HIST 101: American History to 1877 (Syllabus, FA 2020)

History 101
American History to 1877
FA 2020


Instructor: Professor Terry Bouton
E-MAIL: bouton[at]umbc.edu
Office Hours: Email and online by appointment

Course Webpage:


Course Description:
History 101 will explore the development of early America from 1492 through the period of Reconstruction following the Civil War.  Particular attention will be devoted to examining the changing relationships between European, Native American, and African peoples as well as to the internal evolution of these diverse societies. Along the way we will explore such topics as colonization and cultural interactions between Europeans and Indians, the rise of slavery, the American Revolution, the beginning of industrialization, westward expansion, and the Civil War. The goal of the class will be to determine how race, geography, gender, class, and culture created competing worlds in America prior to 1877.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Develop skills in critically analyzing historical ideas, arguments, and evidence
  2. Make strong, clear arguments and support those arguments with effective use of quotes and specific examples from primary and secondary historical sources
  3. Write cogent, coherent, well organized, and persuasive essays—and gain insights on how to apply good writing techniques to other courses and projects
  4. Understand and engage with the main themes of colonial, Revolutionary, and 19th century American history
  5. Appreciate the divergent experiences, ambitions, and ideals of the different peoples who inhabited America before 1877
  6. Consider the influences and intersections of such factors as: race, gender, ethnicity, class, economics, politics, ideology, religion, and geography.

The readings for this course are all online and free. You can link to them through the syllabus and in several places on the course Blackboard site.

The various tests and assignments for the course will produce a possible 400 points.  Your total grade for the class will be determined by tallying your scores the following five elements:

MIDTERM EXAM #1:100 pts.20% of your grade
MIDTERM EXAM #2:100 pts.20% of your grade
FINAL EXAM:100 pts.20% of your grade
SHORT ESSAYS (5 @ 20pts each):100 pts.20% of your grade
DEBATES (5 @ 20pts each):100 pts.20% of your grade
TOTAL GRADE:500 pts.

At the end of the semester:

450-500 points will be an A
400-449 points will be a B
350-399 points will be a C
300-349 points will be a D
Below 300 points will be an F

NOTE: Students taking HIST 101 on a Credit/No Credit basis should remember that the university requires that you earn a final grade of at least a C to receive credit for the course. History majors and potential history majors need a C or better for the credits to count toward the major.

The Midterm and the Final Exams will be take-home essay exams based mostly on the lectures (video recordings). The lectures will be available through Blackboard and links to the Blackboard Panopto site. Students will have a week to complete the exams. Late exams will be penalized depending on the lateness and circumstances surrounding the failure to submit on time.

Short Essays: The grade for Short Essays will depend on the quality of your posts to the Blackboard Discussion Board, which I will treat as short papers. There will be SIX short essay assignments throughout the semester, each worth twenty points.  At the end of the semester, I will drop the lowest grade so that only your FIVE highest scores will count toward your final grade. NOTE: If you elect not to submit one of the Short Essay assignments (you can drop one), you are still responsible for having read that material, which may be included in the midterm or final exams.

Each Short Essay will answer a specific question based on the material being read for that particular assignment. I have listed the questions below in the schedule.  I will also post them on Blackboard. Your Short Essay will be graded based on the quantity and quality of your response. Each Short Essay must use SPECIFIC EXAMPLES and QUOTATIONS from the readings to support your argument. I will be looking to make sure that your quotations come from THROUGHOUT the reading and not just one or two documents or the beginning parts of a longer document. The postings should be about a page of single-spaced text. Remember to ANSWER the QUESTION rather than just reporting what the reading said.  These are analytical essays designed to prove an argument, not “book reports.” Make sure you proofread your posts before you submit them!

To receive full credit, you must submit your posting by on the due dates listed below usually 11:59pm

Late Postings:
I will accept late postings for each unit for reduced credit. If you miss multiple postings, it’s best to start with the most recent one and work your way back to the older ones since I stop deducting points once you have reached 10 points off out of the 20 total points for the assignment (so, after a few weeks being late, you start out with a max potential of 50%).

The “Debates” will serve as the class discussion part of the course. For each debate, students will complete the required readings and then respond to the Debate topic prompt (all of the specific debate requirements and prompts can be found in the unit folders on Blackboard along with the Debate Rubric). There will be FIVE debates during the semester. You must participate in ALL of the DEBATES..

Your Debate grade will depend on the quantity and quality of your participation. For each debate, students are required to make at least THREE substantive postings, at least TWO of which must be detailed replies to the postings of other students. I encourage you to make more than three posts. If you post more than three times, they need not all be substantive, meaning you can also include short posts asking questions, looking for clarification from a peer, or making a brief statement to spur debate. The only requirement is that, at some point, you also make at least three longer, substantive posts that include citations to examples and quotes from the readings. The Debate topic prompts ask a wide range of questions to spur discussion, so everyone should be able to find something new to add to an existing discussion or else start a new debate thread on different question when the older conversations have run their course.

