HST6037: "A People's Conflict": The Union and the U.S. Civil War
15 credits (semester 2)
Module Leader: Dr. Andrew Heath
This module explores the revolutionary impact of the American Civil War on the society and culture of the nonslaveholding states that remained loyal to the Union in 1861. After an introductory session, each seminar will examine the jarring experience of the conflict for a different subset of the population: soldiers, politicians, women, and the African-Americans and Irish immigrants who generally occupied the bottom rung of the economic ladder. We will ask how Americans responded to demands for mobilisation and consider whether the conflict deserves to be called (as many historians have done) the first modern war.
This module will explore the upheavals of the American Civil War of 1861-1865 through focusing on the nonslaveholding states that remained in the Union. Each week you will undertake a structured programme of reading and discussion in order to consider how the challenge of mobilisation reshaped Northern society. After an introductory seminar each of the remaining sessions will engage with the historiography of a particular group – soldiers, politicians, women, and the urban poor – to explore the impact of the conflict on social, economic, and political relations.
Alongside secondary source reading and presentations you will be expected to critically analyse contemporary letters, diaries, and newspaper accounts to develop their skills in interpreting primary sources. You will be challenged to forge links between the reading for each seminar and develop an understanding of how northern society functioned over the war years as a whole. Participants will be urged to go beyond (for example) women's or African-American history and consider gender and race as dynamic relationships. In asking students to continually return to broad questions about the relationship between military and civilian spheres and historians' characterisation of the conflict as the first 'total war' the module will encourage comparative and methodological insights.
The module will be taught in five, two-hour classes. The first will provide a broad overview of the Civil War in the North, considering the merits of various historiographical approaches to the period. Subsequent classes will focus on a particular subgroup of the northern population, namely soldiers, politicians, women, and the African-American and Irish-American residents of major cities. Classes will enable you to research and present your ideas, share knowledge, debate controversial issues and listen and respond to the views of others in a structured environment. Students will, in addition, have individual tutorial contact with the module leader in order to discuss their written work for this module.
You will prepare a 3,000 word paper relating to at least one of the key themes of the module.
Intended Learning Outcomes