American History to 1877

  • 0/5 Stars
Course Length:
15 weeks


  • University Catalogue Description: A survey of the history of the United States from the Colonial period to 1877.
  • This survey course provides an introduction to the colonial origins and early history of the United States. First, we will look at the development of England's colonies in North America and their war for independence from the British crown. Next, we examine the struggle of the American Republic to define itself during the Age of the French Revolution. Then we turn to slavery, industrialization, and territorial expansion, and their contribution to sectional conflict in the first half of the nineteenth century. Finally, we delve into the tragedy of the Civil War and Reconstruction.
  • According to legend, a Philadelphia lady posed a question to Benjamin Franklin in September 1787, as the framers of the U.S. Constitution finished their work. "Well, Dr. Franklin, what have we got: a republic or a monarchy?" Franklin responded, "A republic, if you can keep it." By examining the choices and actions men and women took in creating the United States, and the struggle they made to preserve it, we can learn a great deal about how to acquire liberty--and how to keep it.


  • Upon successful completion of this course, students will be expected to:
  1. Demonstrate their knowledge of the major events, personalities, ideas, institutions, and developments of early American history through performance on quizzes and exams.
  2. Demonstrate critical and analytical thinking through textbook pr?cis, in-class writing assignments, and class discussions of the lectures, textbook, primary sources, and films.
  3. Demonstrate "historical imagination" by understanding the past from the perspective of the people who lived in the past rather than from our own present-day perspective.
  • By taking this course, we will exercise our analytical powers and learn to be better readers, writers, speakers, and thinkers. Since republican government requires a populace that is educated, enlightened, and independent in their thinking, we may even become better citizens.


  • This course combines lectures on PowerPoint, textbook reading assignments, in-class and out-of-class writing assignments, and class discussions of lectures, primary sources (including texts, images, and music), and secondary sources (including assigned reading and interpretive films).


  • The backbone of this course consists of ten classroom lectures accompanied by PowerPoint slideshows which include a lecture outline, illustrative images such as portraits and maps, and excerpts from primary source documents ranging from political speeches and pamphlets to private letters and popular song lyrics. Lectures address the major events, personalities, ideas, institutions, and developments of early American history.
  • Lecture One: Puritanism to Enlightenment
  • Lecture Two: The French and Indian War
  • Lecture Three: The Imperial Crisis
  • Lecture Four: The Revolutionary War
  • Lecture Five: Founding the Republic
  • Lecture Six: Preserving the Republic
  • Lecture Seven: Free Labor versus Slave Labor
  • Lecture Eight: Western Expansion
  • Lecture Nine: Brother against Brother
  • Lecture Ten: A New Birth of Freedom

It is the responsibility of the student to pay close attention to the lecture, ask thoughtful questions about it, and take thorough notes. It has been my experience that taking notes is one of the best ways to remember what you have read in a book or heard in a lecture. Be prepared by bringing paper, pen, and your lecture notes to each class meeting, unless otherwise directed.


  • In addition to lectures, we will use class time for discussion of the lectures and textbook. Sometimes, in lieu of class discussion, we may address an analytical question from the lecture or textbook in the form of a 1-2 page in-class mini-essay.
  • The lectures on PowerPoint provide additional opportunities for class participation. In the course of a lecture, we will periodically pause for analysis and discussion of primary source texts and images, such as political speeches, private letters, oil paintings, newspaper cartoons, song lyrics, and photographs of material artifacts like gravestones, flags, and weapons. While historians depend mainly upon documents for their knowledge of the past, we will also learn how to "read" an image as a source of historical evidence.
  • Classroom activities may also include student debates, recitation of important speeches and documents, discussion of a documentary or feature-length film. Class participation counts for 10 points of your final grade, so don't be shy about speaking up in class, and always be prepared to take part in our discussions and other activities. Class participation in excess of the 10 required points will count for as much as 5 points of extra credit.


