The Mess in the Middle: Intersections of Law, Politics, and Society in American History

History 101

Fall 2014
Day & Time: 
MW 4-6P
There are many “types” of or “approaches” to history – cultural, social, legal, political, intellectual etc. – but some historians have chosen to examine the intersections of these “types” as their methodology.  For example, how do changing interpretations of law influence political debates or social orders?  In what ways do intellectual traditions shape social or political development?  What influence do military events have on popular culture?  The list goes on.  In this History 101, students are encouraged (but not limited) to think about disciplinary intersectionality as they conceive of their projects.  All topics and time periods of American history will be permitted, though proposed topics are subject to instructor review.
This course is designed to train undergraduate historians to be good researchers and writers.  Each student must produce an original essay based on primary research that is 30-50 pages in length.  The course is rigorous and intensive, and should be undertaken seriously. The first third of the class will be dedicated to framing questions and facilitating your research, while the remainder of the course will focus on writing and thoughtful revision.  Good writing is a process that takes time and careful consideration.  It requires close reading skills, the ability to analyze text, and the ability to draw persuasive conclusions based on primary sources you have gathered and synthesized, and above all, devising a strong and compelling argument.  The craft of writing – the use of language and presentation of evidence – also takes practice.  To these ends, we will work together on designing your project, identifying research questions, finding appropriate sources, honing your analytical skills, and drafting a well-written final paper.  This is an inherently individual endeavor, but there will be opportunities for collaboration.  I encourage you to think of me and your classmates as important resources who will support you and your work throughout the thesis writing process.  Even though we will not meet as a class every week, you are STRONGLY ENCOURAGED to meet with me regularly. When we convene as a class, you should be prepared to share your work in class, either in oral presentations or in writing workshops.  
Giuliana Perrone is a 7th year graduate student, specializing in US legal and political history.  Her dissertation, Litigating Emancipation: Reconstruction in Southern Courts 1865-1877, examines the role that Southern state courts played during the fraught Reconstruction period following the Civil War.  She refers to this as legal Reconstruction.  Specifically, she examines the ways in which courts shaped the meaning of emancipation and black freedom, considered slavery and slave law after the institution’s supposed end, and interpreted or altered new federal and state laws in important and influential ways.  She is generally interested in the role that institutions (slavery, legal orders, governments, etc.) play in American history, the development and practice of slavery, and the role of race in American politics.