This course is designed to be an introduction to the Civil War and Reconstruction, roughly 1845- 1877. It is not intended to be a play-by-play military history; rather, taking our lead from current scholarship, we will holistically explore the cultural, social, economic, political, and, yes, military history of the Civil War era. (Well, as holistically as possible in an 18-day block!) Instead of centering our study on what is sometimes called the “high politics” of this period (think presidents, generals, politicians), we will attempt to focus our examination on the experiences of everyday people, beginning with the experiences of people who began this period enslaved, and whose resistance was central to their later emancipation. What was it like to live through the middle of the nineteenth century? How did these experiences vary based on region and identity? We’ll certainly look at the national and regional politics of the period—we’ll need that grounding to answer these questions—but the reading and writing we will do together will have a different emphasis. This block, we will pay particular attention to embodied experience—work, war, injury, death, love, intimacy, grief—as we grapple with what the Civil War meant for people in the past, and what it still means today. Our study does not stop at war’s end. In recent years, scholars have been focusing increasingly on Reconstruction – on both the opportunities for participation in public life that Radical Reconstruction offered African American communities after the war, and the growth of organized violence and domestic terrorism targeting Black people and their allies. What did these changes mean for individuals? For the nation? And how does public memory of the Civil War and of Reconstruction shape conversations about justice and equity in contemporary America? We’ll finish our block with a recent novel that grapples with the meaning of freedom and the legacies of slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. Together we’ll consider the ways in which we still live these histories—in our politics, in our popular culture, and in our personal lives.
HY231 Civil War and Reconstruction Fall 2018 Block 4 syllabus here.
Greenwood Cemetery Confederate memorial in New Orleans featuring busts of Johnson, Lee, Jackson, and Polk. Taken April 6, 2017.