Stuart Alan Streichler
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.
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 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 primary documents and historical evidence. 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Comprehend the basic historical content presented in the course, both the broad outlines and the specific historical problems (see basic themes in class description above).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.
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.
Gain an understanding of the problems of imposing present-day narrative frameworks and assumptions on historical events.
General method of instruction
Some background in U.S. history is helpful.
Class assignments and grading
Examinations, in-class written assignments, class participation, and a paper.