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HISTORY 2R03 US History to Civil War

Academic Year: Fall 2017

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Julien Mauduit

Email: mauduitj@mcmaster.ca

Office: LRW 2007

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 26425


Office Hours: Tuesday 2:30-4:30

Course Objectives:


This class explores major themes in American history, from the onset of European settlement in the 1500s to the outbreak of the Civil War in the 1860s. Among the major themes are the conflict between Europeans and Indigenous peoples over land and resources, the rise of slavery and rival labor systems, the multiple dimensions of a nation-wide revolution, the creation and development of liberal political institutions, the daily-life transformations due to the Industrial Revolution, and major social issues such as the importance of slavery in early American history. We will study farmers as well as statesmen, women as well as men, pirates and presidents, protesters and constitution makers, workingmen and intellectuals, soldiers and generals, outcasts and heroes. We will touch on various specific events or issues in political, legal, religious, military, social and intellectual history. In short, we will analyze the birth and the rise of a hegemonic power, the American nation, in its peculiarity and diversity, in its strength and weakness, and in its curiosities and contradictions.

This survey course has two main goals. The first is to provide a comprehensive overview of early American history, from political issues to social realities, and from economic transformations to military battles. This historical overview will be presented within the larger context of North America and the Atlantic world, and will highlight the complexities of American history. The second goal is to foster personal reflections based on historical facts. We will raise historical questions during the lectures, and you will have the opportunity to formulate your views and to sharpen your analytical skills through discussion, critical reading, and interpretive writing. After all, history should be a reflection on facts rather than a description of events.


The course is divided in lectures and tutorials. The lectures will present the major themes, facts and issues in pre-Civil War history, while the tutorials will be the occasion to discuss and debate in smaller groups. There are weekly assigned readings, which must be carefully read. These readings explore specific dimensions of the course.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:


All the assigned readings will be available on Avenue to Learn (ATL) or online with the URL in the syllabus.



Since this course is a general historical overview, I suggest and encourage the students who would like to have a more detailed knowledge on early American history to consult books available at the Mills Library. I only mention three important books regarding pre-Civil War history:

-Alan Taylor, American Colonies. The Settling of North America (New York: Penguin Books, 2001).

-Jack P. Green and J. R. Pole (eds.), A Companion to the American Revolution (Malden: Blackwell, 2000).

-Eric Foner, Politics and Ideology in the Age of the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980).

Method of Assessment:


Participation (Tutorials)


Mid-Term Exam


Research Paper


Final Exam



Participation – 20 %

This evaluation is based on your attendance in the tutorials, as well as on your active participation during the discussions. You will have to carefully read the assigned readings, and then to share your thoughts during the tutorials. The reading for each week is to be done by the time of your conference; the instructors will assume as much. Multiple interpretations can be applied to each source, and multiple links to the lectures and historical facts can be drawn from them, so you must not be shy of engaging into a – friendly and polite – argumentation with your fellow students. In fact, discussing and debating is a manifest sign of your interest and commitment. Reading the texts, then attending to the tutorials and discussing about the assigned readings will not be important only for this grade, it will also be key for your success in this course.


Mid-Term Exam – 20%

Date: October 16

A Mid-Term Exam will be held in-class. An essay will count for 80% of the grade. You will have to choose one of the two proposed topics, and then write an essay based on the lectures. You will be evaluated in your capacity of bringing together a certain amount of knowledge in a structured manner (introduction/sections/conclusion). The remaining 20% of the grade will result of a series of short-answer questions which will ask for precise knowledge viewed during the lectures, such as names and dates. On Avenue to Learn, you will have access to a document synthetizing the required knowledge for the short-answer questions.


Research Paper – 30%

Due date: November 27.

For this assessment, I ask you to focus on at least one primary source of your choice, related to the course, and to analyze it, or them, with the help of personal research and readings. The quality of your paper will depend first on your capacity to gather information (notably secondary sources), that is to explore the library catalogue and online databases. You have to use the facts and interpretations found in your readings, and put them in conversation with your lecture notes according to your own perspective or angle of analysis. A good paper requires a certain depth in reflection; you must not simply describe the document! You have to provide the reader with valuable information (on the author of the primary source, his audience, the context of the period, the issues at stake, and so on) and then use other sources, and the lectures, to demonstrate why this is an important document in American history – or at least why it is interesting for you. You can demonstrate why the author was wrong, or right, what did he miss or reveal, or discuss the interpretation you would have offered. Thus, you have a certain freedom on the nature of your paper and, even if your primary source shall remain your main focus, you do not have to stick with it all along your paper. Your argumentation has to be documented and well organized: introduction – sections – conclusion. The length is not too demanding (8 to 10 pages, double spaced), so we expect a good quality in writing (no typo, no factual error, no repetitions). There is a last requirement: you must make use of at least one of the assigned readings. I encourage you to ask questions to me and/or to your TA. We will also have two workshops in-class, and I will upload a more detailed guidelines on Avenue to Learn.


Final Exam – 30%

Date TBA.

The Final Exam consists of two essays (80% of the grade) and a series of questions on precise facts or individuals (20%). You will choose the topics of your essays among the four which will be proposed to you. In these essays, you will have to insert the maximum of the relevant knowledge you would have learned from the lectures mainly, but also from the assigned readings. The essays have to be written in an ordered manner (introduction – sections - conclusion).

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late: 2% of your grade will be withdrawn per calendar day.

Any extension has to be determined before the deadline, documented, and accepted by me (not your TA). As an obvious measure of fairness, please note that only exceptional circumstances could justify an extension. You are also welcome to submit your paper prior to the deadline.

