This course examines North American history during the period of European colonization through the perspectives of Europeans and settler colonists, American Indians, and enslaved Africans. Their experiences living in and shaping colonial society are evaluated within the context of both North American and European events.
This course takes ideas seriously as a major inspiration for human activity: people are willing both to live and die for deeply held ideas. We’ll use the American Enlightenment to explore how a constellation of new, exciting, and dangerous ideas arose around the Atlantic World in the eighteenth century. These ideas challenged people’s most fundamental assumptions about reality: Who should govern us? What do we know—and how do we know it? How should we live together in society? What does it mean to be religious? What is natural—and what is unnatural? How should we raise and educated children? Most people associate the Enlightenment with Europe, but in this course we will explore how the specific conditions of eighteenth-century North America—slavery, the presence of large numbers of indigenous peoples, a colonial political context, and even local animals, rocks, and plants—also shaped the major questions and conversations of the time. We’ll examine how Enlightenment ideas directly influenced the American Revolution’s commitment to liberty, natural rights, separation of powers, and the pursuit of happiness (as embodied in such founding documents as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution). But we’ll also stray from politics to look at how Enlightenment ideas also crept into almost every other area as well, from ideas about child- rearing to maps to architecture. NYC: TBD
The American Revolution entailed some remarkable transformations--converting British colonists into American revolutionaries, and a cluster of colonies into a confederation of states with a common cause--but it was far more complex and enduring than the fighting of a war. This course will examine the Revolution from this broad perspective, tracing the participants' shifting sense of themselves as British subjects, colonial settlers, revolutionaries, and Americans. Students will also consider major historiographical questions about the revolution such as its limits and its ideology.
In this course students explore the varied roles women played in all phases of the American Revolution. Special emphasis is placed on the construction of gender in the context of colonial society its transformation during the revolutionary era. Students will assess women's evolving political and social influence, as well as the role of race, ethnicity and economic status on women's opportunities.
The Declaration of Independence articulates the fundamental principles on which the new American nation was founded. Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration's author, played a crucial role in the Revolution that destroyed the British Empire and in the creation of a new republican regime that he and his fellow founders hoped would initiate a "new order of the ages." Focusing on Jefferson's career and thought, this course will examine the momentous developments that defined Jefferson's Age, from the imperial crisis through his presidency. Jefferson's eloquent writings illuminate the history of resistance, revolution, and nation-making that led once-loyal subjects of King George Ill to claim an independent place among "the powers of the earth." Participants will explore challenges to establishing a viable union among colony-states with diverse and conflicting interests, perfecting and preserving that union under the new federal Constitution, and projecting American power across the continent. For Jefferson, the "Revolution of 1800" secured the vision of an expansive "empire of liberty" that inspired the Revolutionary generation. Displacing Indians and neutralizing European imperial rivals, the United States would also-tragically-promote development of the largest and most powerful slave society in the modern world.
This course explores Alexander Hamilton's life and legacy in the context of the American Revolution.
As we approach the sesquicentennial or 250th anniversary of the American Revolution, there are timeless and new issues around how we remember its origins, experience, and legacy. Situating the struggle for American independence from the British Empire amidst the broader transformations of the Age of Revolutions, this course explores the meaning and scope of revolution, in the long eighteenth century and in contested commemorations today. By considering how contact and imperial expansion in North America set the stage for global conflict over sovereignty and freedom, we will study how complex interactions between Indigenous people, enslaved people, and settler colonialists fermented equally complex views and ideologies surrounding revolution. This process was not limited solely to British North America, but as we will examine, took shape around the Haitian and French revolutions as well. Taking the vantage of how the American Revolution was remembered by subsequent generations, both as a singular event, a cluster of ideologies and protests, and in comparison with other late eighteenth century movements, we will consider how debates of what the revolution meant in and to the early United States speaks to contemporary understandings. We will especially consider whose voices surrounding revolution are celebrated, criticized, or left-out all together through various modes of communication and interpretation. In doing so, we will consider how revolutionary experiences – real, imagined, and digital – impact our present day.
This course examines the period in which the United States became a continental nation and experienced the escalating tensions that would precipitate the Civil War. As a broad overview of this era, the class emphasizes the creation of the constitution and federal institutions, the impact of European war and politics on the new nation, the rise of political parties, the consequences of the War of 1812, the extension of the vote to all white males, the rise of industrial manufacturing and the creation of transportation infrastructure, the dispossession and marginalization of Native Americans, the growth of slavery and the lives of slaves, changes in the lives of women, and the ways that religion and reform reshaped American society during these years.
