Richard R Johnson
Causes of separation of the United States from the British empire; political theory of the Revolution; its military history; diplomacy of the Revolution; the Revolution as a social movement; intellectual aspects; readjustment after independence; the formation of the American union; the Constitution.
This course will study the American Revolution, from its mid-eighteenth century origins to the ratification of the Federal Constitution of 1787. Its general format will be chronological, but with emphasis placed on such key themes as Anglo-colonial relations, the rhetoric and methods of revolutionary resistance, the conduct and consequences of the War of Independence, constitution making and the nature of republican government, the Revolution as a social movement, its losers and well as its winners, and the forces at work in the "critical" period of the 1780s. We will also consider how scholars and the American public have evaluated the Revolution and its legacy. 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 on the readings described below. Each weekly 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 arguably the most formative and exciting period of American history) and about how they candevelop 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 knowledge of the origins, nature, legacy and significance of the American Revolution, as above
Students will gain insight into how historians have studied and evaluated the history of the Revolution, and how historical scholarship can be analysed and critiqued.
Students will have been able to develop their own skills in research and writing by evaluating primary source materials and selected historical questions both through individual projects and working on small group presentations
Through one-page papers prepared to fuel class discussion, students will learn how to write concise, analytical, and documented prose.
General method of instruction
Three ninety-minute class sections a week, two given generally to lectures by the instructor and one to discussion of assigned readings
No prerequisites, except a lively curiosity about the origins of American society. During the duration of the courses, however, regular attendance--at the lectures and more especially at the weekly discussion section--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.
Class assignments and grading
Attendance at the two lectures a week, and at the third meeting, each Thursday, given to class discussion. Two 5-7 page papers (a comparative book review and an assessment of a primary source) that can be rewritten, plus several one-page papers based on the weekly reading. Students will also be asked to do small research projects of their own, and in groups. No midterm but a takehome final exam consisting of essay questions. Studentís 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.
Generally, grades are assigned on the basis of 25% each for the book review, documentary analysis, and takehome final exam, and the remaining 25% for the one-page papers and class performance in the weekly discussions. All assignments must be completed to get credit for the course (which also carries W-course credit).