to 1865

Course Description: Surveys the diverse experiences of colonial settlers, the development of a distinctly American culture, the American Revolution, the creation of an American republic and constitution, the rise of parties, early industrialism, slavery and the cotton economy, westward expansion, the Civil War, and Reconstruction.

Course Objectives

  • Learn Early American History (broadly construed) from the Age of Exploration to the end of the Civil War.
  • Explore the effects of early settlement, slavery, and intercultural clashes.
  • Understand how American culture changed over time.
  • Analyze the links between American History and Global History.
  • Improve written, verbal, and critical thinking skills, as well as information literacy.

Core Readings

Note:  There are five required textbooks, plus some additional readings on 2U. The two American Yawp books are free, open source textbooks. The other books are available through the University bookstore, third-party sellers, or through library reserves. A module with links to the books is posted on the course website. Students are responsible for completing the reading in a timely manner.

I have also included some podcasts. If the posting of podcasts in this course presents a barrier to your access – please let me know and we can review.

The American Yawp, Vol. 1 

The American Yawp Reader, Vol. 1

Kupperman, Karen Ordahl. Pocahontas and the English Boys: Caught Between Cultures in Early Virginia  (NYU Press)

Cleeves, Rachel. Charity & Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America (Oxford University Press)

Smallwater, Stephanie. Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to Middle America (Harvard University Press)

Dunbar, Erica Armstrong. She Came to Slay: the Life and Times of Harriet Tubman (Simon and Schuster)


Rubrics are posted on 2U for each type of assignment.

Engagement (30%): The expectation is that students will be prepared and intellectually present each week, and contribute productively to some combination of asynchronous discussion forums, live Zoom sessions, and group note taking activities.  Students who are unable to participate in the live Zoom sessions, but who participate regularly in the asynchronous chats and other asynchronous activities will not be punished. Students may call into the Zoom sessions with their phones, and are not required to have their screen on if they have reasons it is an obstacle to their access. If you begin having difficulties accessing the course, please be in touch as soon as possible. Disappearing will limit my ability to help.

Final Exam (20%):  There will be a cumulative open-book/open-note final exam at the end of the course. I will distribute essay questions a week to ten days in advance. You will be asked to answer one of the essays. The exam is due via the Final Exam Drop Box  by 11:30 PM on December 17th.

Papers (30% – 15% each): Students will write two short 1-2 page papers, in response to the readings. The prompts are posted on 2U. You have four opportunities to write these two papers, and may only submit two for credit. Due dates are noted on the syllabus. Papers should be double-spaced, using a standard 12-point font, and no more than 1 inch margins. Refrain from adding extra spaces between paragraphs. Papers should be no shorter than 1 full page, and no longer than 2. Please be scrupulous about citing any quotes, paraphrasing, or material that is not common knowledge. (i.e. Not noted in at least 3-5 other sources.) Plagiarism will result in a zero on the paper, and a referral to the academic honor board.

Meme Assignment (20%): Most, or all of you will have seen memes with quotes by historical figures on Facebook or elsewhere. For this assignment, you will pick two of these historical memes to research to determine their accuracy. You must do your own research. You may not use Snopes. Use the methodology described in Quote Investigator as a model. You will turn in a one page discussion of your research for each of the memes you investigated, and present your findings in the last week of class. You must attend class and share your work to receive full credit. BONUS ROUND: Produce a historically accurate meme in response to at least one of the erroneous ones. Include a citation.

Course Schedule

Note: This class uses shared note taking. I will share the Google doc with the students who are in class at the beginning of class, and any student with official disability accommodations. 

Abbreviations:  AY = American Yawp, AYR = American Yawp Reader

Week 1: Introductions/The Atlantic World

Reading: AY, Ch. 1; AYR Ch. 1; On 2U; Native Land; Begin reading Kupperman, Pocahontas and the English Boys.

Assignments: Discussion contributions are due by 11:30 PM on 6 Sept.

Week 2: Early European Settlement

Reading: AY, Ch. 2; AYR, Ch. 2 & 4; On 2U: Toensing, Finish Kupperman, to the  best of your ability. 

Assignments: Discussion contributions are due by 11:30 PM on 13 Sept.

