Instructor: Stuart MacKay

Introduction: In 1776, the United States of America was a loosely collected group of disparate colonies containing two million monarchical subjects, who were attempting to overthrow the colonial rule of a European superpower in order to establish republican self-government.  Less than a hundred years later, the Unites States had seen its politics, economy, and society transformed by revolutionary changes in their own right. Most importantly, these transformations resulted in a devastating civil war that tore the nation asunder and ended the enslavement of almost 4 million African Americans. This course covers the main themes and events of American history from the colonial era to the end of the Civil War. Offering a broad chronological and thematic account of American history, this course will grapple with the questions, problems, and conflicts that engaged Americans during this period, such as: Why did Africans and Europeans come to the Americas? What did these different peoples think of one another, and how did those opinions affect their relations? How and when did Europeans establish power over the other two groups, and what did they do with that power? Why did British colonists separate from Britain, and how did that action affect power dynamics on the continent? What kind of nation did the rebels form, and what were their definitions of freedom? Whom did they include, and whom did they leave out? Why did the United States expand in the nineteenth century, and at whose expense? Why did the nation break apart? How would choices made before 1865 affect the future? And finally, how are Americans still dealing with these effects today?

Class Format: We will be meeting twice a week: for a two-hour lecture and for a weekly discussion group. These discussion groups will be an opportunity to engage with issues and topics in a small group setting facilitated by a teaching assistant.

Course Aims: You will leave this course with an understanding of the major events, themes, ideas, and questions from the time of the early European settlements in North America to the end of the American Civil War in 1865. You will also increase your appreciation for complexities of historical development in the history of the United States. As well, you will be able to analyze and assess historical documents pertaining to American history, improving your ability to critically understand historical sources. Finally, you should be able to communicate the results of historical thinking and research through your written assignments.

Assessment: discussion group participation and attendance; primary source document analysis; final examination.

Text: To be determined.

Questions? Please email me at