This course, which I have taught six times as the instructor of record, is an introductory survey of American history through the Civil War.
The class covers a range of themes, including politics, economics, gender, family, war, and social movements. The dramatic rise of--and struggle to destroy--American slavery permeates each of these subjects. Because the class is an introductory history course, I spend a lot of time discussing the craft and methods of history. Students are encouraged to think about how top-level political and economic changes trickle into the lives of ordinary people in complex and contingent ways.
In this class--which ranges from 35 to 55 students--I intersperse short to medium-length lectures with guided group analyses of primary sources.
Over the course of the semester, students complete a research paper based on a fugitive slave narrative of their choosing. Students use evidence from the narrative to engage in a relevant, ongoing scholarly debate they were introduced to in class. In preparing the paper, students complete a series of "Scaffolding Assignments" that guide their exploration and analyses of primary and secondary sources as well as their construction of an argument and narrative. The project still gives them room to write the kind of history they would want to read in a way that suits their own creative process.