North American history from c. 1500 to 1865

Course Material 2021/22
American civil war letter

This paper covers the years between initial encounters between indigenous peoples and Europeans in North America, ca. 1500,  to the end of the U.S. Civil War in 1865.  The aim is to develop an understanding of key themes, events, and movements in American history. This paper concentrates on American beginnings, looking broadly at the diverse, violent, entangled, and enthralling worlds created by Native Americans, Europeans, and Africans in North America in the period.

The ramifications of choices made in this period— in terms of cultural contact, labour, slavery, race, gender, politics, sexuality, war, and religion—remain with us still.  The paper tracks regional development across a broad range of American colonies and states, settled by the British, the Spanish, and the French, in mainland America as well as the Caribbean.  The critical importance of Native Americans, Africans, and African-Americans also receives attention.  

The paper considers the origins, course, and outcomes of the American Revolution, as well as the ways in which all kinds of people influenced colonial, revolutionary, and national trajectories.  It also attends to specific moments of American confrontation and conflict, including its greatest such moment, the Civil War.  

Lectures include discussion both of historical developments and of larger historiographical debates in this field, as well as on primary sources generated by the American experience.

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Section notice

This material is intended for current students but will be interesting to prospective students. It is indicative only.