Contesting the American Past: A survey of historical discourse from the Revolution to the present

History 103D.001

Fall 2017
3205 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
F 10-12
Class Number: 

As I write this, Confederate monuments in New Orleans are being removed by municipal workers, exciting both celebration and protest. Throughout US history, the past has never been inert. It is continuously examined, contested, manipulated, and refashioned. It is used to argue both where the nation stands and where it should go. Over time, different versions rise, conflict, and subside. This course traces the major attempts to promote and suppress versions of the national past, ranging from the American Revolution to our moment. Some of the topics addressed include debates about European colonialism in the Americas; national exceptionalism; the place of American Indians in the national story; the construction of antebellum sectional identities; the legacy of slavery and the Confederacy; the nature of the American Revolution, and the merits of the post-WWII international system. In addition to recent historiography, it draws on an array of primary sources: histories, biographies, plays, poetry, and novels, schoolbooks and films, which we will use to study the contingency and stakes of recounting the past."