Overview and outcomes: This course is an intensive reading course in the history of the new nation. Focusing particularly on political, economic, and social history, it provides a solid foundation in important recent works in the field. Students who need more historiographical depth for exam preparation should speak to me separately about older books in the field. This reading list omits several useful books that take an Atlantic perspective on aspects of this period. Any History Ph.D. student who wants to pursue more Atlantic readings should see me for an alternate assignment for one or more weeks of the term. By the end of the term, students should have better knowledge of significant historical and historiographical issues in this period and a better understanding of how to write book-reviews and critical commentaries. Rules of the game: 1. Show up on time, prepared to discuss the books in detail. This means having the reading's argument/findings, sources, methods, and theory (if any) clearly in mind, along with your own thoughtful reflections about the book's successes and shortcomings.
2. Be polite in your disagreements.
3. Be prepared for feedback/grading that takes in both your writing and your thinking. Neither fuzzy thinking nor fuzzy writing will pass muster.
4. Turn in your assignments on time.
5. Note that if you miss class, you must meet with me to discuss the week's reading. If you miss class more than once, you may be penalized for it, depending on your circumstances. (If you're laid up in the hospital with a broken leg, I won't hold that against you. If you decide to go out of town for a non-emergency, non-academic trip, I might.)
6. Be considerate of your classmates: return books to the reserve desk on time! Grading: Participation in seminar: 30%
Writing: 70% -- there are 9 worksheets, weighted equally, and 4 comparative essays, of increasing length and thus weight. Students will get a 'bump' for improved or consistently good work and may be penalized for work that fails to improve or declines in quality. Worksheets are like hyper-structured response papers. Response papers are (usually) are thought pieces, intended to communicate your critical analysis of the books we read. They should not summarize the content of the book, but rather raise questions about the methods, the interpretation of sources, the definition of the research problem, the implications of the thesis, and so on. The key is to read and then to reflect: I want your second thoughts, not your first impressions. In order to help you work toward writing useful response papers, I have devised a worksheet template that you must use. See below for the template. Comparative essays are like published book reviews which compare two or more works (usually books). Ford's essay assigned for the third week of the term is an example of the genre. Reviews in American History is a good place in general to look for other examples. Comparative essays (or comparative book reviews) summarize books' contents; compare the reviewed books; and, most importantly, try to set the books in a broader historiographical context. This third element will probably the most difficult, but it's important to try to step back and think about the implications of the particular monographs for the larger field of American history (how do the trees relate to the forest, if you will). If you have little background in American history in this period, you might want to consult Foner's New American History (Temple, 1997). This is not so new anymore, and it covers the whole sweep of American history; essays by Kerber, Wilentz, and Foner are particularly relevant. With advance permission, you may compare different books than the ones I have suggested for your comparative essays. Week Day Readings
1 August 25 Introductions
2 September 1 Labor Day -- no class
3 September 8 Wilentz, The Rise of American Democracy (selections)
Clark, Social Change in America
Ford, "Democracy and its Consequences" (PDF file @ CE6)
Pasley, Jeffrey L. “The Tyranny of Printers”: Newspaper Politics in the Early American Republic. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2001. 978-0813921778
Pierson, Michael. Free Hearts and Free Homes: Gender and American Antislavery Politics. U of North Carolina P. 978-0807854556
Rothman, Adam. Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 2005. 978-0674024168
*Taylor, Alan. William Cooper?s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic. New York: Vintage, 1996. 978-0679773009. This book was originally assigned for 10/13. It is often assigned to undergraduates, and anyone who writes a paper of it with teaching in mind will receive extra credit in proportion to the paper’s merits.
Waldstreicher, David. In the Midst of Perpetual Fetes: The Making of American Nationalism, 1776–1820. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1997. 978-0807846919
Wilentz, Sean. The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln. New York: Norton, 2006. 978-0393329216
(bibliographic information for as many reviews as you can find)
6. Sources and Methods:
(summary of and commentary on type of primary sources and/or theory or methods used, and how, strengths/weaknesses of approach)
(what literatures does the book address explicitly and/or implicitly? How well does it do so? What’s good.valuable about the approach, and what’s missing?)
(what are the main arguments and findings, and how are they supported? Strengths and weaknesses? Evaluate the book according to its own research project, not what you think the project should have been.)
9. Other comments:
(any further evaluative comments of your own, including further research you think needs to be done in this area. This is where you can talk about the book you think the author should have written.)