Though the Civil War is often regarded as the Second American Revolution, as the decisive turning point in American history, many of the institutions, ideologies, and practices that make up modern society and culture in the U.S. emerged more gradually during the decades that preceded the War. To understand the origins of such contemporary phenomena as mass media, corporate capitalism, wage labor, the two-party system, the Bible Belt, family values, and racism, we need to trace their evolution in the nineteenth century. This course examines half a century of life in the United States (roughly from the end of the War of 1812 until the secession of the South), focusing on everyday life, popular culture, race relations, westward expansion, urbanization, class formation, religion, democratic political participation, sexuality, print culture, and competing claims to wealth and power. Assigned readings will consist largely of first-person narratives in which women and men of a range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds try to negotiate and interpret a period of bewildering social change. Course requirements include short papers, midterms, and a final exam. Students will also have the option of taking the course on writing-intensive basis.