If you miss a lecture or a tutorial, it is your responsibility to catch up on the material you have missed. Lecture notes and slides will not be posted online.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Week 1

Sept. 6: Introduction to American History


-Jacki Thompson Rand, “Why I Can’t Visit the National Museum of the American Indian. Reflections of an accidental privileged insider, 1989-1994,” Common Place, July 2007 (ATL).


Week 2

Sept. 11: They, the “Indians”, the People of America

Sept. 13: We, the People of Europe


-Charles Mann, “1491,” The Atlantic, March 2002 (ATL).


Week 3

Sept. 18: Virginia: Power & Money in the Colonization Process (1607-1650)

Sept. 20: New England: Religious Utopia and Intolerance (1620-1692)


-T.H. Breen, “‘Motive for Murder’: A Servant’s Life in Virginia, 1678,” William and Mary Quarterly, 40 (Jan. 1983), 106-20 (ATL).


Week 4

Sept. 25: Pennsylvania: Microcosm of the American Democratic Spirit (1681-1776)

Sept. 27: Slavery in a Land of Freedom


-Jack P. Greene, “‘A Plain and Natural Right to Liberty’: An Early Natural Rights Attack on the Excesses of the Slave System in Colonial British America,” William and Mary Quarterly, 57 (Oct. 2000), 793-808 (ATL).


Week 5

Oct. 2: Colonial America in its Geopolitical Context ***Papers Workshop

Oct. 4: The French and Indian War (1754-1763), a Turning Point in the Atlantic World?

Readings (ATL):

-John Shy, “Crucible of Revolution: Fred Anderson’s Seven Years’ War,” Canadian Journal of History/Annales canadiennes d’histoire, 35 (Dec. 2000), 479-81.

-P.J. Marshall, “Fred Anderson’s Seven Years’ War in imperial perspective,” Canadian Journal of History/Annales canadiennes d’histoire, 35 (Dec. 2000), 495-9.

-Jay Cassel, “A Canadian Perspective on Anderson’s Crucible of War,” Canadian Journal of History/Annales canadiennes d’histoire, 35 (Dec. 2000), p.487-90.

-Fred Anderson, “The Seven Years’ War: A Provincial View,” Canadian Journal of History/Annales canadiennes d’histoire, 35 (Dec. 2000), 501-5.


Week 6: Reading Week


Week 7

Oct. 16: Mid-Term Exam

Oct. 18: No Class Meeting

Readings (ATL):

-Benjamin H. Irvin, “Tar, Feathers, and the Enemies of American Liberties, 1768-1776,” New England Quarterly, 76 (June 2003), 197-238.

-Thomas Jefferson, “The Declaration of Independence,” 1776.

-“Constitution of the United States,” 1787, Preamble and Articles I-IV.


Week 8

Oct. 23: From Local Protest to General Revolution (1763-1776)

Oct. 25: The Multiple Wars in America (1775-1787)


-Maya Jasanoff, “The Other Side of Revolution: Loyalists in the British Empire,” William and Mary Quarterly, 65, No. 2 (Apr., 2008), 205-232 (ATL).


Week 9

Oct. 30: The Atlantic Revolution and Canada (1776-1802)

Nov. 1: “Democracy” in the Early Republic, an Anti-Federalist View


-Michael Merril, “The Anticapitalist Origins of the United States,” Review (Fernand Braudel Center), 13 (Fall 1990), 465-497 (ATL).


Week 10

Nov. 6: Securing the Republic: Contesting the Order and “Good Feelings” (1789-1819)

Nov. 8: Market Revolution and American Socialism, or Jacksonian America (1820s-1830s)

Readings (ATL):

-George Washington, “Farewell Address,” 1796.

-Thomas Jefferson, “First Inaugural Address,” 1802.


Week 11

Nov. 13: Money, Money, Money: What Rules Who (and Vice Versa)? ***Paper Workshop

Nov. 15: American “Progress”: Imperialism, Manifest Destiny and Frontier


-Eric T. Dean Jr., “Stephen S. Douglas and Popular Sovereignty,” The Historian, 57 (Summer 1995), 733-48 (ATL).


Week 12

Nov. 20: Guest Lecturer, Dr Maxime Dagenais (Wilson Institute, McMaster).

Nov. 22: Republican Tensions: Religion, Moral Reforms and Motherhood (1830s-1840s)


-Mary Hershberger, “Mobilizing Women, Anticipating Emancipation: The Struggle Against Indian Removal in the 1830s,” Journal of American History, 86 (June 1999), 15-40 (ATL).


Week 13

Nov. 27: Paper Due (No Class Meeting)

Nov. 29: Rise of the American Culture: A Gradual Emancipation


-Frederick Douglass, “The Dred Scott Decision,” 1857, p.25-46, available online (Cornell University e-books Library): http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=mayantislavery;cc=mayantislavery;q1=scott;rgn=full%20text;cite1=douglass;cite1restrict=author;idno=26891402;didno=26891402;view=image;seq=27;node=26891402%3A1;page=root;size=100


Week 14

Dec. 4: The General Crisis of the 1850s

Dec. 6: A People in War: Domestic Imperialism and Emancipation (1861-1865)

Readings (ATL):

-Abraham Lincoln, “Emancipation Proclamation,” 1863.

-Abraham Lincoln, “Address Delivered at the Dedication of the Cemetery at Gettysburg,” 1863.

-Abraham Lincoln, “Second Inaugural Address,” 1865.