Each Debate will have a 96-hour window, running from a Thursday through a Sunday in which students must make all of their posts. You need to make your initial response to the to the debate prompt in the first 48 hours of the debate. This means that you must make (at least) your first substantive posting by 11:59PM on the FRIDAY of the debate window. Then you must make at least two responses to the postings of other students by 11:59 on the SUNDAY of the debate window. You can spread your postings out over the four days, but you MUST must make your first posting within the first 48 hours of the 96-hour debate window and complete two additional posts in response to the postings of other students within the second 48 hours. To receive full credit, students must post throughout that 96-hour window rather than all at the very beginning or, much worse, in the last hour of debate window. The point of the debates is for there to be interaction among students in the course and that means responding to one another’s posts and then replying to the responses from others. If you try to get all your posts done at once, by making three postings as soon as the window opens or (more likely) right before it closes, you are not really engaging in the conversation and are denying yourself and your peers the give-and-take discussion and feedback needed to make the debates a success. For these reasons, I am requiring that you must make your initial substantive posting during the first 48 hours of the debate window and at least two additional substantive postings that are responses to the postings of other students, at least one of which must be in final 48 hours of the debate widow (the other response to a student posting can come during either window..

Although the debates are about expressing your opinions, each of the three required posts for every Debate must include evidence to support your opinions. This will primarily be in the form of specific examples and quotations from the readings. The idea is to show me that you have understood and grappled with the readings by using examples from them as evidence to dramatize the points you’re trying to make. Be sure to explain your examples and ideas with enough depth so that your points are clear and persuasive.

Also, although the requirement is three substantive posts, you do not need to limit yourself to just those three or make every post a substantive one if you do more than three. My goal is to have you reading one another’s ideas and engaging with the course materials and with each other. Any level of engagement with one another is a positive as far as I’m concerned. So, if you read someone’s post and think it’s good but don’t have much to offer, it’s perfectly acceptable (and encouraged) just to say “good point” or “I agree” or “well put” and leave it at that without any further elaboration. Even a short reply gives your classmates some feedback and offers the potential for further discussion as we can see where there seems to be consensus around a topic and where people seem to disagree. That said, I don’t want you to go through the postings and say “That’s great” to every post–that’s as unhelpful as not commenting at all. But, if someone makes a good point, I encourage you to let them know you think they are on the right track. (I would expect that if you disagreed with a post, you would take some time to explain your disagreement and provide evidence to show why you think your position is more persuasive). As long as you make three substantive postings that cite course readings, you are free to engage however you wish (provided it’s relevant and civil) with whatever other entries you make in the debate.

I also encourage you to push one another to refine points and ideas. If you think someone has made too sweeping a generalization, then by all means express your concerns (hopefully backed by examples and quotes from the readings). My hope is that in a civil, evidence-based back-and-forth we can spark critical thinking and see the complexity and contingency in the topics we are studying.

I will grade the Debate postings based on several factors: 1) The length of the combined responses and whether they were submitted throughout the 96-hour window; 2) The mechanics of writing, including clear, logical organization, the use of topic sentences for paragraphs, and proper grammar and spelling; 3) The use of evidence in from of specific examples and quotations from the readings; 4) The critical thinking and analysis displayed by the posts, including the originality of the points made, the level of engagement with course material demonstrated, and the factual accuracy of the posts; and 5) The student’s overall contribution toward creating community, promoting interaction, and observing “netiquette.” All of these elements are spelled out in the Debate Grading Rubric.

How to Cite Documents for Postings and Debates:
Use in-paragraph, parenthetical citations to cite specific examples and quotes as evidence for the Discussion Postings and Debates. Most of the document collections for specific assignments have number of different short documents labeled D1, D2, D3, etc. For Postings or Debates based these sets of documents, simply put the document number in parenthesis after the example or quote. For example: (D9). For assignments where there are two long documents or one long one, the directions for the posting will indicate how I want you to cite the documents.


I require everyone to save a personal copy of all of their discussion postings on their home computer, thumb drive, or whatever other storage device they have.  Since Blackboard is occasionally buggy, I HIGHLY suggest that you type out your response with a word processing program and then cut and paste your response into Blackboard. If you have a problem with Blackboard, it is your responsibility to ensure that I receive a copy of your posting by the deadline. DO NOT automatically email me a copy of every posting.  ONLY email postings in the event of a Blackboard emergency.

Warning: I consider the Short Essays and Debates to be the most important parts of the course. DO NOT take these assignments lightly. If you put effort into the postings, they are one of the surest ways to boost your grade. If you blow them off, they can kill your grade and result in you failing the course—no matter how well you do on the exams. When I assign final grades at the end of the semester, I always use postings to decide whether to bump up the grades of those on the borderlines. If you have diligently completed your postings, I usually will bump your grade. If you have failed to submit postings or continually submit them late, I WILL NOT BUMP YOUR GRADE even if you are one or two points short of the next grade level.

Getting started on Blackboard: Blackboard is relatively easy to use and will allow you to have access to course materials 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through the Internet.  If you have registered for the course, you should automatically be registered on Blackboard. As a UMBC student, you have a personal email account and access to the Internet and through the school’s many on-campus computer labs.  You can also access Blackboard off campus through a personal account or from the UMBC dial-up.  BEFORE you do anything else, check to see if you are enrolled in the course by going to http://blackboard.umbc.edu.  If you have been automatically registered, take some time to explore the Blackboard site for the course.  If Blackboard indicates that you are not registered, follow the directions at the main Blackboard site for new users.

I will send all email messages to your UMBC email account through Blackboard
(yourusername@umbc.edu). If you do not usually check this account, have messages forwarded to your preferred email address (such as yahoo, gmail, etc.). For help with this procedure, or if you have other questions about UMBC’s Office of Information Technology services visit the OIT helpsite at http://www.umbc.edu/oit/. Helpdesk personnel in the on-campus computer labs can help with most questions. The helpdesk phone number is 410-455-3838.

