The Shaping of a Nation: U. S. History to 1877



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The Shaping of a Nation: U.S. History to 1877


Heidi S. Giusto Fall Semester 2006

Office Hours: M-W-F: 12:30-2:00 and by appointment HIST 100

Office: Carr 204 M W F: 11-11:50

Phone: 555-5555 Carr 120

Email: hsg3@duke.edu



Course Description:

The United States of America is a country of diversity and multiculturalism. These two aspects of the nation’s history have been present in the Americas since before the first encounters of the indigenous populations and European explorers and settlers. Economic, political, environmental, institutional and demographic changes shaped the birth and first century of the United States. Understanding these critical factors will not only increase your understanding of United States history but also will serve as a tool to evaluate and critique historical actors and events.


We will begin our studies with the Amerindians before European contact and conclude with the end of political Reconstruction. The course is divided into three five-week parts. In Part I, we will examine indigenous populations and European settlement in North America. Crucial to this settlement is the forced migration of Africans to serve as slaves for European settlers. During Part II we will learn about the shift from a colonial society to a new nation. Understanding the factors that led to the War for Independence will inform our assessment of the American Revolution and the country that developed after it. In Part III we will explore the divisions that arose in the infant nation, culminating in civil war. Finally, we will look at the postwar attempts to heal the wounds caused by centuries of institutionalized racial slavery and the efforts to create a stronger union.
Each week there will be two lecture sessions and one discussion section. Discussion will be held each Friday. Occasionally, we will also have in-class activities relevant to the day’s subject material.
Textbook requirements

Books are available at the university bookstore. Other required readings will be available through E-Reserve.


Jon Butler, Becoming America: The Revolution before 1776 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000).

Frederick Douglass, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 2004).

Melton A. McLaurin, Celia: A Slave (Athens: University of Georgia Press,1991).

Norman K. Risjord, Jefferson’s America, 1760-1815 (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002).

Alan Taylor, American Colonies (New York: Penguin Books, 2002).

Bernard A. Weisberger, America Afire: Jefferson, Adams, and the Revolutionary Election of 1800 (New York: Harper Collins, 2000).


Prerequisites: None
Learning Objectives:
1. Broaden knowledge of social, economic, cultural, and political changes of early American history to 1877.

2. Gain awareness of current historical debates surrounding this period.

3. Increase ability to identify, comprehend, and critique historical arguments.

4. Improve writing skills by evaluating and analyzing historical arguments and perspectives.



Weekly Agenda:

All readings are to be completed for the MONDAY lecture of every week. Your knowledge of the readings will be evaluated on the FRIDAY of each week through discussion and quizzes.



PART I: First Encounters to 1763

Week 1 (Aug 28, Aug 30, Sept 1)


Introduction of course; Amerindians and Background to the Age of Exploration


(Reading: Alan Taylor, Chapters 1-5; on E-reserves)
Week 2 (Sept 4, Sept 6, Sept 8)

Establishing Colonies

(Reading: Taylor, Chapters 6-9; 11-12. Note: This week’s readings are extensive, but next week will be a lighter load!)


Week 3 (Sept 11, Sept 13, Sept 15)

Descent into Slavery

(Reading: Created Equal Chapter 4, African Enslavement: The Terrible Transformation and Ira Berlin, “Time, Space, and the Evolution of Afro-American Society on British Mainland North America,” both on E-reserves)


Week 4 (Sept 18, Sept 20, Sept 22)

Growth of Colonies (Populating the Colonies & Great Awakening)

(Reading: Jon Butler, Becoming America, Chapters 1 and 5)


Week 5 (Sept 25, Sept 27, Sept 29) (First exam is on Sept 29)

Imperial Conflicts and the Seven Years’ War


(Reading: Butler, Chapters 2 and 3)


PART II: Revolution and the New Nation, 1763-1819

Week 6 (Oct 2, Oct 4, Oct 6) (Book Review due at the start of class Oct. 6)



Coming of Revolution and the Fight for Independence

(Reading: Norman K. Risjord, Jefferson’s America, 1760-1815, Chapters 4-6)


Week 7 (Oct 11, Oct 13 [Fall Break Oct 9])

Forging a New Nation and the New Constitution

(Reading: Risjord, Jefferson’s America, Chapters 8-11)

Week 8 (Oct 16, Oct 18, Oct 20)

Revolutionary Legacies, 1789-1800

(Reading: Bernard Weisberger, America Afire, Prologue and Chapters 1-7)


Week 9 (Oct 23, Oct 25, Oct 27)

Political Changes, 1800-1819

(Reading: Weisberger, America Afire, Chapters 8-14 and Epilogue)


Week 10 (Oct 30, Nov 1, Nov 3) Second exam is on Nov 3

Growth & Expansion of the New Nation


(Reading: Ray Allen Billington, Westward Expansion, “Introduction: The Frontier Hypothesis,” pp. 1-12, and Perdue and Green, The Cherokee Removal, selections, both on E-reserves)
Part III: A Nation in Crisis, 1820-1877
Week 11 (Nov 6, Nov 10, Nov 12)

Inhuman Bondage

(Reading: McLaurin, Celia, A Slave)


Week 12 (Nov 13, Nov 15, Nov 17) Essay due at the start of class Nov. 17

Social & Economic Changes (Reform/Religious revival)

(Reading: Joseph Comforti, “The Invention of the Great Awakening, 1795-1842,” Early American Literature 1991 26(2): 99-118; and Nancy F. Cott, “Young Women in the Second Great Awakening in New England,” Feminist Studies 1975 3(1-2): 15-29; both on E-reserves)


Week 13 (Nov 20, [Thanksgiving Break Nov 22-26])

Escalations of Crisis

(No reading: Happy Thanksgiving!)