Weeks 3 & 4: Transatlantic Slavery

Reading: AY, Ch. 3; AYR, Ch. 3;  Digital Projects on 2U;  You will also
be assigned 1 of the essays posted on 2U.  (Due by 17 Sept). See the course site for your assignment. Smallwood, Saltwater Slavery is due by 24 Sept.

Assignments: Discussions of the chapters from AY, AYR, and your assigned essay are due by 11:30 PM, 17 Sept. Discussions of Smallwood are due by 11:30 PM on 24 Sept.

Week 5: Growing Pains

Reading: AY, Ch. 4; AYR, Ch. 4; On 2U: Locke, Letter On Toleration (pleae read parts 1, 4, 6, 9, & 10); and your assigned essay (see course site for your assignment).

Assignments: Discussions are due by 11:30 pm PM  4 October. If you have elected to  write a paper on Kupperman, it is due via the link for “Paper 1” by 11:30 PM on 4 Oct. Please do not email papers to me.

Week 6: Seven Years War

Reading: On 2U: Soldiers Diary and the Cazotte Memoir, plus your assigned essay (see course site for your assignment).

Assignment: Discussions for week 6 are due by 11:30 PM on 11 Oct.

Week 7: An Imperial Crisis

Reading: On 2u: Bushman, Breen,  Zabin, and one of the accounts of Capt. Prescott’s Trial; start reading Cleves, Charity & Sylvia

Assignment: Discussions for week 7 are due by 11:30 PM on Oct. 18. If you are writing a paper on Smallwood, it is due by 11:30 EST on 18 Oct via the link for Paper 1 if it is your 1st paper, or Paper 2 if it’s your second paper. Please do not email papers to me.

 Week 8: American Revolution and its Consequences

Reading: AY, Ch. 5; AYR, Ch. 5; plus the digital resources posted on 2U and your assigned essay. Please see the course site for your assignment.

Assignment: Discussions for week 8 are due by 11:30 PM on 25 Oct.

Week 9: A New Republic

Reading: AY, Chs. 6 & 7, AYR, Chs. 6 & 7; On 2U: the digital projects, plus your assigned essay. See the course website for your assignment.

Assignment: Discussions for week 9 are due by 11:30 PM on 1 Nov. You should begin working on your Meme assignment.

Week 10: A New Social Order

Reading: AY, 8; AYR, Ch. 8; On 2U: Frank, Cleve, Charity and Sylvia (entire)

Assignment: Discussions for week 10 are due by 11:30 PM on 8 Nov.

Week 11:  Jacksonian America

Reading: AY, Ch. 9; AYR, Ch. 9; On 2U: Saunt, Cherokee Archive (see course site for details); begin reading Dunbar, She Came to Slay

Assignment: Discussions for week 11 are due by 11:30 PM on 15 Nov.

Weeks 12 & 13: Abolition

Reading: Dunbar, She Came to Slay and your choice of one of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates for 22 Nov; AY, Chs. 10 & 11, and AYR, Chs. 10 & 11 plus the digital resources for Nov. 30.

Assignment: Combined discussions are due by 11:30 PM on 29 Nov. If you are writing one of your papers on Charity & Sylvia, it is due to the appropriate paper drop box by 29 Nov. Please do not email me papers.

Week 14: A House Dividing

Reading: AY, Ch. 13, AYR Ch. 13; On 2U: Read the Declarations of  Secession (TX, SC, MS, GA); Dew, Apostles of Disunion, Ch. 1

Assignments: Discussion for week 14 are due by 11:30 PM on 6 Dec. If you are writing one of your papers on Dunbar, it is due to the appropriate paper drop box by 11:30 PM on 6 Dec. Please do not email me papers. If you have not already written your 2 papers, you must write on Dunbar.

Week 15: Civil War

Reading: AY, Ch. 15; AYR, Ch. 115; On 2U: Parr, The Compensated Emancipation Act of  1862. Please also watch 13th (TW: racial violence, lynching)

Assignment: Discussion for week 15 are due by 11:30 PM on 13 Dec; Your meme assignment is also due to the drop box by 11:30 PM on 13 Dec. Please do not email me assignments.

Week 16: Reconstruction

Reading: On 2U: Beckett

Assignment: The discussion for this week is optional. It is due by 11:30 PM on 15 Dec.

Your FINAL EXAM is due via the drop box no later than 11:30 PM on 17 Dec.