Academic Integrity:
By enrolling in this course, each student assumes the responsibilities of an active participant in UMBC’s scholarly community in which everyone’s academic work and behavior are held to the highest standards of honesty. Cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and helping others to commit these acts are all forms of academic dishonesty, and they are wrong.  Academic misconduct could result in disciplinary action that may include, but is not limited to, suspension or dismissal.  To read the full Student Academic Conduct Policy, consult the UMBC Student Handbook, the Faculty Handbook, or the UMBC Policies section of the UMBC Directory. To read the policy online, see: http://www.umbc.edu/integrity/.

See the UMBC resources on Academic Integrity: https://academicconduct.umbc.edu/plagiarism/

The penalty for academic dishonesty –including plagiarism and other forms of cheating– in any UMBC History Department course is an “F” for the course. In addition, cases of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Academic Conduct Committee.

Trigger Warnings:
This course deals with lots of difficult material both in lecture and readings that some people may find hard to read or hear. America in the colonial, revolutionary, antebellum, and Civil War eras was a violently racist and sexist place, where all kinds of bigotry flourished. Deep divisions over race, gender, class, ethnicity, religion, and region were ever-present in America before 1877 and we will examine those divisions and the often horrific ways in which they were expressed. America at this time was dominated by white men who disenfranchised and brutalized people merely based on the color of their skin, their gender, or how they worshiped their god(s). We will explore such difficult topics as: racism, genocide, slavery, sex, domestic abuse, rape, and endemic violence. My lectures always include numerous illustrative quotes that often include racist and misogynistic language from the era. The course readings contain similar and often more graphic language and imagery. I include this material not to titillate, but because I don’t think you can really understand white supremacy and patriarchy in these eras without hearing people from the past speaking for themselves. I believe it is important to expose and examine this bigotry in its full and awful expressions and to understand how bigotry translated into policy and action so that students can appreciate the deep, ugly roots of today’s problems and conflicts. To help students deal with this difficult material, I will include trigger warnings at the start of each lecture when we deal with potentially disturbing subject matter.


Schedule of Lecture Topics, Exam Dates, and Reading Assignments

The “mini-lectures” are short (usually about 10-20 minute) video presentations that make different points about a larger “Big Picture” topic. In the schedule below, I identify the Big Picture Topic and then list the corresponding mini-lecture video clips underneath. The mini-lectures are each labeled with the Unit and Lecture numbers (i.e. U1L1 for unit 1, lecture 1, U1L2 for unit 1, lecture 2, U3L5 for unit 2, lecture 5, etc.) and the lecture title.

UNIT 1: Colonial North America

Week 1 (Aug. 27- 30):

Big Picture Topic: Europe and Exploration
What did Europe hope to get from the “New World”? How did European perceptions about the New World shape expectations and experiences once settlers began to migrate to America?

U1L1: West to the Orient: Why in 1492 did Columbus sail the ocean blue?

U1L2: Search for Myths: How did the search for mythical treasures and lost civilizations drive European exploration and settlement?

U1L3: To Please God: How did Europeans imagine the New World opened up new opportunities for them to please God?

U1L4: Search for a Dumping Ground: Why did European leaders come to view the New World as a place to get rid of its “excess” population?


Review the Cornell University “Recognizing and Avoiding Plagiarism” website. This cite walks you through what plagiarism is and how to avoid it. It teaches you when you need to cite information from secondary sources and gives examples of acceptable and unacceptable paraphrasing. The site also has a set of quiz-like exercises that provide examples of source material and student writing, asking you to evaluate whether a sample of student writing (compared to the source) represents plagiarism or is an acceptable paraphrase or quote.


Week 2 (Aug. 31-Sept. 6):

Big Picture Topic: European/Indian Interactions: Spanish, French, and English
Why did the Spanish, French, and English develop such different relationships with the Indian peoples they encountered?

U1L5: Conquest and Assimilation (Spanish): Why did the Spanish develop a model of interaction that was based on conquering Indians peoples and trying to assimilate them into Spanish society?

U1L6: The Mission System (Spanish): What was the Mission System that developed on the colonial Spanish frontier (in the areas that are in the present-day US) and how did that system attempt to pacify and control the Indians in these regions?

U1L7: The Pueblo Revolt (1680) (Spanish): Why did the Pueblo Indians (in what today is the state of New Mexico) revolt against Spanish rule in 1680? What did this revolt show about the extent and limits of the Spanish Mission System?

U1L8: Why a Middle Ground? (French): Why do historians call the relationship between the French and Indians they encountered the “Middle Ground”? Why did it form and how did it work?

U1L9: Religion on the Middle Ground (French): Why did French efforts to covert the Indians differ so sharply from Spanish ones? How did the French attempt to gain converts to Christianity/Catholicism?

U1L10: Murder on the Middle Ground (French): How was murder between Indians and French settlers handled on the Middle Ground?


Short Essay #1: The Causes and Effects of King Philip’s War (1675-1676). Use the documents in this collection to develop a short essay that explains the main causes and effects of King Philip’s War in terms of the relationship between white colonists and their Indian neighbors.

