HSTY 111 U.S. History to Reconstruction (Fall 2019)

Declaration of Independence, Dunlap broadsideThis course surveys American history from the pre-Columbian era to the end of Reconstruction. It will cover a broad range of topics in the political, social, and cultural development of the North American colonies and the United States, including: the exploration and settlement of North America by Europeans and their interactions with native peoples; the political development of the colonies and the early United States; the development of the American economy; and major social and cultural trends. In particular, the course will center on four key thematic questions:

  1. What did the Pilgrims and Puritans want to accomplish in North America? Did they succeed?
  2. How did European colonies in the Americas develop an economy with race-based slavery at its core?
  3. Why did the United States declare independence? What did independence mean to Americans?
  4. Why did Southern states secede to protect slavery after the election of 1860? Why didn’t Northern states let them go?

In the process of exploring these questions, the course will introduce students to the craft of the historian, the variety of skills that historians bring to bear on evidence, and the range of evidence available about early America. These skills include reading and analyzing texts, images, and materials from the past, evaluating quantitative data, and interpreting other historians’ arguments. Students will have ample opportunity to practice these skills through in-class discussions and analyses as well as several written assignments.

Course Objectives

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • Integrate important developments in American society and culture into a broad historical narrative.
  • Demonstrate the ability to reason through analysis and synthesis of various types of historical evidence.
  • Demonstrate the ability to communicate in writing an understanding of historical knowledge and reasoning.

General Education

The course fulfills the general education requirement for Domain III-A, Perspectives on the Past. It meets the following general education learning objectives:

  • Solve Problems Using Critical Thinking
  • Communicate Effectively in Writing
  • Demonstrate Civic Literacy

Course Schedule


General Policies

Contact Prof. Adelman

Catalog Information

A political, economic, social, and cultural survey of American history from the Age of Discovery to Reconstruction. The course examines the development of the United States within a global context and covers the movement of the colonies toward revolution and independence, the formulation of the Constitution, and the conflict between nationalism and sectionalism culminating in the Civil War and Reconstruction. Note: This course fulfills the State law requiring study of the United States and Massachusetts constitutions.