Fall 2015   HST201

Colonial Era to 1840

Prof. Catherine McNeur


Course Overview

This course explores the varying experiences of American peoples, native and immigrant, rich and poor, male and female, enslaved and free. It covers the major events of the era through its environmental, cultural, social, economic, and political changes, from the colonial era through the early republic (1840). Topics will range from colonial livestock and native disputes to dueling and concerns over damnation. Get ready to learn to think like a historian, tear into historians’ arguments about the past, and consider how we continue to use these histories to understand and shape the present.


All readings are free and available online. Links are below and on D2L.

The optional textbook and required primary sources are from American Yawp, available at http://www.americanyawp.com/


Participation & Attendance                25%

Midterm Examination                         25%

Essay                                                    25%

Final Examination                               25%


Late Policy: Late papers lose 1/3 of a letter grade for every 24 hours they are late. For instance, an A- paper submitted the morning after the deadline will get a B+. I do not normally grant extensions unless they are requested well ahead of time.


Participation & Attendance: Your participation grade is based on your contributions to the discussion each week. Attendance in the class is mandatory.


Academic Honesty: There is zero tolerance for plagiarism and other breaches of academic honesty. If there is evidence that you have cheated, you will fail the assignment or exam.


Midterm and Final Exams: The exams will test your knowledge of the lectures, readings, and discussions through a combination of identifications and essays. You will receive a study guide the week before the exams.

Course Schedule

Week 1: The New Term, The New World

Monday, September 28                       Introduction/Native America

Wednesday, September 30                  Contact and Collisions

Friday, October 2                                Online discussion responses due by noon


Readings:           ☐ Virginia Anderson, “King Philip’s Herds: Indians, Colonists, and the Problem of Livestock in Early New England,” The William and Mary Quarterly 51.4 (Oct 1994): 601-624.

                        ☐ Primary Source: Thomas Morton reflects on Indians in New England

                        ☐ Primary Source: Richard Hakluyt makes the case for English colonization

                        ☐ Primary Source: Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca travels through North America

                        ☐ Primary Source: John Winthrop dreams of a city on a hill

                        ☐ Primary Source: A Gaspesian Indian defends his way of life

Optional:          American Yawp, “The New World” and “Colliding Cultures”


Week 2: The Cultures of Colonial North America

Monday, October 5                             Planting Colonies

Wednesday, October 7                        Servitude & Transatlantic Slavery

Friday, October 9                                Online discussion responses due by noon

Readings:           ☐ Wendy Warren, “’The Cause of Her Grief’: The Rape of a Slave in Early New England,” The Journal of American History 93.4 (Mar 2007): 1031-1049.

                        ☐ Primary Source: Olaudah Equiano describes the Middle Passage

                        ☐ Primary Source: Recruiting settlers to Carolina

                        ☐ Primary Source: A Letter from Carolina

                        ☐ Primary Source: Francis Daniel Pastorius describes his ocean voyage

                        ☐ Primary Source: Song about life in Virginia

Optional:          American Yawp, “British North America”


Week 3: From Empire to Independence

Monday, October 12                           Revivals & Consumer Revolutions

Wednesday, October 14                      Seven Year’s War

Friday, October 16                              Online discussion responses due by noon

Readings:           ☐ Elizabeth Fenn, “Biological Warfare in Eighteenth-Century North America: Beyond Jeffrey Amherst,” The Journal of American History 86.4 (Mar 2000): 1552-1580.

                        ☐ Primary Source: Jonathan Edwards revives Northampton, Massachusetts

☐ Primary Source: Eliza Lucas letters from South Carolina

☐ Primary Source: Seven Years War soldier diary

☐ Primary Source: Pontiac calls for war

☐ Primary Source: Alibamo, Choctaw leader, reflects on the English and French

Optional:          American Yawp, “Colonial Society”


Week 4: The American Revolution

Monday, October 19                           No class

Wednesday, October 21                      Tempest in a Teapot

Friday, October 23                              Online discussion responses due by noon

Readings:           ☐ Caitlin Fitz, “’Suspected on Both Sides’: Little Abraham, Iroquois Neutrality, and the American Revolution,” Journal of the Early Republic 28.3 (Fall 2008): 299-335.

                        ☐ Primary Source: Boston Tea-party

                        ☐ Primary Source: Declaration of Independence

                        ☐ Primary Source: Women in South Carolina experience British occupation

                        ☐ Primary Source: Abigail and John Adams converse on women’s rights

                        ☐ Primary Source: Thomas Paine calls for American independence

Optional:          American Yawp, “The American Revolution”


Week 5: The New Nation

Monday, October 26                           Midterm, in class

Wednesday, October 28                      Documentary: A Midwife’s Tale

Friday, October 30                              Online discussion responses due by noon

Readings:           ☐ Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, “Wheels, Looms, and the Gender Division of Labor in Eighteenth-Century New England,” The William and Mary Quarterly 55.1 (Jan 1998): 3-38.

                        ☐ Primary Source: Hector St. Jean de Crevecoeur describes the American people

                        ☐ Primary Source: Susannah Rowson, Charlotte Temple

                        ☐ Primary Source: Venture Smith buys his freedom

                        ☐ Primary Source: George Washington’s Farewell Address

                        ☐ Primary Source: James Madison protests public funding for Christianity

Optional:          American Yawp, “The New Nation”


Week 6: The Early Republic

Monday, November 2                          Founding a Nation

Wednesday, November 4                    Securing the Republic

Friday, November 6                             Online discussion responses due by noon

Readings:           ☐ Joanne B. Freeman, “Dueling as Politics: Reinterpreting the Burr-Hamilton Duel,” The William and Mary Quarterly 53.2 (Apr 1996): 289-318.