Link to Documents: https://terrybouton.wordpress.com/the-causes-and-effects-of-king-philips-war-1675-1676/

Short Essay #1 is due by 11:59PM on Friday, Sept. 4

Things to Remember for Assignments:

1) Make an argument that answers the question. Summarize your answer briefly at the start of the post, ideally in a short introductory paragraph.

2) Each paragraph in the body of the post should give part of your answer, each paragraph making a single argument (rather than making multiple arguments). Each paragraph’s argument should be spelled out in the first sentence of the paragraph (the topic sentence).

3) Use specific examples and quotes from the documents to prove the argument you make in each paragraph. Cite the document number parenthetically (i.e. D2).

Week 3 (Sept.7-13):

Big Picture Topic: European/Indian Interactions: Spanish, French, and English (contd.)
Why did the Spanish, French, and English develop such different relationships with the Indian peoples they encountered?

Mini-Lectures (for European/Indian Interactions):
U1L11: Pocahontas and John Smith: How does the actual story of Pocahontas and John Smith (as opposed to mythical ones like the Disney movie) reveal Indian/English relations following a pattern that can be described as “dependence to segregation to elimination”?

U1L12: The First Thanksgiving: How does the actual story of the first Thanksgiving reveal that same pattern of “dependence to segregation to elimination”?

U1L13: Why the Indians Lost: Why did Indian peoples win lots of battles but mostly lose in their larger conflicts with European powers?

Big Picture Topic: Colonial Diversity
What were the different founding visions of the different colonies and how well did their actual experiences reflect those visions?

Mini-Lectures (for Colonial Diversity):
U1L14: Colonial Dreams: What were the founding objectives of each of the original thirteen English-American colonies?

U1L15: Colonial Realities: To what extent did the colonies fulfill their founding missions? How and why did they fall short?


Debate #1: Was Early America “The Best Poor Man’s Country” for White Immigrants? Use the documents provided here to assess the extent to which the thirteen colonies earned the label of “The Best Poor Man’s Country” that was frequently applied to it. Your answer can also consider the role that different kinds of historical sources might play in that assessment.

Link to Documents: https://terrybouton.wordpress.com/was-early-america-the-best-poor-mans-country-for-white-immigrants/

Debate #1 Window Opens at 12:01AM on THURSDAY, SEPT. 10
Debate #1 Window Closes at 11:59PM on SUNDAY, SEPT. 13

[REMINDER: You need to make your initial response to the to the debate prompt in the first 48 hours of the debate. This means that you must make (at least) your first substantive posting by 11:59PM on FRIDAY, Sept. 11. Then you must make at least two responses to the postings of other students by 11:59 on SUNDAY, Sept. 13. You can spread your postings out over the four days, but you MUST must make your first posting within the first 48 hours of the 96-hour debate window and complete two additional posts in response to the postings of other students within the second 48 hours.]

Week 4 (Sept. 14-20):

Big Picture Topic: The Rise of American Slavery
Why did the southern colonies eventually turn to African slavery after starting out with a labor system based on white indentured servitude? How did slavery work differently in South Carolina/Georgia, the Chesapeake colonies, and the North?

Mini-Lectures (for The Rise of American Slavery):
U1L16: Jamestown’s First Labor Force: Why did white indentured servitude become the first labor system for planting Virginia tobacco?

U1L17: Living Longer in Jamestown: Why did fewer deaths and increased life expectancy make indentured servitude a threat to the gentry planters who dominated early Virginia socially, politically, and economically?

U1L18: Bacon’s Rebellion: How did an uprising of white frontier farmers, indentured servants, and Black slaves help lead to a shift to slave labor?

U1L19: The First Color Line: What was the relationship between slavery and racism in early America? How did the decision to switch from indentured servitude to slavery lead the gentry to try to use racism to divide Black and white Virginians?

U1L20: Colonial Slavery: How did slavery differ by region? Why did South Carolina/Georgia, the Chesapeake, and the Northern colonies develop such different kinds of slave societies?

Big Picture Topic: Family and Power in Early America
What was patriarchy and how did it shape the lives of men, women, and children in colonial America? What happened when men abused their power over women?

Mini-Lectures (for Family and Power in Early America):
U1L21: Patriarchy and Men: What were the roles and responsibilities for men under patriarchy?

U1L22: Patriarchy and Women: What were the roles and “duties” of women under patriarchy? How much/little power did women have?


Short Essay #2: William Byrd’s Diary: Gender, Race, Class and Power in Early America. Use the entries from William Byrd’s diary to tell us something about the relative power of the Southern gentry by looking at Byrd’s actions and attitudes toward the different people in his life. What does power mean to William Byrd? Where do women slaves, Indians, and poorer whites fit in his worldview? How is he able to impose his will over other people, particularly his wife and slaves who feature prominently in his diary entries? How successful is he in his attempts at mastery and control?

Link to Documents: https://terrybouton.wordpress.com/william-byrds-diary-gender-race-class-and-power-in-early-america/

Short Essay #2 is Due by 11:59PM on Friday, Sept. 18

Week 5 (Sept. 2127):

Midterm Exam #1 (Unit 1) will be due by 11:59PM on Sunday, Sept. 27. The exam will cover all of the Unit 1 lectures (U1L1 to U1L22). The exam will be a take-home, essay-based exam where you will answer a question using your lecture and reading notes as evidence to support your arguments. I will provide the exam question and more specific instructions on the evening of Sunday, Sept. 20. You will have one week to complete the exam. To give you time, there will be no other assignments this week and only a few mini-lectures.