A study of the westward expansion of the United States; United States penetration into the Trans-Mississippi River West after the Lewis and Clark expedition; social, political, and economic development; culture of the indigenous Indians of the northern and southern plains.
Examining the civic campaigns and political battles for women to participate in public life in the United States, concentrating on the organized efforts to win the franchise. How and why the struggle for the vote took over a century, and what ideologies and groups developed during the women’s suffrage movement. Women’s involvement in reform and the intersection of gender, sexuality and citizenship in the years leading up to the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920.
What was the Civil War all about? The answer lies largely in its origins. This course examines various aspects of what historians call "The Crisis of the 1850s," the crucial decade that ended in the secession of eleven slave states from the Union? Why did they secede? And why didn't Lincoln let them? The readings focus on two aspects off the crisis. We will first review conflicting interpretations of the origins of the Civil War, after which we will focus on specific aspects of the crisis of the 1850, in particular the cascading series of events that led to war: the War with Mexico, the "Compromise" of 1850, the fugitive slave crisis, the struggle over Kansas, the Dred Scot decision, the collapse of the Whig Party, the rise of the Republican Party, the catastrophic fissure of the Democratic party, and finally the election of Lincoln and the secession crisis. No one methodology can adequately account for the origins of the Civil War-it requires economic, social, political, and cultural history.
In this course students explore the causes, course, and consequences of the American Civil War, from the 1840s to 1877. Students will come to understand the multiple meanings of a transforming event in American history. Those meanings may be defined in many ways: national, sectional, racial, constitutional, individual, social, intellectual, or moral. Students will examine four broad themes: the crisis of union and disunion in an expanding republic; slavery, race, and emancipation as national problem, personal experience, and social process; the experience of modern, total war for individuals and society; and the political and social challenges of Reconstruction.
The course will be organized around five popular designations that have been applied to the great president over the years ( Roi/ splitter, Honest Abe, Father Abraham, Great Emancipator, and Savior of the Union) and dig deeper into each of these themes in order to explore their origins and assess their validity. In the process, participants will come to better understand Lincoln as a man and a president, and also enjoy a unique online platform to share their insights.
Abraham Lincoln led America through one of its most difficult eras. His personal and political development as a leader and his ultimate success in preserving the union are pivotal features in the American story. By understanding how Lincoln led, we can begin to understand his impact on the office of the presidency and on the political culture of the nation. In this course, filmed primarily in Springfield, IL, we will visit important sites in Lincoln's emergence as a leader and will spend time with leading Lincoln scholars and archivists at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
In 1930, Charles and Mary Beard wrote "that at the bottom of the so-called Civil War... was a social war." What did they mean by this? How did different groups (e.g. races, genders, classes) interact with the nation and the state before this conflict? After? This course will attempt to answer these questions. Its focus will be on African-Americans and women, and their journey to redefine their relationship to their country and time during the most contentious time in American history
This course pursues an extended consideration of the personal letters, diaries, and drawings produced by Civil War soldiers and nurses. Such material provides unparalleled access to the vivid experiences of enlistees in Confederate and U.S. armies and in the associated medical corps. Gripping testimony from this "People's Contest," supplemented by scholarly accounts, will introduce students to the rigors of war, the burdens of separation from loved ones, and the jolting experience of combat. Additionally, the course offers a range of perspectives on the most revolutionary period of American history, as chattel slavery was overthrown, racial hierarchies were recast, and Americans witnessed a fundamental shift in role of government and the meaning of citizenship. In reflecting on historians' use of letters and diaries, the course raises broader questions about building life stories from self-authored evidence.
A study of the United States History from 1877 to 1920, with special attention devoted to the economic and social changes brought about as a result of industrialization. Other topics of particular interest are the changing role of the United States in the world and the advent of overseas expansion. The history of reform in the early 20th century through the Progressive Movement can also be a particular emphasis.
This course is about the history of the United States during a period of great social change and conflict. Over these four decades, the U.S. became a predominately urban and industrial nation, a nation of immigrants and wage-earners, an imperial nation, and a nation where progressive reform was the order of the day -- though its definition and aims were furiously contested. We will seek to understand how and why these tumultuous changes occurred -- and who gained and who lost in the process.
The world that broke down in 1929 broke down for reasons that astute observers had predicted in advance. The subsequent and nearly total failure to repair the damage owed to clear errors of judgment and action, and the prolonged misery that millions of people suffered could therefore have been lessened. Roosevelt and the Democratic Congress of the New Deal era achieved a marked historical success by correcting those errors. They also committed errors of their own. But in the 1936 election, the American voters overwhelmingly asked their leaders to forge forward with their experiments, mistakes aside, rather than return to the old and, to their minds, wholly discredited ways. This course will explore the buildup to the Great Crash of 1929, the Great Depression that followed and the New Deal created to counteract it.
