Course C. Out of Many, One? A Re-Introduction to Early American History
Thursdays, 9:30-11:00 a.m.
Instructor: Caitlin Fitz, Associate Professor of History
This course meets on Thursday mornings beginning on January 9th.
There will be no class on January 30th.
In this course we will explore the major themes of American history, from the earliest encounters between native people, Europeans, and Africans to the impassioned battles of the Civil War. Our challenge will be to track the variety of meanings that America had for the people who lived here: men and women, rich and poor, free and slave. We will examine the communities that past people built, the things they lived and died for, and the legacies they left behind. We will tell stories of growth and decay, of freedom and slavery, of conflict and collaboration. We will also tell a story about how thirteen disparate and unruly British colonies came to form a new kind of nation: a republic, dedicated (as Abraham Lincoln would later recall) to the proposition that all men were created equal.
From these many stories, we will seek a greater understanding of the American past. Is it possible to blend such different stories into a coherent whole—to create “out of many, one,” as the Great Seal of the United States would suggest? That question gets to the heart of this course, and to the heart of American society itself.
Jan. 9 Facing East, Facing West
How did indigenous people in North America experience their first encounters with Europeans—and vice-versa? How did such encounters change over time, and how did indigenous people respond to the catastrophic impact of epidemics and environmental change? After addressing such questions, we will explore colonization and slavery in early Virginia.
Jan. 16 Witchcraft and Capitalism in Early America
We will begin with a famous case study: the Salem Witch Trials. How could such famously God-fearing people have executed so many innocent neighbors? We will explore the answers by examining Puritan thinking about gender, religion, and indigenous people. We will also explore how economic change fueled the conflict, which will serve as a segue to the second part of the lecture: the consumer revolution that reshaped the eighteenth-century British colonies.
Jan. 23 From Colonists to Revolutionaries
We will begin by exploring how Pennsylvania’s Quaker leaders and their indigenous allies formed the longest sustained peace in colonial British America, and why that peace ended so abruptly in the mid-eighteenth century. The answers will pave the way for the second half of class, when we will explore what motivated so many colonists—most of whom had been strong British nationalists through the early 1760s—to revolt against Britain just two decades later. We will also ask why perhaps more than half the population remained ambivalent about independence or even opposed it. How revolutionary was the Revolution for American society? Who benefited from it the most, and who suffered?
Jan. 30 NO CLASS
Feb. 6 Politics, Family, and Culture in the Early United States
Why did birthrates fall among white women in the post-revolutionary United States? Turning to sex and family planning, we will ask what the Revolution meant to women—a question with crucial implications for American history more broadly. In the second half of class, we will explore how debates over the Constitution, the economy, and the French and Haitian revolutions defined early American politics in ways still with us today.
Feb. 13 Thomas Jefferson’s Revolution of 1800 and its Legacy
How did Virginia slaveholders become one of the nation’s preeminent advocates of republican equality? To what degree did Jefferson and his supporters succeed in establishing an agrarian yeoman republic, and why did so many Americans oppose that vision?
Feb. 20 The Transformation of the Antebellum South
During and after the War of 1812, the United States increasingly and violently seized millions of acres from indigenous people to the south and west, then opened the land to slaveholders. The result was a cotton revolution and an explosion in human bondage. We will explore these changes from the perspective of indigenous people, enslaved people, slaveholders, and northern reformers. We will also explore why policy towards indigenous people was the best predictor of congressmen’s partisan affiliation, connecting the dispossession of native people to national politics.
Feb. 27 Antebellum Politics and the Culture of Reform
We will begin by looking at how and why the northern economy transformed in the decades following the War of 1812. How did those economic changes inform northern politics? Did the Democratic party democratize America? In the second half of class, we will link these political and economic changes to alcohol. Why did Americans in the early nineteenth century drink more alcohol than their counterparts in any other period of American history? And why, in the 1830s and 1840s, did alcohol consumption decline so precipitously?
Mar. 5 The Sectional Crisis Deepens
We will spend the first half of class exploring the growth of the antislavery movement and the outbreak of war with Mexico in 1846. In the second half of class, we will explore some of these issues through a more local lens with a case study: Abraham Lincoln’s rise to prominence in Illinois.
Mar. 12 A New Birth of Freedom?
Why did the South secede? Why did the North refuse to let it? How did a war to save the Union eventually become a war to end slavery? Why, by 1865, did the Union emerge intact? To what extent was the Civil War a watershed moment in American history, and what was the war’s legacy for American history?
Parking permit may be requested from this website.
See the event listed as Winter 2020 Parking - Optional
Information is subject to change. Full course and policy descriptions are available at www.nualumnae.org
***One ticket per class, per account.
One nine-week course $190.00
Discounts for Multiple Registrations for an Individual
Individuals who register for multiple courses may receive discounts on each additional course after the first:
To register for two nine-week courses at the special price of $355.00, select the 2-Course Package.
To register for three nine-week courses at the special price of $520.00, select the 3-Course Package.
To register for four nine-week courses at the special price of $685.00, select the 4-Course Package.
Your email confirmation from Norris Box Office verifies your registration but it is not your entry to class. Be
sure to bring your class entry card to each class as it must be shown to
the proctors at the entry door. In order to guarantee seating for registered
students, those without their card will be given a temporary entry card, but
ONE time only. After that one time, a replacement card will be provided at a
fee of $30.00.
Refund Policy: Before a refund can be issued, your course card must be returned and the cancellation fee must be purchased on this website. Send your entry card to Alumnae Continuing Education, P.O. Box 2789, Glenview, IL 60025.
Applicable Fees and Withdrawal Schedule:
If the withdrawal request is received prior to the first class, the refund of the original registration will be initiated only after the registrant purchases a $10.00 cancellation processing fee.
If the withdrawal request is received after the first class, but before the second class, the refund of the the original registration will be initiated only after the registrant purchases both the $10.00 cancellation processing fee and the $30.00 per diem fee, per course dropped.
If the withdrawal request is received after the second class, but before the third class, the refund of the original registration will be initiated only after the registrant purchases the $10.00 cancellation processing fee and $60.00 in per diem fees, per course dropped.
- No refunds will be given after the second class.
- Credits are not given for future classes.
- A transfer at no cost to another class offered during the same quarter is an option provided there is space available.