Richard R Johnson
Early America from the sixteenth century to the end of the American Revolution: the founding years, social and religious development, race relations, development of the Atlantic world, origins and legacy of American independence.
HSTAA 301 surveys the history of what became the United States from the time of first human settlements to the ratification of the Federal Constitution of 1787. It gives particular attention to certain central themes--the clash of cultures, nations, and races that accompanied European colonization; the emergence of multiethnic societies in North America and their role in a vibrant Atlantic culture; the issues of state formation, white labor and black slavery, and the interplay of religion and politics; and the origins and nature of the revolution that replaced imperial authority with independence and republican government. Besides gaining a fuller understanding of the significance of these themes for the unfolding of American history, students will also be encouraged by the format of the class to sharpen their skills of critical thinking and expression. Class discussions and written assignments center upon a package of readings assembled for the class, consisting of selected source materials plus some examples of modern scholarship. Each unit of the readings is designed to illuminate some particular episode or issue in early American history, and to enable students to assess the cultural values of the past and act as historians in constructing their own documented analyses through discussion and writing. This is therefore a history course in the double sense that students can expect to learn both about the nature of the past (in this case the most formative and exciting period of American history) and about how to develop the skills of thinking and research needed for effective study of that past, and its legacy for the present.
Student learning goals
Students will obtain a grasp of the principal themes of early American history, as outlined above
Through reading, discussing, and writing about the materials of early American history, students will develop their capacity for cogent and informed analysis, as set out above.
General method of instruction
Four 50-minutes lectures plus weekly discussion meeting
No prerequisites, except a lively curiosity about the origins of American society. During the duration of the courses, regular attendance--at the lectures and more especially at the discussion sections--is essential for success, along with a readiness to complete the assigned readings week by week, so as to contribute to class discussions and the timely completions of assignments. Preparation for lectures and exams will be facilitated by the distribution of outlines and revision sheets. The course is structured to give the greatest success to those students able to engage with its content and varied requirements on a regular rather than a spasmodic basis, and to demonstrate that engagement by evidence of cogent and informed expression rather than a capacity for the simple recall of facts.
Class assignments and grading
Attendance at the four lectures a week, plus Friday quiz sections. The sections will center upon the discussion of weekly readings contained in a substantial Documents Package constructed for the class, readings that are in turn the basis of the three short analytical papers, each 3.5-4 pages in length) that each student is required to submit, with a choice of topics. In addition, they are required to complete one midterm and a final examination. Students will also be required to meet in small groups with the instructor dirng the course's third week. Written work will be judged according to the strength, clarity, and concision of its arguments, its capacity to employ and analyze the appropriate course materials, and the relevance of its response to its chosen topic. This is a W-course, with a consequent emphasis upon writing assignments.
Grades are apportioned on the basis of 15% for each of the three short papers, 15% for the midterm, 25% for the final exam, and 15% for overall class performance, as in the discusssion sections. All assignments have to be completed to get credit for the course. As noted above,written work will be judged according to the strength, clarity, and concision of its arguments, its capacity to employ and analyze the appropriate course materials, and the relevance of its response to its chosen topic. Class performance is assessed on the basis of preparedness for discussion and the quality of contribution to the work of the class.