More than 50 years after its tragic end, the presidency of John F. Kennedy continues to be the focus of scholars, educators, biographers, journalists, politicians, advertisers, students, and citizens of the nation and the world. Why should a mere thousand-day presidency continue to attract such universal attention? Through the lenses of imagery, symbolism, media, leadership theory, and public policy, this course will explore the strengths, weaknesses, successes, and failures of the 35th president of the United States. By examining JFK's biography, career, rhetoric, and policies, including on the Cold War, the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, the Peace Corps, civil rights, the space race, and the arts, students will gain both knowledge of and perspective on the Camelot era.
The events of the years 1914 to 1945 created the America we know. They established the United States as a world political and economic power. They also shaped the social and economic patterns that characterized the country for decades afterward, sometimes in surprising and unanticipated ways . This course will examine the role of the two world wars in shaping modern American history. Students will become familiar with some of the many scholarly interpretations of what the years 1914 to 1945 meant both for America 's role in the world and for the changes to life inside the United States.
The events of the years 1914 to 1945 created the America we know. They established the United States as a world political and economic power. They also shaped the social and economic patterns that characterized the country for decades afterward, sometimes in surprising and unanticipated ways. This course will examine the role of specifically the Second World War in shaping modern American history. Students will become familiar with some of the many scholarly interpretations of what the years 1941 to 1945 meant both for America’s role in the world and for the changes to life inside the United States.
This course explores American involvement in World War I both in Europe and at home. The era of the First World War was a crucial period in the development of modern America both as a nation on the international scene and in terms of economic, social, and political institutions at home. In this course, Chair of War Studies and Professor of History in the Department of National Security and Strategy at the War College, Dr. Michael Neiberg explores the forces that brought America into the war, its involvement, and its emergence into the post-war world.
This course concentrates on the origins and consequences of the Cold War. Students will consider the political, social and cultural history of the era. The place of the US in global political and economic relationships between 1945 and 1990 will be considered.
The Vietnam War(s) are among the most important and consequential events of the last century. They are not well understood, however, even though they are regularly invoked in discussions of International Relations. This course will cover the whole period from 1945 when the French attempted to return, to the period of division following the Geneva conference (1954) that divided the country through the entry of Americans combat troops in the Republic of Vietnam [South Vietnam] 1965 along with those from other allies, the fighting, the withdrawal of the Americans , and the invasion by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam [North Vietnam] that ended this period of conflict in late spring 1975. We will also examine the disastrous Chinese invasion of united Vietnam in 1979.
The Constitution is the founding document of the United States. Yet ever since the process of ratification, the document's meaning-and questions about who gets to decide its meaning-have spurred pitched political battles, campaigns for elected office and social change, and arguments among ordinary voters from all walks of life. Americans have debated the question of what the Constitution means in courtrooms and legislatures, at lunch counters and on picket lines, outside medical clinics and in schools. Studying the Constitution in the 20th century means learning about how law, society, politics, and culture all interact. Through examination of nine defining cases and themes, we will discover how regular people, social movement activists and organizations, politicians, scholars, lawyers, and judges have fought about what the Constitution should mean inside and outside of the courtroom.
A study of the United States Presidency from 1789 to the present, with special attention devoted to the changing scope and function of the office in the changing context of broader American History. Other topics of particular interest are the key figures who have altered the institution and the role of crisis in changing the scope and functioning of the office.
This course will explore the diverse political philosophies of influential black Americans as they sought to secure their dignity as human beings and rights as citizens. What makes this story intriguing is that black Americans struggled to secure justice for themselves on the basis of principles white Americans professed to hold near and dear. Quite simply, black Americans asked that America be true to herself. As Frederick Douglass put it: “Not a Negro problem, not a race problem, but a national problem; whether the American people will ultimately administer equal justice to all the varieties of the human race in this Republic.” America answered by being true, to one extent or another, to the principle of consent. American blacks asked her to be true to that other American principle, equality. This course examines the fundamental tension between human equality and government by consent, a tension present at the birth of the American Union in 1776. The tension between freedom and equality forms the context for the struggle of black Americans—nay, all Americans—to exercise their rights as citizens. A critical evaluation of leading black thinkers in American political thought helps one understand what it means to be both an American citizen and a civilized human being.
