Instructor: Dr. Hal Goldman


The end of the American Civil War solved the question of slavery for good.  But now Americans had to rebuild their country and wrestle with a new series of questions.  Black Americans were free from bondage, but would they be admitted to full membership in American political and social life?  What about other people on the margins of American life—Indians and the millions of immigrants who would pour into the country after the Civil War?  What place would they inhabit in America?  At the same time, Americans had to adopt their political and cultural values to the enormous changes taking place in their society—the growing size and importance of their cities and industrialization which concentrated wealth and power in a new class of men who wielded it both to their own advantage as well as for the benefit of millions of ordinary people.

Americans would also be forced to engage the wider world.  In spite of George Washington’s warning to avoid foreign entanglements and James Monroe’s declaration that the US would stay out of European affairs, by the end of the nineteenth century the United States had simply become too powerful and too important to stay out of international politics. The twentieth century would see the US become a dominant player in international affairs, through two world wars, a fifty-year cold war with the Soviet Union, and then as the dominant military and economic player in a world shrinking under the effects of globalization.  Globalization promises both great opportunity to a nation well-positioned to benefit from it and also unprecedented vulnerability from threats both manmade and natural.  All the while, Americans continue to struggle with the fundamental tension in their society—enhancing individual liberty on the one hand while maintaining a sense of unity and national purpose across a huge, complex, and diverse nation on the other.  How would American political, economic, cultural, and social institutions weather these storms?

This course will primarily make use of lecture which will also incorporate student participation in examining a variety of primary sources.  In addition, students will write one short essay on an assigned outside reading, take several short quizzes and complete a brief end-of-term outside assignment. Attendance is mandatory and students will fail the course if they incur more than the maximum unexcused absences set forth in the syllabus (two out of thirteen classes). There are no examinations in this course.