King's College History Department

CORE 130
American Civilization
Syllabus Topics

FALL 1998

Dr. Curran
Hafey-Marian 308
Tel: (717) 208-5900, ext. # 5749

COURSE TOPICS and pages to be read in textbook

I. Backdrop of Discovery and Colonization 1-58

A. Pre-Columbian Discoverers - Columbus was a Johnny-come-lately.

B. Amerindians decimated by the white man's microparisites, smallpox, measles, malaria, yellow fever, dysentery, plague, venereal disease, tuberculosis, typhoid, typhus, etc.

Factor of the order of magnitude.

C. Impulses to Colonization - Importance of science and technology - then and now.

D. Christopher Columbus - A maker of history or genocidal monster?

E. Colonizations - English, French, Spanish. Distinctive difference of English system.


Recommended Reading: Alfred W. Crosby, Jr., The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492.

II. English Plantations - Importance of natural ecosystems which directed and determined the nature of human institutions. 58-114

A. The Experience of Virginia. Finding a money crop.

B. The Puritans and their Commonwealth - Obligation to exploit and to conquer nature.

in the pursuit of the Gospel of Wealth. To become rich becomes God's command.

C. Pennsylvania: Penn's Noble Experiment. Humanitarianism and democracy.


Recommended Reading: Jack P. Greene, Pursuits of Happiness: The Social Development of Early Modern British Colonies and the Formation of American Culture.

III. American Thought and Culture 134-48

A. The Enlightenment; Reason Replaces Faith.

B. The Great Awakening - Contribution to Democracy.

C. Political Theory and Colonial Government - Dimensions.

D. A New Man, The Americans, Conscious of their Uniqueness and Rights, but not their obligations. Did economics determine their decisions?


Recommended Reading: Daniel Boorstine, The Americans: The Colonial Experience


IV. The American Revolution 155-230

A. 1763: A Turning Point - Does America Need Great Britain?

B. The Onset of Colonial Protest. Why? Roles of Ideology and Economic Grievances.

C. The Declaration of Independence. Why? It's Enduring Value for Mankind.

D. Military Victory: Roles of Conventional and Guerrilla War. Importance of sacrifice.

E. Treaty of Paris, 1783. Generous terms. Why?


Recommended Reading: Robert Middlekauf: The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1783.

V. Forming a New Nation 231-43

A. Unsolved Problems Under the Articles of Confederation.

B. Framing and Ratification of the Constitution - Factors Responsible for Adoption.

C. Meaning of the Constitution: an Economic Interpretation of Charles A. Beard's, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution.


Recommended Reading: Gordon S. Wood, The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787.

VI. The Young Nation: From Washington to Polk, 1789-1844 282-310; 366-92

A. The Federalist Contribution - Establishment of Precedents.

B. Formation of Political Parties: Their Importance to America.

C. Jeffersonianism - His Legacy for America and for the World.

D. A Second War with Great Britain - Factors of Revenge and Emotion.

E. Jacksonian Democracy and the Age of the Common Man -- Popularization of Politics.


Recommended Reading: Edward Pessen, Jacksonian America: Society, Personality, and Politics,rev. ed.

VII. Antebellum Economic and Cultural Developments 312-39; 394-418

A. Transition to a Market Economy - "take-off" of Industrialization.

B. Role of Government - Instigator and Director.

C. Roles of the Transportation and Communications Revolutions.

D. Place of Science and Technology - Without It, No Industrialization.

E. Effect on American Life and Culture - Undermines Position of Women.

F. Reform Movements.


Recommended Reading: Douglass C. North, Economic Growth of the United States, 1790-1860.

VIII. Slavery and Southern Culture 355-65

A. The Slave's World: Statistics and History. The Numbers Game. Quantitative Reasoning.

B. Southern Society - Domination by the Planter - An Authoritarian Society.

C. Ideology for the Existence of Slavery - Strong Over the Weak Hierarchial Domination. Importance of Economic Factor.


Recommended Reading: Robert Fogel, Without Consent or Contract. The Rise and Fall of American Slavery.

IX. Reform, Politics, and Expansionism, 1844-60 420-80

A. Manifest Destiny: Urge to Expand

1. Meaning of phrase

2. Importance in 1844 election.

Relationship to China and opening of trade


B. War with Mexico. Why?


1. Texas annexation

a. History of Texas, 1821-1845

b. Myth of the Alamo

2. Polk and the Slidell Mission

Failure. Polk decides for war

3. Consequences

a. Wilmot Proviso

b. Violent Decade, 1850's

1. Compromise of 1850

2. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin

3. Kansas-Nebraska Acts - Incendiary legislation

4. Formation of Republican Party

5. Know Nothing Movement. Why?

6. "Bleeding Kansas" -- Why?

7. Election of James Buchanan -- "A Doughface" --

Weak and indecisive President

8. Dred Scott Decision -- Impact on the nation

9. Panic of 1857 -- contribution to idea of secession

10. John Brown's Raid. Rage and dread in the South

11. Election of the "Black Republican" -- Abraham Lincoln

Recommended Reading: James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era.

X. Shattering the Union: The Madness of Civil War (1860-65) 482-557

A. The Sources of conflict -- two separate nations. Centralization v. Decentralization.

B. The South secedes and war erupts. Distortions present. Bankruptcy of decision making

C. Role of Abraham Lincoln in the Victory - The Indispensable Man - A Major Figure in World History. Why?

D. Why the North Won - Power.

E. What Did It Win? - Nothing! Tragedy of War.


Recommended Reading: James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom.

XI. Emergence of Modern America, 1865-1915 626-91

A. Triumph of Industrialism. Why? Economic Incentives.

B. Development of the West - Lure of the Last Frontier.

C. Urbanization - What it Meant.

D. Immigration - "Open Door" or "Keep em Out".

E. Politics: Growth of Reform - The Progressive Movement - Much Movement but Little Change.


Recommended Reading: Thomas C. Cochran and William Miller, The Age of the Economic


XII. America's Quest for Empire 1865-1914 694-719

A. Spanish-American War: Causes and Consequences - "War with Japan, 1941".

B. "Big Stick Diplomacy" "I Took Panama". "So What?"

C. Dollar Diplomacy in Central America. Creation of Sphere of Influence.


Recommended Reading: William A. Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy.

Last Revision: 1998 March 24