Instructor: Dr. Jill St. Germain
From the assault on Fort Sumter in April 1861 to the Washington Treaty of 1871, the events of the American Civil War and its aftermath had a transformative impact on North America making the 1860s a turning point in continental history. The war that began in South Carolina in 1861 shook the still-youthful American republic to its foundations and threatened it with destruction. It also served as a catalyst to the union of the British North American colonies in a different type of political experiment – a federation – which became Canada. Intertwined with the stories of nations were the stories of peoples: Black Americans rising from slavery to freedom and Indigenous peoples facing encroachments on their sovereignty.
This course will examine North America in the 1860s through the lens of the American Civil war. We will look at how the United States tore itself apart and put itself back together again, and how Canada was affected by participation in and reaction to that conflict. We will also examine how Black and Indigenous peoples across North America dealt with the challenges of the 1860s in war and peace. We will examine: Confederates in Canada, the Trent controversy, the St. Alban’s raid, and the threat of an Anglo-American war; the Sioux massacre and the Riel resistance; the Fenian raids and the purchase of Alaska; how John A. Macdonald built one nation and Abraham Lincoln re-built another; the difference between emancipation and freedom for the liberated slaves, and the question of race relations in a post-slavery North America. Overall we will examine the 1860s as a North American experience, encompassing both the United States and Canada and the peoples within that circle.
Through the framework of the tumultuous 1860s we will highlight and develop the skills of critical reading and writing, research, and oral expression through conventional and creative assignments.