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Unit information: The American Civil War (Level C Special Topic) in 2017/18

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Unit name The American Civil War (Level C Special Topic)
Unit code HIST14015
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Ms. Tricha Passes
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Between 1861 and 1865, 800,000 Americans lost their lives in the futile struggle of the southern Confederacy to extricate itself from the Federal Union. The conflict brought into being a powerful central state, spurred technological advancements that heralded the advent of modern warfare, and destroyed the three-hundred year old institution of plantation slavery. It is not surprising then that many historians have termed it America's second revolution. This course will explore why a seemingly self-confident and expansionist nation split in two in 1861. We will consider how the North eventually triumphed, assessing the merits of the various military, political, and economic explanations. And we will look at the role slaves played in the conflict. Over the final weeks the class will turn to the aftermath of the Confederacy's surrender. Did the cessation of formal hostilities mean an end to the fighting? On what terms would the South be admitted back into the Union? And what would be the social and political status of blacks in the 'reconstructed' states? Finally we will move forward to the modern era: why does the conflict matter so much to Americans today?

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit students should have:

  • identified, analysed, and deepened their understanding of the significance of key themes
  • understood the historiographical debates that surround the topic
  • learned how to work with primary sources
  • developed their skills in contributing to and learning from discussion in a small-group environment

Teaching Information

10 x 2- hour seminars

Assessment Information

1 x 2-hour exam

Reading and References

Recommended reading:

  • Foner, Eric, A Short History of Reconstruction, (New York, 1990)
  • Foner, Eric, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men, (Oxford, 1970)
  • Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War, (New York, 1998)
  • Levine, Bruce, Half Slave and Half Free, (New York, 2005)
  • McPherson, James, Ordeal by Fire, vol. 2, (New York, 1982)
  • McPherson, James, Battle Cry of Freedom, (Oxford, 2003)
  • Potter, David, The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861, (New York, 1975)
  • Tindall, George B., America: A Narrative History, (New York, 1985)