  • Your reading for this course consists of chapters from the Nation of Nations textbook, by James West Davidson et al. You need to have the Davidson book in hand and begin reading the assigned pages from the first day of class. You must keep up with weekly assignments and take thorough and thoughtful notes on the reading. Such notes will prove very helpful for exam study and coursework.
  • Reading the textbook, discussing each chapter in class, and answering questions about it on quizzes and exams will help enhance your understanding of the origins of the American Republic. You should be prepared to discuss the assigned chapter with your professor and fellow students in class on the day that the assignment is due.
  • As with taking notes from lectures, the best way to solidify your knowledge and clarify your understanding of what you have read in a book is to write about it. For each chapter assigned (except the first assignment, due this Thursday), you are required to submit a pr?cis, a summary of the main points a*There will be four quizzes given in class during the semester. Each quiz consists of five multiple-choice questions. These questions can be factual or analytical in nature. They can come from the lectures, the assigned reading, or any classroom activity, such as a film. While taking a quiz in class, you will have roughly ten minutes to complete it. You will also be allowed to use all of your own notes (though not your books), so be sure to bring your notes for the lectures and reading to each class meeting.
  • These quizzes will not be announced in advance. They are intended as a means for the professor to assess the progress of your learning, as an incentive for each student to attend class, keep up with assigned work, and take good notes, and as a method of preparation for the exams. The four quizzes count for a total of 20 points of your final course grade.
  • You will take midterm and final examinations in class, each of which counts for 25 points of your final course grade. Each exam consists of 20 multiple-choice questions (1 point each) on the lectures and assigned reading and 1 short essay question (5 points). The short essay question will be a comprehensive question addressing the major themes of the assigned textbook chapters. The final exam is non-cumulative, covering only the material assigned since the midterm exam.
  • You will not be able to access your notes or books while taking an exam. The multiple-choice pop quizzes will serve as good preparation for the multiple-choice component of the exams, and our class discussions, in-class writing, and textbook pr?cis will help prepare you for the short essay questions.
  • To be sure that you are well prepared, we will try to set aside some class time for exam review sessions. To provide you extra time to study for the final exam, we will watch and discuss in class a feature-length film over the last week of class (time permitting), during which there will be no additional pr?cis or textbook assignments.


  • If you do not attend class for whatever reason, the professor will not provide you with outlines or notes from the lecture. You may be fortunate to find a student in class who will lend his or her notes to you, but do not count on other people's generosity. It is entirely your responsibility to attend class and keep up with assignments.
  • If you are absent from class when we have a class discussion or other activity, or when I give a pop quiz, in-class writing assignment, or exam, you will receive a zero for the assignment. If you miss a quiz or an exam due to circumstances beyond your control, I will provide a make-up quiz or exam with documentation by a physician, court of law, or similar authority.
  • I understand that there may be occasion when you do not attend class for a non-excusable reason and miss an important assignment, such as a pop quiz. Toward the end of the semester, you will have the option of taking a sixth pop quiz for 5 points of extra credit. As mentioned earlier, you can earn as much as 5 points of extra credit through class participation over and above the required 10 points.


  • I will take attendance at the beginning of each class meeting as a way of getting to know the students, but there is no specific grade for attending class. Since so much of the course grade depends upon our use of class time, however, you will have a very hard time passing the course without attending each class meeting.
  • Late arrivals and early departures are very distracting, so please arrive on time and remain for the entire session. If you cannot help arriving a few minutes late, please enter the room as quietly and discreetly as possible. I do not expect to ever be late to class myself, but if I am, consider class cancelled if I do not arrive within 15 minutes.
  • Needless to say, you are expected to be civil and courteous to your professors and peers during class meetings. I do not allow food in class, but I will tentatively allow drinks. For your lecture notes, depend on old-fashioned paper and pen. I do not allow the use of laptops, tape or digital recorders, cell phones, ear buds, Blackberries, iPods, or other electronic devices in class. Exceptions will be considered for students with physical or learning disabilities. If you carry a cell phone, keep it in your pocket or bag, and be certain at the start of class that you have turned it off.


