Robert T Mckenzie
Advanced seminar examining central issues in historiography. Emphasizes reading, discussion, and writing.
THE CIVIL WAR AND AMERICAN VALUES
War—especially civil war—is the most demanding trial a society can endure, and every society faces war in a manner that vividly reflects its cultural values. This will be the working hypothesis of this seminar. Focusing broadly to include the years both immediately before and after the war, we will approach the conflict as a monumental struggle over competing definitions of the just society, trying to learn all that we can about what Americans valued during this time of crisis. Along the way, we'll explore the proslavery and antislavery arguments, assess the political values of North and South, investigate the professed motives of typical soldiers, and ask how the war reflected (and also shaped) popular attitudes concerning civil liberties and racial and sexual equality.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Students will read a combination of primary documents and secondary interpretations prior to each weekly meeting. Class sessions will consist primarily of intensive small-group discussion of those readings.
I will assume that students taking this course will already have a fair working knowledge of the history of the war. Ideally, students will have taken either HSTAA 302 or HSTAA 411, or an equivalent course from another institution that deals significantly with the conflict. I will be happy to field questions from students uncertain as to whether they are prepared to succeed in the course, and can also recommend some general reading that would be helpful. It is not my desire to turn away any student genuinely interested in the topic.
Class assignments and grading
By definition, HIST 494s require a great deal of reading and discussion and include a significant writing component as well.
3-4 short essays (4-6 pp.) and contribution to weekly discussions.