HIST 243 I (Fall 2011) – Syllabus

HISTORY 243 I 301 – Foundations of the United States

Lehman College – Fall 2011

Monday & Wednesday: 11:00 am – 12:15 pm

Professor: Roy R. Rogers



Office Hours – Wednesdays: 10:00 am – 11 am & 1:45 pm – 2:15 pm

What does it mean to be an “American”? What was the “intent” of the Founders? Was America founded as a “Christian Nation”? What do past injustices in American society mean for Americans today? These are common but complex questions that shape our political dialogue. This course – by examining the historical origins of the United States – will get you thinking about these challenging issues. Starting with the first encounters between Native Americans and European empires and concluding with the American Civil War, this course will provide you with the historical grounding necessary to be an informed citizen in America today.


By the end of this course every student should:

• Have a basic understanding of the modern historical narratives of American history between 1492 and 1865.

• Begin to think and write critically about historical writing and scholarly work.


All of the following texts are REQUIRED:

1. Carol Berkin. First Generations: Women in Colonial America (New York, Hill and Wang, 1997) ISBN: 0809016060 $16.00

2. Paul E. Johnson & Sean Wilentz. The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th Century America (New York, Oxford University Press, 1994) ISBN: 9780195098358 $19.99

3. James Oakes. The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics (New York, W.W. Norton, 2007) ISBN: 9780393330656 $17.95

The following text is RECOMMENDED for students looking for additional aid in studying:

Eric Foner. Give Me Liberty!: An American History, Third Seagull Edition, Volume 1 (New York, W.W. Norton & Company, 2011), ISBN: 0393911896 $62.50


Your final grade will be calculated from the following breakdown:

• 20% – Book Review 1

• 20% – Book Review 2

• 25% – Mid-term Exam

• 25% – Final Exam

• 10% – Class Participation

In Class Requirements

For each class meeting students will expected to have read any and all assigned material (such as primary source readings, which will be disturbed in class) and prepared to discuss them. Additionally, on three specific class meetings (see schedule, below), we will be discussing one of the other assigned books (either Berkin, Johnson & Wilentz, or Oakes). On those ‘discussion days’ students are expected to have fully read the assigned book and be prepared for discussion.

Book Reviews

Students are required to complete a book review of two of the three assigned books – James Oakes’ The Radical and the Republican, Carol Berkin’s First Generations, or Sean Wilentz and Paul Johnson’s The Kingdom of Matthias. Each review should be 2 – 3 pages, double spaced, 12-point Times New Roman or similar font with standard page margins. The book review is due at the beginning of the class meeting in which we are discussing the respective book.

Students will be expected to address the following in their papers:

• What is the book about?

• What is the author’s argument (thesis)?

• What sources does the author use?

• How does the author’s argument (thesis) address the themes we have discussed in class?

• Would you recommend the book to your friends or family?

An specific guide to writing these book reviews will be distributed in class about two weeks before the first book review is due.


Attendance is required for every class meeting. Attendance will be taken during each class meeting to ensure this. If a student needs to miss class the instructor must be notified in advance (in case of emergencies, before the following class meeting). To encourage attendance, students who miss no more than three (or fewer) classes will receive an additional five points on their final grade.


There will be midterm and a final examination. The midterm will cover material from the first half of the semester. The final will cover material from the second half of the semester. One week before each examination, a brief study guide will be handed out in class.

Extra Credit

Occasionally (and at the instructor’s discretion) assignments for extra credit will be made available. This will usually consist of attendance at, and brief reports on, lectures and other cultural events relating to American history.


In order to ensure that this class is a successful space for learning and critical dialogue, the following polices are in affect.

• Plagiarism and academic dishonesty will not be tolerated. Any assignment (even in part) found to be plagiarized will be marked as a failure (zero points). A second instance of plagiarism will result in automatic failure of the course. Please see your Student Handbook for a clear definition of the plagiarism and academic dishonesty.

• All work must be turned in to the instructor via e-mail or hardcopy by the beginning of the class period on the date in which it is due (see schedule, below). Any late work will lose 5 points for every calendar day in which it is late.

• Cell phone usage and texting is forbidden in the classroom. If a student must use their cell phone because of an emergency situation, please let the instructor know before the beginning of class.

• Laptop use is welcome, though only for class purposes or pursuits. Sadly, Facebooking is not a class pursuit.

• Sexist, racist, or homophobic comments will not be tolerated in the classroom.

• If you are registered with the Office of Student Disability, please have them contact the instructor so that arrangements can be made to accommodate your needs.

• Drinking beverages is welcome in class, but please no eating.



AUGUST 31: Introduction


SEPTEMBER 7: Prologue – The Americas Before 1492

SEPTEMBER 12: Prologue – Europe & Africa Before 1492

SEPTEMBER 14: First Encounters – The Columbian Exchange & the Conquistadors

SEPTEMBER 19: European Expansion in the Americas – Spanish & French Empires

SEPTEMBER 22: England in the Americas – Jamestown & New England

SEPTEMBER 26: New World Slavery


OCTOBER 3: Discussion: Carol Berkin’s, First Generations (BOOK REVIEW DUE)

OCTOBER 5: England in the Americas – The “Middle” Colonies


OCTOBER 12: Imperial Conflict & Crisis

OCTOBER 17: Warring for Liberties


OCTOBER 24: Contesting the Meaning of the Revolution

OCTOBER 26: The Constitution

OCTOBER 31: Race & Slavery in the New Nation

NOVEMBER 2: Political & Cultural Change in the New Nation

NOVEMBER 7: The Antebellum Spiritual Hothouse

NOVEMBER 9: Discussion: Paul Johnson & Sean Wilentz, The Kingdom of Matthias (BOOK REVIEW DUE)

NOVEMBER 14: Economic Revolution in the New Nation – Market & Otherwise

NOVEMBER 16: Jacksonianism & its Discontents

NOVEMBER 21: The Empire of Liberty – Manifest Destiny & the Wars of Expansion

NOVEMBER 23: Sectionalism – The Old Souths

NOVEMBER 28: Sectionalism – The Free Norths

NOVEMBER 30: The Struggle Over Slavery

DECEMBER 5: Fall of the Political Order – Compromise & Secession in the 1850s

DECEMBER 7: Discussion: James Oakes, The Radical and the Republican (BOOK REVIEW DUE)

DECEMBER 12: Civil War & Emancipation

FINAL EXAM DAY: Monday, December 19th, 1:30pm to 3:30pm


Author: Roy Rogers

I am currently a PhD candidate in American History at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York (CUNY). My undergraduate education was at Shepherd University (Political Science & History) and I received an MA in History from George Mason University. As a historian, my research interests include early American history, the early American republic (1780 to 1830), political history, religious history, and gender history. I live in Brooklyn with my girlfriend and our cat.

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