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Mark Twain contended that history doesnt repeat itself, but it rhymes. Based on your study of American history from 1790-1900, what issues would you highlight to illustrate the rhymes between nineteenth-century developments and present concerns? What lessons would you draw from earlier episodes that could inform our discussion of contemporary matters? In making your case, you should draw supporting evidence from lectures, the textbook, and especially the primary sources found in Voices of Freedom.
Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty: An American History (Custom Brief Edition, Chapters 8-17,
Eric Foner, ed., Voices of Freedom (Chapters 8-17, Digital edition).
This course surveys the history of the United States and American peoples in the nineteenth century. For the American nation, the 1800s were years of spectacular expansion; for many of its peoples, the nineteenth century brought extraordinary economic improvement, unparalleled personal independence, and unprecedented political equality. National expansion, however, rested on the enslavement of millions and the conquest of numerous nations. Moreover, struggles over slavery and its spread culminated in a Civil War that threatened to permanently disunite the states. Even after the unity of the nation was restored, deep divisions remained between regions and peoples. And even as capitalist development accelerated, the benefits of economic development eluded the majority of men and women who found themselves trapped in one or another kind of dependence and deprived of the promise of equal rights.
History 13B, then, investigates the paradoxes of progress. Its focus is on how the territorial expansion, capitalist transformation, and political democratization of the United States reshaped the character of the nation and revolutionized the lives of American peoples. Lectures, readings, and discussions will emphasize how these processes were accomplished–and how they were contested.
As a General Education course, History 13B is also intended as an introduction to the art of historical interpretation. Consequently, the lectures and, especially the discussion sections will introduce students to the use of historical sources and to the nature of historical arguments and debates. Instead of emphasizing the passive consumption of history (the mere memorization of a set of facts and dates), this course requires students to act as historians (by reviewing sources and by constructing arguments based on evidence from them)