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Unit information: History of the USA Before 1865 in 2015/16

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Unit name History of the USA Before 1865
Unit code MODL23009
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Brian Miller
Open unit status Open




School/department School of Modern Languages
Faculty Faculty of Arts


An introduction to the recent history of the United States, for non-specialist students.


  • To introduce students to a significant body of knowledge of a complexity appropriate to second year level. The content matter will normally include one or more of the following: literature; social, cultural or political history; linguistics; cultural studies; film, television or other media.
  • To facilitate students’ engagement with a body of literature, including secondary literature, texts, including in non-print media, primary sources and ideas as a basis for their own analysis and development. Normally many or most of these sources will be in a language other than English and will enhance the development of their linguistic skills.
  • To develop further skills of synthesis, analysis and independent research, building on the skills acquired in units at level C.
  • Some options may prepare students for the experience of the Year Abroad.

Intended learning outcomes

This 10-week weekly unit covers American history from Native American and early colonial times c. 17th century to the end of the American Civil War 1861-65. The range of lectures is as follows:

  • History and destiny of the Indians of North America
  • Colonial British America and origins of the Revolution
  • American Revolution or War of Independence 1775-1783
  • Foundation of the American republic: US Constitution past & present
  • Three Founding Fathers: Jefferson, Hamilton and Madison
  • The Age of Andrew Jackson and Jacksonian democracy 1828-48
  • Foreign relations of the young republic: 1775-1865
  • Nature of slavery and the coming of the American Civil War 1850-60
  • Lincoln and the American Civil War 1861-65 (two lectures)

Teaching details

Normally one lecture hour and one seminar hour per week across one teaching block (22 contact hours), often with student presentations. In units with a smaller number of students the lecture hour may be replaced by a second seminar or a workshop. Units involving film may require students to view films outside the timetabled contact hours.

Assessment Details

4000 word essay 85%, class test 15%

Reading and References

Preliminary reading:

Bailyn, Bernard: The GreatRepublic

Boyer, Paul: The Enduring Vision

Brogan, Hugh: Penguin History of the United States of America

Deloria, Philip: This Land vol. I