American Experience: John Brown’s Holy War, (Produced by PBS)
Week 14 (Nov 27, Nov 29, Dec 1)

Civil War

(Reading: Selections from primary documents, on E-reserves)


Week 15 (Dec 4, Dec 6, Dec 8)

Life After Slavery

(Reading: Eric Foner, A Short History of Reconstruction, Preface and Chapters 3-4, and Leslie Schwalm, A Hard Fight for We, Chapter 6, “‘In Their Own Way’: Women and Work in the Postbellum South,” all on E-reserves)


FINAL EXAM: December 17th, 11am-2pm in Carr 120

Learning Activities:

Below is a list of your learning activities, and a brief description of each exercise. We will discuss each assignment as it approaches and I will provide proper guidance for successful completion of each assignment.


1. Quizzes and Participation – 15%

There will be six short (five question) in-class quizzes to evaluate your comprehension of the reading. A missed quiz cannot be made up – you must therefore consult us prior to each absence

2. Three exams – 15%, 15%, 25% (The last exam is the final.)

Exams will consist of short identification questions (these will answer the “who, what, when, where,” and, most importantly, the significance of a particular term) and a longer essay. You will have a choice of essay questions.

3. Book Review – 10%

You will have a choice in which book you would like to review. I have included suggestions on page 6, but other pre-approved books about the American Revolution will be acceptable as well. A review will state the author’s main arguments, strengths and weaknesses of the book. A review is not just a summary; later in the semester we will provide more detailed instructions for this assignment.

4. Essay – 20%

You will rely on a slave narrative and contemporary newspapers to write your final essay. This essay should demonstrate writing and analytical skills and an understanding of the historical period. We will provide more details about this assignment later in the semester.


A letter grade will be deducted for each day an assignment is late, up to three days. Assignments more than three days late will be given an F.
If you must miss an exam please notify me at least 24 hours in advance and also provide a documented reason for the absence.

Grading Scale:
A+ 97-100 C+ 77-79
A 93-96 C 73-76
A- 90-92 C- 70-72
B+ 87-89 D 67-69
B 83-86 D 63-66
B- 80-82 D- 60-62
F Below 60


Attendance and Participation:

Attendance and participation are REQUIRED and are weighed in your final grade. Assigned reading is designed to supplement lecture material and therefore class attendance is imperative. If you must miss class, please notify me at least 24 hours in advance. Excused absences include family emergences, religious holidays, and illness with doctor’s note.



University Policies: I am fully committed to University policies that serve to enrich our classroom environment. Therefore, I respect the observation of religious holidays. I uphold university guidelines that forbid discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation, race, gender, or religious affiliation. I am happy to offer assistance to those students who may need extra accommodations due to physical handicap or visual or hearing impairment. Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact me with any assistance they may require.

Academic Integrity: Please review the Academic Integrity Council’s website, http://www.integrity.duke.edu/ugrad/index.html, as it is your responsibility to be aware of university policies.

Plagiarism: You are responsible for understanding what constitutes plagiarism. Duke University defines plagiarism as, “Expropriation of words, phrases, or ideas of another without attribution for the benefit of one who engages in the act of expropriation.” Examples of plagiarism include: copying from published or electronic sources without proper citations, paraphrasing someone else’s work without proper citations, and buying and using a paper that is already written. For a more detailed explanation of plagiarism and its consequences, please consult Duke University’s website: http://www.lib.duke.edu/reference/virtual/plagiarism.htm.

Plagiarism is a serious academic offense. Violators will be dealt with according to university protocol outlined on the website.



Possible Books to Review for History 100

Writing Assignment #1
***Please choose one of the following books. If you would prefer to select a book not on this list, you must have it approved by an instructor.
Calloway, Colin G. The American Revolution in Indian Country: Crisis and Diversity in Native American Communities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Fenn, Elizabeth A. Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82. New York: Hill and Wang, 2001.

Frey, Sylvia R. Water from the Rock: Black Resistance in a Revolutionary Age. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1991.

Griffith, Samuel. The War for American Independence: From 1760 to the Surrender at Yorktown in 1781.

Higginbotham, Don. The War of American Independence: Military Attitudes, Policies, and Practice, 1763-1789. New York: Macmillan, 1971.

Holton, Woody. Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves, & the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia. Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 1999.

Kars, Marjoleine. Breaking Loose Together: The Regulator Rebellion in Pre-Revolutionary North Carolina. Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

Langley, Lester D. The Americas in the Age of Revolution, 1750-1850. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1996.

Maier, Pauline. From Resistance to Revolution: Colonial Radicals and the Development of American Opposition to Britain, 1765-1776. New York and London: W. W. Norton & Company, 1972.

McCullough, David. 1776. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.

Nash, Gary B. The Urban Crucible: The Northern Seaports and the Origins of the American Revolution. Abridged ed. Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: Harvard University Press, 1979.

Neimyer, Charles Patrick. America Goes to War: A Social History of the Continental Army. New York: New York University Press, 1996.

Norton, Mary Beth. Liberty’s Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800, 1980.

Usner, Daniel H. Jr. Indians, Settlers, & Slaves in a Frontier Exchange Economy: The Lower Mississippi Valley before 1783. Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 1992.

Wood, Gordon S. The Radicalism of the American Revolution. New York: Vintage Books, 1991.

Wood, W. J. Battles of the Revolutionary War: 1775-1781.



Young, Alfred F. The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory and the American Revolution. Boston: Beacon Press, 1999.







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