HIST 243 J (Spring 2012) – Syllabus

HISTORY 243 J 301 – Foundations of the United States

Lehman College – Spring 2012

Monday & Wednesday: 12:30 am – 1:45 pm

Carmen Hall Room 211

Professor: Roy R. Rogers




Office Hours– Room 292, Mondays, 11:00am – 12:15pm

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.

Learning Goals

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:

Alan Brinkley. The Unfinished Nation: A Concise History of the American People, Sixth Edition, Volume 1 (McGraw-Hill, 2009), ISBN: 0077286359 $69.00

Assignments & Grading

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 distributed in class or made available on the website) and be 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. This “discussion days” will count towards a significant percentage of your class participation grade.

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 no more than 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?
  • What is your opinion of the book? Did you like it? Did you hate it?

A specific guide to writing these book reviews will be distributed in class, and available on the course website, 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 and made available on the course website.

Extra Credit
Extra credit assignments will be given for the mid-term and the final examination. These assignments will provide up to two additional points on the exams. Details of the assignments will be handed out one to two weeks before the exam.

Occasionally (and at the instructor’s discretion) other 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.

Classroom Policies

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 hardcopy by the beginning of the class period on the date in which it is due (see schedule, below). Assignments will NOT be accepted via e-mail, except in cases of emergency – in which students cannot make it class. 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.
  • Students with family, work, legal, or financial issues that may effect their attendance or class performance should come speak to the instructor as soon as possible, to see if arrangements can be made.
  • Drinking beverages is welcome in class, but please no eating.
  • Students are welcome, and should, to come to the posted office hours to discuss any class-related questions and concerns. Students are also welcome to come to the posted office hours to discuss other history related questions or the latest episode of Parks & Rec, or how excited they are for Grand Theft Auto 5. Things like that.

Class Schedule

JANUARY 30: Introduction

FEBRUARY 1: Prologue – The Americas Before 1492

FEBRUARY 6: Prologue – Europe Before 1492

FEBRUARY 8: The Columbian Exchange


FEBRUARY 15: European Expansion in the Americas – Spanish & French Empires


FEBRUARY 21: England in the Americas – Jamestown & New England

FEBRUARY 22: New World Slavery

FEBRUARY 27: England in the Americas – “Middle” Colonies

FEBRUARY 29: Discussion Day – Carol Berkin’s First Generations (BOOK REVIEW DUE)

MARCH 5: Maturation of Colonial Society – Becoming British, Becoming American

MARCH 7: Imperial Conflict & Crisis

MARCH 12: Warring for Liberties

MARCH 14: Contesting the Meaning of the Revolution


MARCH 21: The Constitution

MARCH 26: Race & Slavery in the New Nation

MARCH 28: Political Change in the New Nation

APRIL 2: The Antebellum Spiritual Hothouse

APRIL 4: Economic and Cultural Revolution in the New Nation



APRIL 16: Discussion Paul Johnson & Sean Wilentz’s The Kingdom of Matthias (BOOK REVIEW DUE)

APRIL 18: Jacksonianism and its Discontents

APRIL 23: The Empire of Liberty

APRIL 25: Sectionalism – The Old Souths

APRIL 30: Sectionalism – The Free Norths

MAY 2: The Struggle Over Slavery

MAY 7: Fall of the Political Order – Compromise & Secession in the 1850s

MAY 9: Discussion: James Oakes’ The Radical and the Republican (BOOK REVIEW DUE)

MAY 14: Civil War & Emancipation

FINAL EXAM DAY: Monday, May 21st – 1:30pm – 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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