                        ☐ Primary Source: Cato’s Pennsylvania antislavery petition

                        ☐ Primary Source: Thomas Jefferson’s understanding of race

                        ☐ Primary Source: Tecumseh calls for pan-Indian unity

                        ☐ Primary Source: Debate over the War of 1812

                        ☐ Primary Source: Abigail Bailey defends her children from their abusive father

Optional:          American Yawp, “The Early Republic”


Week 7: Defining Democracy

Monday, November 9                          Jacksonian America

Wednesday, November 11                  No class (Veterans Day)

Friday, November 13                           Online discussion responses due by noon

Readings:           ☐ Alan Taylor, “’Wasty Ways’: Stories of American Settlement,” Environmental History 3.3 (Jul 1998): 291-310.

                        ☐ Primary Source: The Missouri Controversy

                        ☐ Primary Source: Rhode Islanders Protest Property Restrictions on Voting

                        ☐ Primary Source: Black Philadelphians defend their voting rights

                        ☐ Primary Source: Andrew Jackson Vetoes the National Bank Charter

                        ☐ Primary Source: Samuel Morse Fears a Catholic Conspiracy

Optional:          American Yawp, “Democracy in America”

Week 8: The Market Revolution

Monday, November 16                        Water and Power: The Industrial Revolution

Wednesday, November 18                  Cities, Painted Ladies, and Confidence Men

Friday, November 20                           Online discussion responses due by noon

Readings:           ☐ Rachel Hope Cleves, “Preface” and “Miss Bryant Was the Man,” Charity & Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America (Oxford Press, 2014), ix-xix, 131-141. [D2L]

                        ☐ Primary Source: James Madison asks congress to support internal improvements

                        ☐ Primary Source: A traveler describes life on the Erie Canal

                        ☐ Primary Source: Blacksmith apprentice contract

                        ☐ Primary Source: Harriet Robinson describes a strike in Lowell, MA

                        ☐ Primary Source: Alexis de Tocqueville on gender equality

Optional:          American Yawp, “The Market Revolution”


Essay due Sunday, November 22nd at 11:59pm. See prompt below.

Week 9: Religion & Reform

Monday, November 23                        The Second Great Awakening

Wednesday, November 25                  Teetotalers, Vegetarians, Abolitionists, and Reform

Friday, November 27                           Thanksgiving Break

Optional:          American Yawp,  “Religion and Reform”


Week 10: The Old South

Monday, November 30                        King Cotton

Wednesday, December 2                     Panic

Friday, December 4                             Online discussion responses due by noon

Readings:           ☐ Walter Johnson, “Reading Bodies and Marking Race,” Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market (Harvard Press, 1999), 135-161. [D2L]

                        ☐ Primary Source: Nat Turner explains his rebellion

                        ☐ Primary Source: Harriet Jacobs on rape and slavery

                        ☐ Primary Source: Solomon Northrup describes a slave market

                        ☐ Primary Source: George Fitzhugh argues that slavery is superior to liberty and equality

                        ☐ Primary Source: Sermon on the duties of a Christian woman

Optional:          American Yawp, “The Old South”


Thursday, December 10, 12:30-2:20pm: Final Exam





Due: Sunday, November 22nd, 11:59pm


For your second essay, read a selection from Lydia Sigourney’s Letters to Mothers, a best-selling childrearing guide, first published in 1838.  Sigourney’s book is not just about babies, it’s about how to create a stronger nation, how to define ideal parenthood, how to deal with death, among other topics.  Consider what the book reveals about American culture in the 1830s, about Sigourney’s and other parents’ concerns during that period, and how Sigourney defined what it meant to be American in the process.  Who constitutes the intended audience for this book?  Who is she not writing for? Did anything surprise in the book?


The book is available in multiple locations online including archive.org and

Google Books:


Choose one of the topics from the list below and read the appropriate chapters:


·      Raising Citizens: “Lesson 4: First Lessons,” “Letter 16: Hospitality,” “Letter 12: Schools”

·      Early Childhood Education: “Letter 9: Early Culture,” “Letter 10: Domestic Education,” “Letter 11: Idiom of Character,” “Letter 12: Schools”

·      Wealth and Social Class: “Letter 8: Economy,” “Letter 15: Opinion of Wealth,” “Letter 16: Hospitality”

·      Women’s Role in Society: “Letter 1: Privileges of the Mother,” “Letter 5: Maternal Love,” “Letter 8: Economy,” “Letter 18: Happiness”

·      Religion: “Letter 3: Infancy,” “Letter 6: Habit,” “Letter 9: Early Culture,” “Letter 11: Idiom of Character”

·      Mortality: “Letter 20: Loss of Children,” “Letter 21: Sickness and Decline,” “Letter 22: Death”


Feel free to browse through the entire book, add in other chapters that are relevant, or choose a different theme to explore (though, please touch base with me if you do that).


The essay should be roughly 1000-1250 words in length (4-5pages).  Post your essay to the dropbox on D2L by 11/22, 11:59pm.