Antebellum America

History 122AC

Spring 2018
Section: 
1
Instructor: 
Location: 
2060 VLSB (Valley Life Sciences)
Day & Time: 
MWF 1-2
Class Number: 
32285
Units: 
4

This course examines the United States from roughly 1812 to 1860. Although historians have designated this period antebellum [‘before’ + ‘war’] in reference to the Civil War that began in 1861, war was by no means inevitable to people who lived in the United States in the preceding decades. The first half of the nineteenth century was indeed shaped enormously by slavery, but the daily lives of ordinary Americans were also affected by many institutions that, in contrast to slavery, feel profoundly modern: mass media, capitalism, work performed for wages, and the two-party political system. This class will explore the life, culture, economy, and politics of an era that saw the development of many of the characteristics we associate with modern living in the United States. We will examine race relations, popular culture, class formation, gender roles, urbanization, immigration, territorial expansion, democratic politics, religious experience, and popular science. Crucially, we will also probe the limits and fault lines of these national ideas and institutions, paying particular attention to the role of race, ethnicity, class, and region in shaping men and women’s opportunities and experiences. Assigned readings will be composed primarily of personal narratives written during the antebellum era.