This week also starts Unit 2:

Unit 2: The American Revolution: 1750-1800

Big Picture Topic: Democracy in British Colonial America
We know that democratizing government was one of the main accomplishments of the American Revolution, but how much democracy did the Revolution actually bring? That assessment depends on how much democracy existed in the colonies under British rule. And that is our goal: to appreciate the level of democracy in the British colonies to understand how much and in what ways the Revolution increased it, and in what ways it did not.

U2L1: Democracy in Colonial America: How democratic were government and society in colonial America? What barriers kept “the people’s” voice from being heard?

U2L2: Rough Music: How did ordinary folk try to get their voices heard in a system that placed considerable limits on their political power?

Week 6 (Sept. 28-Oct. 4):

Big Picture Topic: Origins of the American Revolution
What caused the American Revolution? We will explore the economic, political, and ideological factors that explain why the colonies rose up against Great Britain.

U2L3: The French and Indian War: How did a contest between Britain and France over borderland forts become a world war that would set the stage for the American Revolution?

U2L4: The Price of Empire: How did British economic policies after the French and Indian War designed to make the colonies more profitable and pay for share of their own defense stifle the economy and convince colonists that they were oppressed?

U2L5: Ideological Origins: How did the ideology of “republicanism” and beliefs about constitutional rights encourage American colonists to see British policies as a dangerous and unconstitutional?

Big Picture Topic: The Internal Revolution
When the conflict with Britain got people rethinking the unequal power relationship between colony and mother country, it also got them to start reconsidering the other power relationships in their lives. As different groups of Americans began to imagine having the liberties and power to create a better life for themselves, they set in motion an internal revolution where different groups of people, with greatly varying degrees of power, vied with and against one another to define the contours of American freedom. In mini-lectures and reading assignments, we will examine the different contests that tried to rearrange power along lines of class, race, and gender. We will see how ordinary people (mostly white men) pushed for more power against the elite, how Indian peoples and slaves pushed for freedom against white governments, and how a few women (mostly white and elite) wondered aloud if women might be included in the Revolution, too.

U2L6: Stamp Act Revolts (1765): How did the Stamp Act–which was designed primarily to make the colonies pay a share of their frontier defense–induce many ordinary people in cities and towns far away from those frontiers to challenge both local and colonial elites?

U2L7: Indians and the Proclamation Line: How did the attempts of Indian peoples drive a further wedge between colonies and mother country by forcing Britain to uphold the Proclamation Line of 1763 and stem the tide of white speculation and settlement on Indians lands?

U2L8: Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation: How did slaves petitioning for freedom, rioting, and running away convince the British to make an offer of freedom that would drive many colonists (and especially the founding elite in the southern colonies) into supporting war and independence.


Short Essay #3: The Internal Revolution. What do these documents reveal about the internal struggles within American society that the conflict with Britain touched off? To what extent are the different visions of the Revolution between these different groups compatible? To what extent are those visions in conflict? Use specific quotes and examples from the documents to support your answers. [The posting is asking you to examine some of the divisions within American society on the eve of the American Revolution. When we talk about the Revolution this semester, we are really talking about two revolutions: the first one was the Independence movement against Great Britain (historians have called this the Revolution to establish “home rule”); the second revolution was an internal struggle between different groups of Americans to decide how to remake their newly independent government and society (historians have called this the revolution over “who shall rule at home”). For this assignment, we’re looking more closely at the second revolution between different groups of Americans who often disagreed over how revolutionary (or democratic) they thought the new society and government should be. As you will see from the documents (and as we will talk about in class), different groups of people defined the key words of the Revolution in dramatically different ways. There were often strong disagreements over exactly what terms like “liberty” and “freedom” should mean and to whom they should apply. The objective of this posting is for you to use the documents to try to figure out what some of those divisions were.]

Link to Documents: https://terrybouton.wordpress.com/the-internal-revolution/

Short Essay #3 is due by 11:59 on Friday, Oct. 2.

Week 7 (Oct. 5-11):

Big Picture Topic: The Imperial Crisis (and Internal Ones, Too)
Many of the other main events of the Revolution followed the pattern of the Stamp Act Revolts in that they merged the imperial crisis against British rule with internal power struggles between different groups of Americans. These mini-lectures trace the path to Independence and also explore the growing set of divisions with America over the meaning of protest and the emerging revolution.

U2L9: Townshend Acts (1767): How did a tax on imported luxuries end up leading to mass riots in seaports across the colonies?

U2L10: Coercive Acts (1773-1774): How did removing a tax on tea lead to widespread protests and severe retaliation that eventually brought the colonies and Britain to war?

U2L11: The 1776 State Constitutions: How much did the new 1776 state constitutions democratize government from the colonial ones?

U2L12: Patriots: Who were the revolutionaries and why did they choose to break with Britain?

U2L13: Loyalists: Who were the Loyalists and why did they decide to remain part of the British empire?

U2L14: The Disaffected: Why did so many Americans refuse to join the Patriot or Loyalist cause and, instead, try to sit out the conflict on the sidelines?

U2L15: Why the Colonies Won: Why did the colonies win the Revolutionary War when Britain had so many overwhelming advantages?


