HIST-382 Topics in US History: see descriptions
Fall for 2015-2016
Professors Elena Abbott and Brian Taylor
This number will be used for seminars devoted to specific subjects in the area of American history. Students may take more than one of the courses offered under this number. Each course will be announced in the course schedule and receive its own sub-title.
In Fall 2015 the following two courses are offered: HIST 382-01 Liberty and Anti-slavery (Professor Elena Abbott); and HIST 382-02 War and American Society (Professor Brian Taylor)
HIST 382-01: Atlantic slavery and the transatlantic slave trade were twin pillars of the global economy through the 19th century. Though the abolition of these institutions is often lauded as a triumph of moral progress, the outcome of abolitionist agitation was far from inevitable. Anti-slavery advocates, armed with diverse goals and tactics in their fight against slavery, often found themselves at odds with each other even as they battled powerful pro-slavery political and economic interests. So how, over the course of just one century, had they managed to dismantle the vast transatlantic systems of slave labor and human purchase?
This seminar examines the long fight against slavery in the Atlantic world, from the roots of 18th-century anti-slavery intellectualism through the rolling abolitions of the 19th century. Students will develop their understanding of anti-slavery ideas and action by synthesizing and comparing primary and secondary sources illuminating British, American, French, Iberian, and West African perspectives on ending slavery and the slave trade. Over the course of the semester we will examine different forms of physical, intellectual, and political antislavery, emphasizing how historical figures and historians alike have tried to understand the relationship between these forms of activism and the dismantling of national/imperial slave systems. Considering how and why slavery came to an end in different places at different times, students will consider four thematic questions:
How did transatlantic interconnection influence anti-slavery advocacy and abolition movements in different regional/imperial contexts?
How did the emergence of Atlantic “Free Soil” affect anti-slavery ideas and activism?
Was slave resistance political?
Was emancipation always the same as freedom?
This seminar course will give students a chance to consider historical events, materials, and ideas in three different ways. First, students will work collectively to create a geographical timeline of Atlantic antislavery, augmenting their weekly reading by translating it into a new tool in the digital humanities. Second, they will have the opportunity to think like museum curators, developing exhibits designed for a public history audience. Third, they will write a historical research paper using their own research to examine a discrete theme of Atlantic antislavery.
HIST 382-02: Today, most Americans take for granted the existence of a large, standing American military and the United States’ place as the world’s leading military power. At the nation’s founding, however, many Americans opposed the creation of a standing military, and some dreamed of creating a republican world order in which war became obsolete. Americans’ perceptions of warfare and the military have changed greatly since the late eighteenth century, and in this class we will examine warfare, the development of an American military, and their impact on American society over the first 150 years of the United States’ existence. This is not a class in which we will busy ourselves by dissecting generals’ battle plans and debating military tactics. Rather, we will look at how American politics and society have impacted the American military and influenced the course of American wars. We will examine issues such as Americans’ varying reactions to and support for American wars, Americans’ reasons for fighting and going to war, Americans’ thinking about the concept of war and its desirability or undesirability, and the development of the American military and what it means to be a citizen-soldier.
The following syllabi may help you learn more about this course (login required):
Fall '15: Abbott E (file download)
Fall '15: Taylor B (file download)
Additional syllabi may be available in prior academic years.
Other academic years
There is information about this course number in other academic years: