The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877 with Professor David Blight

This course explores the causes, course, and consequences of the American Civil War, from the 1840s to 1877. The primary goal of the course is to understand the multiple meanings of a transforming event in American history. Those meanings may be defined in many ways: national, sectional, racial, constitutional, individual, social, intellectual, or moral. Four broad themes are closely examined: the crisis of union and disunion in an expanding republic; slavery, race, and emancipation as national problem, personal experience, and social process; the experience of modern, total war for individuals and society; and the political and social challenges of Reconstruction.

  1. Introductions: Why Does the Civil War Era Have a Hold on American Historical Imagination?

  2. Southern Society: Slavery, King Cotton, and Antebellum America's "Peculiar" Region

  3. A Southern World View: the Old South and Proslavery Ideology

  4. A Northern World View: Yankee Society, Antislavery Ideology and the Abolition Movement

  5. Telling a Free Story: Fugitive Slaves and the Underground Railroad in Myth and Reality

  6. Expansion and Slavery: Legacies of the Mexican War and the Compromise of 1850

  7. "A Hell of a Storm": The Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Birth of the Republican Party, 1854-55

  8. Dred Scott, Bleeding Kansas, and the Impending Crisis of the Union, 1855-58

  9. John Brown's Holy War: Terrorist or Heroic Revolutionary?

  10. The Election of 1860 and the Secession Crisis

  11. Slavery and State Rights, Economies and Ways of Life: What Caused the Civil War?

  12. "And the War Came," 1861: The Sumter Crisis, Comparative Strategies

  13. Terrible Swift Sword: The Period of Confederate Ascendency, 1861-1862

  14. Never Call Retreat: Military and Political Turning Points in 1863

  15. Lincoln, Leadership, and Race: Emancipation as Policy

  16. Days of Jubilee: The Meanings of Emancipation and Total War

  17. Homefronts and Battlefronts: "Hard War" and the Social Impact of the Civil War

  18. "War So Terrible": Why the Union Won and the Confederacy Lost at Home and Abroad

  19. To Appomattox and Beyond: The End of the War and a Search for Meanings

  20. Wartime Reconstruction: Imagining the Aftermath and a Second American Republic

  21. Andrew Johnson and the Radicals: A Contest over the Meaning of Reconstruction

  22. Constitutional Crisis and Impeachment of a President

  23. Black Reconstruction in the South: The Freedpeople and the Economics of Land and Labor

  24. Retreat from Reconstruction: the Grant Era and Paths to "Southern Redemption"

  25. The "End" of Reconstruction: Disputed Election of 1876, and the "Compromise of 1877"

  26. Race and Reunion: the Civil War in American Memory

  27. Legacies of the Civil War