Debate #2: Rough Music: Political Violence and the American Revolution. The protests described in these documents–which are central events in the American Revolution–raise questions about political violence and the conditions under which it is acceptable. Is it ever ok to use violence as a political weapon? If it is ok, under what conditions is violence an acceptable means of political self expression? Is destroying property acceptable? What about verbal threats to do violence? How about actual physical assault? Do the actions of Revolutionary-era crowds meet your standard of acceptability? What did Revolutionary-era crowds do that was acceptable? Where did they cross the line? Or was everything they did ok because they didn’t kill anyone and they only inflicted relatively minor bodily injuries in the name of a larger cause? Do you think non-violent protest by American revolutionaries could have accomplished the same political ends or perhaps even have had greater success? Or was this a situation in which mass political violence–protests, self-organized militias, war–was the only answer? [Remember the point of the debates is to show how you can mobilize evidence from the documents as support for arguments that you make. Although this question asks you your broad opinion about political violence (which I am interested in learning), I am more interested in seeing how you evaluate the examples of political violence described in the documents based on your ideas of what is acceptable and/or effective. NOTE: I use this document set for different assignments and there are different sets of questions on the main document page. I want you to focus specifically on the questions listed above about whether political violence is acceptable and the conditions under which you find it to be ok as reflected in the actions described in the documents.]

Link to Documents:

Debate #2 Window Opens at 12:01AM on THURSDAY, OCT 8
Debate #2 Window Closes at 11:59PM on SUNDAY, OCT

[REMINDER: You need to make your initial response to the to the debate prompt in the first 48 hours of the debate. This means that you must make (at least) your first substantive posting by 11:59PM on FRIDAY, Oct. 9. Then you must make at least two responses to the postings of other students by 11:59 on SUNDAY, Oct. 11. You can spread your postings out over the four days, but you MUST must make your first posting within the first 48 hours of the 96-hour debate window and complete two additional posts in response to the postings of other students within the second 48 hours.]

Week 8 (Oct. 12-18):

Big Picture Topic: The Counter Revolution
At the end of the War of Independence, the so-called “founding fathers” began a sustained effort to roll back many of the social and democratic gains of the Revolution by concentrating economic and political power among Revolutionary elite (themselves). That sentence is probably jarring for many readings since Americans are typically taught just the opposite: that the founding fathers worked to enshrine democracy and liberties in the Constitution and the changes to government they made in the 1780s and 90s. Leaving aside for the moment the question of why students aren’t taught about the counter revolution that ended the American Revolution, our goal here is to understand the why the founding elite wanted to roll back democracy, the ways they attempted to accomplish that feat, and the resistance their efforts met from many ordinary Americans. The story is of an about face by the founders, where they viewed the revolution’s spreading out of political and economic power as a bad thing and tried to solve it by re-consolidating power under their own (rather than British) control. The disastrous effect of those policies caused mass popular resistance which in turn convinced the founding elite that the only way to gain the political and economic power they craved was to remove key economic powers from the states and place them in a redesigned national government they saw as a “stronger barrier against democracy.”

U2L16: Founding Flip-Flop: At the end of the War of Independence, why did many of the founding elite think the Revolution had gone too far and decide that the only solution was to scale-back democracy?

U2L17: First Great Depression: How did the radical efforts of the founding fathers to concentrate political and economic power lead to a catastrophic economic depression during the 1780s?

U2L18: Reclaiming the Revolution: How did ordinary Americans respond to the First Great Depression and attempt to reclaim the Revolution?


Debate #3: How Democratic Was the Constitutional Convention? (1787). What did the founding fathers think about democracy? How did they structure the government to deal with democracy? Use specific quotes and examples from the documents to support your answers.

Link to Documents:

Debate #3 Window Opens at 12:01AM on THURSDAY, OCT 15
Debate #3 Window Closes at 11:59PM on SUNDAY, OCT 18

[REMINDER: You need to make your initial response to the to the debate prompt in the first 48 hours of the debate. This means that you must make (at least) your first substantive posting by 11:59PM on FRIDAY, Oct. 15. Then you must make at least two responses to the postings of other students by 11:59 on SUNDAY, Oct. 18. You can spread your postings out over the four days, but you MUST must make your first posting within the first 48 hours of the 96-hour debate window and complete two additional posts in response to the postings of other students within the second 48 hours.]

Week 9 (Oct. 19-25):

Big Picture Topic: The Counter Revolution (continued)


U2L19: The Constitution: How did the founding fathers imagine that the Constitution would create what they called a “stronger barrier against democracy.”

U2L20: Ratification: How was the Constitution ratified when a majority of the population almost certainly opposed its adoption?

U2L21: Revolution of 1800: To what extend did Jefferson’s “Revolution of 1800” restore democracy and bring economic power to ordinary Americans?


Short Essay #4: A Revolution for Whom?: Petitions From Ordinary Americans in the New Republic. This assignment revolves around the petitions of ordinary Black and White men from the 1780s and 90s. Question: What do these petitions reveal about the limits of the American Revolution for ordinary White and Black men?

Link to Documents:

Short Essay #4 is due by 11:59 on Friday, Oct. 23

Week 10 (Oct. 26-Nov. 1):

Big Picture Topic: Revolutionary Outsiders
Most of the formal political debate in the American Revolution was about how much power elite white men were willing to entrust to ordinary white men. What about those left out of the expansion of rights and power? Was there a Revolution for women, slaves, or Indians?

U2L22: A Revolution for Slaves?: To what extent did Northern and Southern slaves experience a revolution?

U2L23: A Revolution for Women?: What changed for women as a result of the American Revolution?

