History 410 Unit 1

United States, Colonial Era to Civil War, Fall 2020

The Colonial Period

Intro | 1 | 2 | 3

1. Introduction: American History in Global Perspective

VIEW: Film, Human history in one short video

READ: Handouts: Excerpts from James C. Scott, Against the Grain: "A Narrative in Tatters"; and David Brooks, "The Great Affluence Fallacy"

In this first day of class we will try to learn each other's names, go over the syllabus, and try to place American history into a deep, global history of humanity.

2. Free "Barbarians" and Freeborn Englishmen

READ: Alan Taylor, American Colonies, x-xiii and 4-5; Handouts, Charles Mann, from 1491; Eric Foner, Story of American Freedom, 3-12; Handouts, John Winthrop, “Little Speech on Liberty”

Read documents in the order they are listed above.

Notes: Taylor explores the notion of “American exceptionalism.” What does he mean by the phrase? In your view, is the American story a “fundamentally happy” one? What is the distinction between civil liberty and political liberty? What is the connection between liberty and property? How does Winthrop define liberty? You can view some of John White's renderings of the people he encountered in North America at this website.

3. The Colonial Background: Virginia

READ: Taylor, American Colonies, 117-123, 129-137; Handouts, Richard Hakluyt, Discourse of Western Planting

Notes: What brought the English colonists to Virginia? Who came? Assess the effects of European contact with the natives of North America. What were the ramifications of widespread tobacco cultivation in the Chesapeake?

4. The Colonial Background: New England

READ: Taylor, American Colonies, 159-172; Handout, John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity”

Notes: How and why did New England patterns of settlement differ from those of Virginia? What were the Puritans seeking? Read the Winthrop selection carefully. What do you think of his model for a community? What are its main features?

5. Slavery in Virginia

Alan Taylor, American Colonies, 142-144, 153-157; Handouts, "Aboard a Slaver" and "Virginia Slave Laws, 1662-1669"

Notes: What factors caused slavery take root in the Chesapeake colonies? How did the institution evolve and why did Virginians’ racial attitudes develop as they did? What strategies did Africans use to try to make slavery bearable?

In case you are interested, Taylor’s account of the development of slavery, race, and what we might call white privilege, is taken from Edmund Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom, a book that Taylor refers to as “the twentieth century’s best historical work on American origins.” Here is a brief discussion of that book and it’s influence on American historiography.

6. King Philip’s War

READ: Taylor, American Colonies, 188-191; Handouts, Excepts from Davis, Boisterous Sea of Liberty: "Edward Randolph, 1765," and Jill Lepore, “Habitations of Cruelty,” from The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity, (19 pages).

Read Taylor first, then Randolph and Lepore

Notes: What were the main causes of King Philip’s War? How is it the colonists felt entitled to claim Indian land in New England? What is the significance of the English recording the number of houses destroyed before tallying the colonists' killed and wounded? What does Lepore's phrase "the moral vocabulary of war" (88) suggest?

7. Bible Commonwealth

READ: Taylor, American Colonies, 178-186; Handout, from Diary of Samuel Sewall

Notes: How did the Puritans account for calamity? What made them so jittery toward the close of the 17th century? How do you explain the persistence of witchcraft in 17th century New England? What does the Sewall diary suggest about how New Englanders viewed the world? What do you take the Puritan legacy to be?

8. Spiritual and Material America

READ: Taylor, American Colonies, 342 bottom-351; Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and Franklin, “The Way to Wealth”; Handouts, Marilynne Robinson, “Edwards and the Spider, from What Are We Doing Here?

Notes: What factors touched off the colony-wide outbreak of religious enthusiasm in the 1730s? In what ways do Edwards and Franklin reflect conflicting colonial values? What, if anything, do they have in common? Which viewpoint seems more typical of colonial America? Re: the essay assignment. Skim “Jumonville’s Glen” with a view to permissible inference in writing history. WATCH: Exeter History Minute on the Whitefield monument.

9. Paper is due. You will find the assignment under the Assignments tab over on the left side of this web page.

Intro | 1 | 2 | 3