Course: History of the American People to 1877

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Syllabus – HIST 2003

Course: History of the American People to 1877

Instructor: Prof. April Brown

Office: BH 2007

Office hours: Mon. & Wed. 10:00-11:00; 12:00-3:00

TTh. 1:00-1:30

Fri. 10:00-11:00



Phone: 619-2231, or 1-800-995-6922
Text and supplies: Alan Brinkley, The Unfinished Nation, Vol. I: A Concise History of the American People, 4th ed. Students are also required to use a bluebook or paper and a scantron for each exam.

Course Goals

Description: This is an introductory history class that explores United States history from the origins of the colonies to the Civil War and Reconstruction. This survey encompasses the constitutional, political, social and economic development of the United States.

Methods of Instruction: The student will be tested on his/her knowledge of information made available through the text, additional readings, class lecture, and the occasional film shown in class. Tape recorders are permitted.

Rationale: As America continues its unparalleled growth, our multicultural society appears ever more diverse. There is, however, a common thread uniting each of us – our collective past. United States history is the link to our uniqueness as a society. The United States History course is an overview of that commonality.

For purposes of this course, it is more important that the student grasp significant themes and issues in American history, than to memorize dates. The study of history is much more than a series of famous people and dates; history is as diverse and complex as the institutions, groups and individuals that have shaped it. Understanding the past helps us to put into context present-day occurrences. Therefore, the goal of this course is for the student to acquire an historical framework through which he/she can better understand the present and anticipate the future.

Objectives: By completing this course, the student will:

1. Understand that United States history is the one common thread that binds us all together as citizens and residents of the United States, and through these objectives students will become more informed citizens, better able to relate their knowledge of United States history to issues concerning us all.

2. Further develop the skills of critical thinking (analysis, synthesis, evaluation) communication (listening, reading, writing, speaking), and lifelong learning (curiosity, initiative, openness, research).

3. Recognize the names of significant Americans and their contributions to the development of United States history and evaluate the more significant events as to their impact on the direction of United States history.

Evaluation Criteria


Attendance is highly recommended and periodic attendance checks will be taken in class. Information in lectures frequently transcends the information presented in the text, so simply reading the textbook and showing up for tests is not enough for a good grade. Likewise, students must be present to take part in and benefit from class discussions, which facilitates the learning experience. In most instances, these discussions will determine the types of questions that will be asked on exams.


Keep in mind that a grade is a measure of performance. It is neither a reward for effort nor a commodity that has been purchased by tuition. Class attendance and participation by the student will be taken into account in determining the final grade.

Grading scale:

90 - 100% = A Exams 300 points (3 - 100 pts. ea.)

80 - 89% = B Final Exam (Comprehensive) – 100 points

70 - 79% = C Quizzes 100 points (variable, 10-20 pts. ea.)

60 - 69 % = D

below 59% = F


Exams will cover each student’s comprehension of topics presented in lecture, class discussions, information from the text, additional readings and films. The exams will consist of answering 20 multiple-choice questions (2 pts. ea.), and 2 essay questions (30 pts. ea.). The final will be comprehensive, but in open-book format. It will consist solely of multiple choice and/or short answer questions. A study guide will also be passed out for the final.


Various quizzes will be given throughout the semester to encourage weekly studying and reward students who attend class and are prepared. The quizzes most frequently will cover material found in additional reading assignments, but may also contain information that was covered in the previous class session.

Makeup Exams:

Students are encouraged to take exams when they are scheduled. However, if circumstances arise in which you cannot take a regularly scheduled exam (excluding the final), you may be allowed to take a makeup. If you miss an exam or know beforehand that you have a conflict with a scheduled exam, you must first notify the instructor, and then you must take the exam at the Testing Center. See the Testing Center for hours. Makeup exams will cover the same basic material as the regular exam, but will be made up of 25 multiple-choice questions only. All makeup exams must be taken no later than the last day of class. It is the sole responsibility of the student to arrange the makeup with the instructor and take the exam by the deadline. Exams arranged or taken after that date will not be accepted. Please note that the final exam is taken at the end of the semester, so there are no makeups for the final exam.

Optional assignments:

Each student has the option of writing a 3 page book review or historical film review. The review score will replace the lowest regular exam test score – not the quiz grade, nor the final exam. The review is not an exam replacement. Students must take all exams. The review is due no later than December 2nd. Students are encouraged to write their review early, then discuss the rough draft with the Instructor during office hours. In addition to serving as a “do-over” for a poor grade, the purpose of both reviews is to allow the student to probe deeper into an historical topic of interest, while also gaining analytical skills by critiquing the work.