Through readings, discussion, and a series of short writing assignments, we will discover the antislavery writers and reformers of the 17th, 18th. and 19th centuries whose passionate words formed the vanguard of a global movement. We will explore the poetry, fiction, sermons, slave narratives, and songs that helped to end American slavery and make human rights an expectation of people throughout the world.
The emancipation of four million slaves during the Civil War was the single most revolutionary social transformation in American history. Most accounts focus on the Emancipation Proclamation and oversimplify a process that took generations to complete and involved thousands of men and women struggling for freedom before and during the war. This course will explore the so-called "first emancipation" in the North after the American Revolution, the development of an antislavery movement committed to a number of federal policies designed to bring about what Abraham Lincoln called the "ultimate extinction" of slavery, the implementation of those policies during the Civil War, and their aftermath in Reconstruction. In addition to the Emancipation Proclamation, we will explore the various antislavery statutes passed by Congress as well as the decision to press for a Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery everywhere in the United States. But we will also try to balance the political history of emancipation with a social history of emancipation as it happened on the ground in the Civil War South. Thus, along with the policymakers in Washington, we will consider the role of the slaves and Union soldiers in the wartime emancipation process, the obstacles to emancipation, and the postwar struggle to secure freedom and expand its meaning.
This course will focus on the struggle of African Americans to achieve full citizenship in the aftermath of legal slavery. In particular, we will consider the promise and demise of citizenship represented by Reconstruction, the era of breathtaking anti-black violence and terror known as "Redemption," and the Great Migrations of African Americans from the South to the North We will study the rise of Jim Crow, the roots of black political organizing in the early 20th century, and the civil rights movement of the 1960s. We will conclude by exploring the transformative effect on American politics of the Black Power Movement and consider how an understanding of its importance compels us to rethink the civil rights era. We will also look ahead to the decades since, when African Americans have continued to wage intense campaigns against racism and other forms of social injustice.
The course offers an in-depth exploration of Frederick Douglass' life and his immense significance as activist, orator, political theorist, and statesman. Through a close reading of Douglass's own writings as well as those of his contemporaries we will gain an understanding of the evolution of 19th century views on race and citizenship, emancipation and equality, as well as nationalism and abolitionism.
This class investigates the history of slavery and forced labor in America before 1860. This course looks at slavery in the Colonial period, the Revolutionary era, and the 1800s throughout the North American continent Topics include Native American slavery, the transatlantic slave trade, the development of African cultures in America, and the anti-slavery movement. We will try to understand the diversity of slavery and slave cultures in North America's different regions as we assess the central role slavery played in the creation of American society. This class investigates the history of slavery and forced labor in America before 1860.
This course is a study of enslaved people. It is a course about the ways human being coped with captivity. It is also a course that listens to their voices through audio files, diaries, letters, actions, and silences. Centering the people of slavery rather than viewing them as objects shifts the focus to their commentary on slavery. In addition to listening to enslaved people, students will have the opportunity to engage some of the most cutting-edge scholarship on the subject. Although the early literature objectified enslaved people and hardly paid attention to their experiences, work published since the Civil Rights Movement and into the 21st century offers rich accounts of enslaved life. By approaching the institution of slavery in the United States from the enslaved perspective through firsthand accounts of their experiences, students will have the opportunity to engage a variety of sources including narratives, plantation records, podcasts, short films, and other media. Some of the specific themes addressed include gender, sexuality, region, labor, resistance, pleasure, love, family, and community among the enslaved.
This course explores the history of African Americans between 1865 and the 1930s by taking a close look at the life of antilynching crusader Ida B. Wells. A member emancipation’s first generation, Wells was born to enslaved parents during the Civil War, and survived a rough childhood to become a teacher, journalist and trenchant social critic. Most known for her crusade against lynching, she was a social justice warrior, whose long career as civil rights activist illustrates the many challenges faced by African Americans during her lifetime. This course uses Well’s life as a focal point for understanding not only antilynching, but also the rise of Jim Crow, the history of early black civil rights organizations and women’s clubs, the Great Migration, the African American experience during the World I era, and the emergence of New Negro leadership.
On Thursday, March 26, 1964, the United States Senate would decide the fate of the Civil Rights Act. That day, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. descended, separately, on the Senate building, serving as witnesses to an ongoing historical drama they had actively shaped in their respective roles as national political leaders and mobilizers. Malcolm, the sword, and Martin Luther King Jr., the shield, transformed the aesthetics of American democracy. These two metaphors reflect a new interpretation of Malcolm and Martin, in which a partnership is illuminated by examining the intricacy of their lives.