U2L24: A Revolution for Indians?: How and why was the American Revolution a disaster for Native Americans who lived east of the Mississippi River?

Midterm Exam #2 (Unit 2) will be due by 11:59PM on Friday, Nov. 6. The exam will cover all of the Unit 2 Mini-Lectures (U2L1 to U2L25). The exam will be a take-home, essay-based exam where you will answer a question using your lecture and reading notes as evidence to support your arguments. I will provide the exam question and more specific instructions on the evening of Friday, Oct. 30. You will have one week to complete the exam.

UNIT 3: West, North, and South on the Road to the Civil War

Week 11 (Nov. 2-8):

Big Picture Topic: Westward Expansion
Why did America expand westward so quickly in the first half of the 19th century? What did the expansion of this so-called “Empire of Liberty” mean for the Indian and Mexican peoples who lived in the western lands that white Americans imagined being reserved just for them?


U3L1: Safety Valve: How and why did many American leaders view the acquisition of western lands as solution to numerous social problems in the urbanizing eastern states?

U3L2: Transportation Revolution: How did state investments in public infrastructure and technological innovations make rapid western expansion possible?

U3L3: Search For Community: How and why did the desire of different immigrant, religious, and utopian groups to live by their own cultural rules drive western settement?

U3L4: Cotton Kingdom: How did the exploding profitability of cotton fuel the expansion of a cotton frontier across the South?

U3L5: Trail of Tears: Why were Indian peoples from east of the Mississippi River removed to western reservations and then to smaller reservations in the Oklahoma territory?

U3L6: 49ers: How and why did a mining frontier emerge in years after 1849?

U3L7: Sources of Manifest Destiny: What was Manifest Destiny? What factors produced Manifest Destiny and how did these factors to drive American conquest of the continent?

U3L8: Race for Oregon: How did the acquisition and settlement of the Oregon territory serve as an example of Manifest Destiny in action?

U3L9: War with Mexico: How did the Mexican War serve as case study of Manifest Destiny? How did the same justifications for a war to acquire “All Mexico” also serve to limit the land grab after the war?

Week 12 (Nov. 9-15):

Big Picture Topic: Northern Industrialization
How did the world of work change in the first half of the 19th century? How did northern workers and middle class reformers respond to the many problems made created by or made worse by early industrialization?


U3L10: Artisan Republic: How did the apprentice system empower craftspeople with skills that gave them a sense of economic, social, and political autonomy?

U3L11: Bastard Workshop: How and why did early industrialization change work in ways that eroded the value of skilled labor and strip autonomy from most artisans.

U3L12: Moral Problems: How and why did many middle class Americans want to reform society in the mid-19th century? 

U3L13: Moral Solutions: How did middle class reformers believe that instilling morality would solve a wide array of social problems?


Documents: What Were the Costs of Early Industrialization for American Workers?


Short Essay #5: What Were the Costs of Early Industrialization for American Workers? Use these documents to assess the effects of early industrialization for American workers. Although early industrialization helped fuel economic growth and produced new and cheaper products for American consumers, it also entailed significant costs, especially for craftspeople and the men, women, and children who worked in the emerging factory system. Based on these documents, what were the costs of early industrialization for American workers?

Link to Documents:

Short Essay #5 is due by 11:59 on Friday, Nov. 13

Week 13 (Nov. 16-22):

Big Picture Topic: The Opening and Closing of Democracy
How and why did politics and civil rights expand for white men in the first half of the 19th century and narrow for women and non-whites? How did white supremacy dominate both the pro-slavery views of the South and the anti-slavery views of the North?


U3L14: White Man’s Democracy: How did politics open up for ordinary white men in the 1830s?

U3L15: Northern Jim Crow: Why did newly empowered white men in the North strip civil and political rights from Black Northerners?

U3L16: How the Irish Became White: How did Irish immigrants, who were initially viewed as a separate Celtic race, gain acceptance as being white?

U3L17: Cult of Domesticity: How and why did men in the 19th century try to keep women confined to traditional domestic roles and excluded from economic and political power?

U3L18: Why so Few Slave Rebellions?: Why were there so few slave rebellions in the US compared to the Caribbean and South America? How did slaves resist slavery without resorting to open rebellion?


Debate #4: Abolitionists Debate: David Walker vs. William Lloyd Garrison. David Walker and William Lloyd Garrison were two leading abolitionists during the 1830s who helped invigorate the antislavery movement in America. While Walker and Garrison shared many goals and values, they also represented two different stains of abolitionism. Whose version of abolitionism do you find more persuasive and why? Which do you think was more realistic as far as ending slavery in 19th century America? In many ways, this debate boils down to the role of violence in ending slavery. It also offers us a chance to revisit the discussion about political violence that we started with the debate about protest during the American Revolution. Was the use of violence to end slavery justifiable? If so, what (if any) limits should be placed on the kinds of violence used to end slavery? [This question is asking you to compare and contrast the two versions of abolitionism, not just focus on the one you find more persuasive].

Links to Documents:

Walker’s Appeal (Excerpts) (1829)

William Lloyd Garrison and The Liberator

Debate #4 Window Opens at 12:01AM on THURSDAY, NOV. 19
Debate #4 Window Closes at 11:59PM on SUNDAY, NOV. 22

[REMINDER: You need to make your initial response to the to the debate prompt in the first 48 hours of the debate. This means that you must make (at least) your first substantive posting by 11:59PM on FRIDAY, Oct. 15. Then you must make at least two responses to the postings of other students by 11:59 on SUNDAY, Oct. 18. You can spread your postings out over the four days, but you MUST must make your first posting within the first 48 hours of the 96-hour debate window and complete two additional posts in response to the postings of other students within the second 48 hours.]

