HIST 119: THE CIVIL WAR AND RECONSTRUCTION ERA, 1845-1877
About the Course
This course explores the causes, course, and consequences of the American Civil War, from the 1840s to 1877. The primary goal of the course is to understand the multiple meanings of a transforming event in American history. Those meanings may be defined in many ways: national, sectional, racial, constitutional, individual, social, intellectual, or moral. Four broad themes are closely examined: the crisis of union and disunion in an expanding republic; slavery, race, and emancipation as national problem, personal experience, and social process; the experience of modern, total war for individuals and society; and the political and social challenges of Reconstruction.
This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 50 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Spring 2008.
History 715 | Readings in Nineteenth Century America, 1815-1880s
Yale University | Spring semester, 201 | Wednesday, 1:30-3:20 pm, 81 Wall St.
This graduate readings course will explore recent trends and historiography on several problems through most of the 19th century: sectionalism; expansion; slavery and the Old South; northern society and reform movements; women, gender and labor; Civil War causation; the Civil War as a community and individual experience; the Civil War in the popular imagination; the relationships between military-political and social-cultural history; Reconstruction as a synthesis and historiographical battleground. In each week we will look for the tensions between narrative and analytical history, as well as the ways in which race and gender in particular have reshaped research and interpretive agendas in recent years. To begin the course, we will read a few brief classic essays on the nature of history and the craft of writing history.
This course is designed as a reading seminar to help prepare students for their ultimate oral exams, and hence the stress on historiography. Each week’s reading will include some recommended works that students will be encouraged to consult now or over time. Now and then, we will attempt to read two books per week to show a contrast in styles or interpretations of a similar topic. But I am also very much interested in exploring the nature of our craft as historians. What is this thing called the past? How do we organize historical knowledge? How do we seek and find historical “truth?” Are we excavators in archives or imaginative writers with lots of footnotes? How can we be both? What does it mean to have an historical imagination or a sense of history? What is the role of curiosity in historical work? When do you find interpretations securely behind their sources, and when do they seem to be floating ahead of the evidence? Are interpretations creatures of timing, of shifts in the Zeitgeist? When are a historian’s assumptions altogether too obvious and controlling, and when are they subtle and brilliantly employed? What is good history? If any of these kinds of questions, as well as many others, emerge each week I will be delighted. And one final question: In doing a Ph. D and writing a dissertation that becomes a book, is it more important to write a paradigm-changing work, or is it more important to tell a good story? How do we do both?
History 119b/Af-Am 172 | The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877
Yale University | Spring, 2015
This is an Open Yale course. Click here to download text and video materials for the full course.
"The Civil War uprooted institutions that were centuries old, changed the politics of a people, transformed the social life of half the country, and wrought so profoundly upon the entire national character that the influence cannot be measured short of two or three generations." - Mark Twain, 1873
"The Civil War draws us as an oracle, darkly unriddled and portentous, of personal, as well as national fate." - Robert Penn Warren, 1961
"The mission of this war is national regeneration." - Frederick Douglass, 1863
“Only fools forget the causes of war.” - Albion Tourgee, 1884
“Thank God men have done learned how to forget quick what they ain’t brave enough to try to cure.” - William Faulkner, The Hamlet, 1940
This course will explore the causes, course, and consequences of the American Civil War, from the 1840s to 1877. The primary goal of the course is to understand the multiple meanings of a transforming event in American history. Those meanings may be defined in many ways: national, sectional, racial, constitutional, individual, social, intellectual, or moral. We will especially examine four broad themes: the crisis of union and disunion in an expanding republic; slavery, race, and emancipation as national problem, personal experience, and social process; the experience of modern, total war for individuals and society; and the political and social challenges of Reconstruction. The course attempts in several ways to understand the interrelationships between regional, national, and African-American history. And finally, we hope to probe the depths of why the Civil War era has a unique hold on American historical memory.There will be two lectures per week, Tuesday and Thursday, 10:30-11:20, and a discussion section taught by a Teaching Fellow. Attendance in sections is REQUIRED. This course is fortunate to have an experienced and talented group of TFs, including Danielle Bainbridge, Michael Blaakman, Sarah Bowman, Lisa Furchtgott, Tiffany Hale, Michael Hattem, and James Shinn.