The South has played a central role in American history from the first permanent English colony through the United States of today. This course will trace that role across four centuries, using video tours to interpret key places in the story. The class will explore the creation of the largest and most powerful slave society of the modern world and the attempt to create a new independent nation to sustain that society. The course will chart the ending of slavery for four million people, the social transformations that followed in Reconstruction, and the upheavals of the first New South. For the twentieth century, the class will document the world of segregation, the overthrow of that system, and the emergence of the complicated and sometimes conflicted South we know today. The course will include a broad range of historical actors as active participants in the story, incorporating economics and politics, religion and culture. Innovative digital tools will help teachers see and teach this history in new ways.
Through exemplary works of literature, this course will examine the writings of African American poets, novelists, and essayists, and consider how their perspectives have shaped history for all Americans. Literary works under study will stretch across American history, including (but not limited to) the writings of Phillis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, W. E. B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
This course examines the struggles and successes of American women in fighting for equality in American politics, life, and culture, from the movement for suffrage through campaigns for fair wages. Key content includes grassroots political activism, landmark court decisions, significant achievements in the arts, the intersection of work on behalf of women's rights in the United States. the evolving role of gender in mediating political discourse and social relations in the United States, and important distinctions in activism and opportunity shaped by race, geography, economics, and marriage.
This interdisciplinary course examines the rich tradition of progressive protest literature in the United States from the American Revolution to the rise of globalization, Hip Hop, and modern-day slavery. Using a broad definition of "protest literature," we focus on the production and consumption of dissent as a site of social critique, using a wide variety of print, visual, and oral forms. We examine the historical links between forms of protest, social change, and meanings of literature; and we explore how various expressions of dissent function as political, ideological, rhetorical, aesthetic, and performative texts within specific cultural contexts. "Readings" range from novels and political pamphlets to photographs, music, sociology, and history.
This course will explore the struggles and achievements of major groups who journeyed to a new home in the United States. The focus will be on questions involving exclusion and inclusion, patterns of settlement, questions of race, gender, and ethnicity, and the evolution of federal government policy.
This course explores American Indian history through a series of case studies, including early encounters, the long colonial era, the Lewis and Clark expedition, and persistence in the face of government expansion, removal, and assimilation policies.
Students will gain a historical perspective on the current presidential election, a touchstone of civic life in the United States. Specifically, students will investigate the changing role of the news and entertainment media in American politics and governance and the evolving relationships between politicians and the media. The course will also examine the many ways in which holders of national power have attempted to manipulate, censor, court, and regulate the media.
This course focuses on African American Women's history in the United States with certain aspects of black women's activism and leadership covered within the African Diaspora. The course is intended explore the ways in which these women engaged in local, national, and international freedom struggles while simultaneously defining their identities as wives, mothers, leaders, citizens, and workers. The course will pay special attention to the diversity of black women’s experiences and to the dominant images of black women in America from Mumbet (the first enslaved black woman to sue for her freedom and win) to contemporary issues of race, sex, and class in the Age of (Michelle) Obama.
We will survey the political, social, and economic history of the respective states of the participating graduate students from prehistory to the present day. Besides learning the history of the state, we will also become familiar with the fundamentals of research and complete a seminar-length paper based on primary research.
This course is an examination of a number ofthe most famous trials ofthe past century, focusing on the legal significance, historical and political context, social implications, and media coverage surrounding each case. Course materials shall include selected readings from a number of texts and actual trial transcripts, together with a series of videos providing extensive archival footage of the specific trials studied. Class sessions shall include discussions of the facts of each case, the manner and impact ofthe media coverage, and the social, political, and legal consequences of the trial.
This course allows students accepted Into one of the Gilder Lehrman Teacher Seminars offered during the summer to conduct additional research to earn graduate credit. Students having successfully completed the Seminar will be working with primary sources pertaining to the subject matter of the seminar and will write an original research paper on a topic connected the seminar's theme. Tile course is offered 011 a 6-week Intensive schedule.
This course introduces students to the major trends and strategies in the practice of history. Students will become familiar with the kinds of questions historians ask and have asked about major themes in American history since the mid-nineteenth century. Students will also practice historical methods through the completion of a research project chosen in consultation with the professor. This course will feature interviews with leading scholars in diverse subfields of American history who will offer insight into the compelling issues in these fields. These scholars will also provide insight into their own use of historical methods to answer scholarly questions.
The course is the capstone seminar for students completing their MA degree in American History and its sole focus is the production of either a substantial original research paper or of a capstone project of comparable significance as determined by the MA program director and faculty.