Michael L. Goldberg
Examines key events and problems in U.S. history from European-Native American contact to the end of the Civil War. Focuses on the practice of "doing history" by applying historical thinking skills to a wide range of primary documents.
autumn 2010 This course examines the development of American culture and politics from European-Native American contact to the end of the Civil War. We will be concentrating particularly on meanings and realities of democracy, authority, and liberty; servitude and freedom; community, nationhood, and individualism; economic opportunity and social justice. We will be tracing the development of the systems of slavery in the south and �free labor� in the North and its effects on culture and politics; the development of state and federal institutions within the political and cultural framework of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. constitution and the economic framework of early industrial capitalism; the ongoing conquest and resettlement of the expanding frontier and its meaning; the changing relations and expectations between and among women and men; and the establishment, growth, and eventual dominance of White middle-class cultural assumptions and institutions.
The course is also an introduction to the practice of historical investigation, and will emphasize the critical analysis of a wide range of historical texts. The course will also introduce the skills necessary to perform close textual analysis on texts, and then to use this evidence as part of a historical argument.
Student learning goals
Comprehend the basic historical content presented in the course, both the broad outlines and the specific historical problems (see basic themes in course introduction, above).
Analyze a variety of primary sources in historical context, including: images, print media, advertising, government and political documents, personal letters, and oral histories.
Gain command of historical concepts, including continuity and change, compare and contrast, historical agency and motivation, cultural diversity, and cause and effect.
Develop a historical interpretation based on a comparative analysis of two sets of primary sources.
Gain a better understanding of the role of history in shaping the present and future, and the use of historical thinking to help comprehend current problems and possible solutions.
Improve cooperative learning skills in a structured learning environment.
General method of instruction
Short lectures, cooperative learning groups, class discussion. Each class introduces a new historical problem with supporting historical concepts to be applied. The instructor provides a framing lecture drawing on the readings, small groups are provided explicit instructions about advancing their understanding of the problem based on their previous reading and preparation, and then the class meets as a whole to discuss findings, move towards conclusions.
Some background in U.S. history is helpful but none is expected. Because we meet in small groups most class days and group members assess each others' participation, students should not take this course if they do not think they will be able to attend most classes.
Class assignments and grading
Three take-home exams; small group participation with mandatory preparation worksheets.