Book Review:

A list of books and guidelines are available on the class website. Students are strongly encouraged to choose a book from the list. Those books are listed specifically because of their appropriateness, scholarly contribution and readability. However, it is anticipated that new arrivals to the NWACC library that are similarly appropriate for this review may not be on the list. Only non-fiction books are acceptable. The review must adhere to the provided guidelines, which are also available online. Failure to comply with the guidelines will result in significant point reductions.

Historical film review:

A list of acceptable movies and suggested accompanying articles will be provided by request. The film review consists of critiquing an agreed-upon, historically based film over the accuracy of its portrayal of history. In addition to watching the film, the student must also consult at least two historical works on life during the era or subject matter portrayed in the film. The film and historical sources, which most likely will be books or journal articles, must be approved by the professor.

Classroom conduct/etiquette:

It should be understood that students should conduct themselves in the classroom in a respectful manner toward the instructor and their fellow students. The professor reserves the right to ask any student or students to leave the classroom if their behavior is disruptive.

Cheating will not be tolerated. If a student is caught cheating on an exam or plagiarizing a review, the student will receive an “F” for the assignment. Students may also be subject to further disciplinary action, such as expulsion from the class or the college.

ADA Statement:

If any member of the class has a documented disability and needs special accommodations, the professor will work with the student and Administration to ensure the student a fair opportunity to perform in this class.

Grievance Procedure:

The Social Sciences department follows our NWACC Student Handbook regarding proper steps to be taken should a grievance occur between fellow students, or the student and the instructor. The first step in any grievance is to bring the complaint to the attention of the instructor. If the issue is not satisfactorily resolved, the student (and/or instructor) then contacts Professor Judy Tobler, who is the chair for the Social & Behavioral Sciences Department.

Cancelled Classes:

If the college is closed due to severe weather, this class will not meet. The student hotline is 619-4377. If it is necessary for the instructor to cancel class for any reason, every effort will be made to send an email to all students with notification. A sign will be placed on the door announcing that class has been cancelled.

Course Outline/Schedule
Section I – Colonization and Conflict, 1492-1763

Textbook readings: Brinkley, Ch. 1-3, 4 (through p. 97)

Additional readings: Edmund Morgan, “The Jamestown Fiasco,” from American Slavery, American Freedom; Jane Landers, “Slavery in the Lower South,” from OAH Magazine (April, 2003) [Slavery]; Note: all additional readings may be found on the class website

Topics: the Columbian Exchange; European colonial systems and the clash of cultures; the Spanish & French in the New World; the British in North America; Stockholders, Pilgrims and Puritans: the first British colonies in N. America; Colonial Slavery; Life in colonial America; Commerce and Empire; Colonial Warfare; French & Indian War

Film excerpts: Elizabeth, 500 Nations

Section II – The Revolutionary Era, 1763-1800

Textbook readings: Brinkley, Ch. 4-6 and The Constitution of the United States (in the Appendix in Brinkley)

Additional readings: Revolutionary America Documents; The Bill of Rights; Evan Thomas, “Founders Chic” from Newsweek (July 9, 2001); Joanne B. Freeman, “Dueling as Politics: Reinterpreting the Burr-Hamilton Duel” from The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 53, Iss. 2, (April, 1996) [The Duel]

Topics: From loyal Englishmen to Revolutionaries: the Transformation of the American patriot; Revolutionary rhetoric; the American Revolutionary War; the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution; Federalism and Republicanism; Emerging Political Party System; Dueling as Politics

Film excerpts: Last of the Mohicans, Liberty

Section III – From “Good Feelings” to Civil War, 1800-1877

Readings: Brinkley, Ch. 7-9, 10 (parts), 11-14

Additional Readings: Gerald F. Kreyche, “Lewis and Clark” USA Today Magazine, (Jan., 1998); Elliott West, “Family Life on the Trail West,” History Today (Dec., 1992) [Westward Expansion]

Topics: the “Revolution of 1800”; Jeffersonian Democracy; Lewis & Clark; Jefferson and the Native Americans; European entanglements; Sectionalism; Era of Good Feelings; Age of Jackson; the Market Economy; Revival and Reform; Westward Ho! – the West in American imagination and exploitation; Texas and the war with Mexico; Slavery, Sectionalism and the coming of the Civil War; the failure of Reconstruction

Film excerpts: Journey of Lewis and Clark; Amistad

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