Week 14 (23-29):

Big Picture Topic: Road to the Civil War
What ideas and events drove the North and South to the Civil War? How did white supremacy dominate the ideology of both Southern and Northern whites? How did these ideologies deepen as clashes between pro and antislavery activists intensified?

U3L19: The Pro-Slavery South: Why did the vast majority of white Southerners support slavery with increasing intensity even though so few of them actually owned slaves?

U3L20: Free Soil, Free Labor: How was the main Northern ideology regarding slavery both anti-slavery and anti-Black at the same time?


Short Essay #6: Why Did the Southern States Secede?: The documents for this week are the official statements that Southern states (South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, and Texas) and leaders released to explain why they were leaving the Union. What was the main reasons that Southern states in late 1860 and early 1861 give for why they were leaving the union? Can you use these documents to make a convincing argument for secession being about “states rights” that doesn’t include protecting slavery as the end goal? What does it say about the modern US that large swaths of the white population (many not even in the South) seem so invested in flying the Confederate flag, arguing that the South fought the Civil War over states rights (rather than slavery), and embracing the white victimization of the Lost Cause?

Link to Documents: https://terrybouton.wordpress.com/why-did-the-southern-states-secede/

Short Essay #6 is due Monday, Nov. 30 by 11:59PM

Week 15 (Nov. 30- Dec. 6):

Big Picture Topic: Road to the Civil War (contd.)

U3L21: Bleeding Kansas (1856): How did the solution to the “slave problem” called “Popular Sovereignty” lead to civil war in the Kansas territory?

U3L22: Dred Scott Decision (1857): How did the US Supreme Court attempt to solve the conflict over slavery through a controversial ruling? How did that decision serve to divide the North and South even further?

U3L23: Harper’s Ferry (1859): How did a foiled raid on a frontier armory in Virginia by a handful of anti-slavery radicals bring North and South to the brink of war?

U3L24: Why the Civil War Lasted So Long: Why did the Civil War last so long when the North possessed so many more men, guns, and resources?

U3L25: Emancipation Proclamation (1863): How and why did the Civil War become a “War to Free the Slaves”?

Debate #5: Proslavery Propaganda.

With the rise of abolitionism in the North in the 1830s, Southern planters dropped their tepid support of slavery as a “necessary evil” and launched an ever-evolving and increasingly heated defense of slavery as a “positive good.” That defense ranged over a variety of justifications for maintaining slavery that were all based on deeply racist portrayals of Black Americans. Defenders justified slavery on blatantly racist interpretations of religion, “science,” economics, political science, and sociology. Southern apologists for slavery often paired their defense with blistering attacks on Northern industrialization, portraying industrialization (whether in the Northern US or England) as a destructive force and slavery as benign. The documents below present the defense of slavery by its leading advocates from the mid-19th century, reproducing excepts from the most important pro-slavery books, articles, and political speeches.

Who was the audience for this proslavery propaganda? At first historians framed the defense of slavery as something aimed at northern audiences. They portrayed Southerners as hoping to convince Northern politicians and the public that abolitionists were wrongheaded and dangerous. That view started to change as scholars began to more closely examine propaganda and authoritarian societies in the wake of Nazi Germany and the rise of the Soviet Union. Scholars began to view Nazi and Soviet propaganda as aimed, not to much at the enemy, but at the people in their own societies who needed to be convinced of the merits of authoritarian rule. Taking a cue from this, some scholars began to re-read proslavery defenses as propaganda aimed at convincing white Southerners–the vast majority of whom did not own slaves–that slavery was a “positive good” for them too. In this interpretation, proslavery propaganda was aimed at shoring up support among potential critics in the South and ensuring that abolitionism was not given any space to get a foothold below the Mason Dixon Line. Today, we can find both interpretations in scholarly treatments of proslavery propaganda, as scholars continue to debate whether it was aimed at Northern or Southern audiences.

Question for Debate #5: Based on the documents below, do you think that proslavery propaganda was primarily aimed at Northern or Southern audiences? Does your argument fit all of the different justifications for slavery articulated in the documents? Or do some justifications for slavery seem more directed at Northern audiences and others more intended for Southern ones? If so, which proslavery arguments seem aimed at the North and which at the South?

Link to Documents for Debate #5:

Debate #5 Window Opens at 12:01AM on FRIDAY, DEC. 4
Debate #5 Window Closes at 11:59PM on MONDAY, DEC. 7

[REMINDER: You need to make your initial response to the to the debate prompt in the first 48 hours of the debate. This means that you must make (at least) your first substantive posting by 11:59PM on SATURDAY, Dec. 5. Then you must make at least two responses to the postings of other students by 11:59 on MONDAY, Dec. 7. You can spread your postings out over the four days, but you MUST must make your first posting within the first 48 hours of the 96-hour debate window and complete two additional posts in response to the postings of other students within the second 48 hours.]

Week 16 (Dec. 7-8)

U3L26: Reconstruction: How and why did the years after the Civil War produce the greatest protections of Black rights in the history of the nation (until the 1960s) and why didn’t those protections last?