  • If class time is not enough for you to ask all of your questions and work through your problems with the course, please come see me during office hours. My office location and office hours are posted on the first page of this syllabus. You can also reach me by phone during office hours, leave a voicemail message after hours, or send an e-mail anytime. If you do leave a voicemail, please also follow up with an e-mail, in case the voicemail message is accidentally deleted or otherwise lost. I will get back to you at my earliest convenience.
  • If you have a serious issue, it is best to speak with me in person--in my office during scheduled hours or at the end of a class meeting. Please come see me if you are having trouble with your comprehension of the lectures or reading. I will be happy to provide additional guidance or tutoring during my office hours. Also, do let me know if you have any special learning needs that may require extra assistance, and I will accommodate them as best I can.
  • If you need to see me but cannot come during my regular office hours, we can make an appointment at another time that is convenient for both of us. I am eager to do whatever I reasonably can to facilitate your learning in this course and to help you excel in your program of study at Marymount. I will always seek to give you my best effort, and I will expect the same from each student. We have much to learn from this course and from one another.


  1. Midterm exam 25
  2. Final exam 25
  3. Pop quizzes 20
  4. Textbook pr?cis 20
  5. Class participation 10
  6. Extra credit class participation 5
  7. Extra credit quiz 5

Total Available Course Points 110

A 110-93
A- 92-90
B+ 89-87
B 86-83
B- 82-80
C+ 79-77
C 76-73
C- 72-70
D+ 69-67
D 66-63
D- 62-60
F 59-0


  • Introduction; Puritanism to Enlightenment
  • Puritanism to Enlightenment
    • Reading due: Davidson, Chap. 3
  • The French and Indian War'
    • Reading due: Davidson, Chap. 4
    • Pr?cis #1 due
  • The French and Indian War
  • Film: "Last of the Mohicans"
    • Reading due: Davidson, Chap. 5
    • Pr?cis #2 due
  • Film: "Last of the Mohicans"
  • The Imperial Crisis
    • Reading due: Davidson, Chap. 6
    • Pr?cis #3 due
  • The Imperial Crisis
  • The Revolutionary War
    • Reading due: Davidson, Chap. 7
    • Pr?cis #4 due
  • The Revolutionary War
  • Founding the Republic
    • Reading due: Davidson, Chap. 8
    • Pr?cis #5 due
  • Catch-Up and Exam Review
  • Midterm Exam
  • Reading catch-up--no class meeting or office hours
  • Preserving the Republic
    • Reading due: Davidson, Chap. 9
    • Pr?cis #6 due
  • Preserving the Republic
  • Free Labor versus Slave Labor
    • Reading due: Davidson, Chap. 11
    • Pr?cis #7 due
  • Free Labor versus Slave Labor'
  • Western Expansion
    • Reading due: Davidson, Chap. 14
    • Pr?cis #8 due
  • Western Expansion
  • Brother against Brother
    • Reading due: Davidson, Chap. 15
    • Pr?cis #9 due
  • Brother against Brother
  • A New Birth of Freedom
    • Reading due: Davidson, Chap. 16
    • Pr?cis #10 due--last one!
  • A New Birth of Freedom
  • Catch-Up and Exam Review
    • Film: "Gettysburg"
  • Thanksgiving--no class meeting or office hours
  • Film: "Gettysburg"
  • Film: "Gettysburg"
    • Last class meeting
  • Final Exam

REQUIRED BOOKS (available for purchase in campus bookstore or online)

  1. James West Davidson et al., Nation of Nations: Volume 1, to 1877 (McGraw Hill, 2007)

SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIALS (provided in class by the professor)

  1. "Last of the Mohicans," starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeleine Stowe, directed by Michael Mann (1992).
  2. "Gettysburg," starring Jeff Daniels and Tom Berenger, directed by Ron Maxwell (1993).