History 470 covers the first half of American history, roughly from its origins through Reconstruction. We will be using The Constitution and the Nation: The Regulatory State and The Constitution and the Nation: A Revolution in Rights plus A March of Liberty, volume 1.

This time students will also be reading Eric Foner, The Fiery Trial.

History 470
U.S. Constitutional and Legal History
Fall 2011: 12:35-1:50
HSS 317
Prof. Waldrep

Office Hours:
Science 225: 2-4 on Tuesdays and by appointment. E-mail or phone 338-2982.  Http://

Texts: Urofsky and Finkelman, A March of Liberty; Waldrep and Curry, The Constitution and the Nation: Establishing the Nation and Waldrep and Curry, The Constitution and the Nation: The Civil War and American Constitutionalism; Eric Foner, The Fiery Trial.

History 470 uses the lecture and discussion format to develop students’ ability to assess and think critically about historical issues and how to interpret those issues.  Students should gain a basic factual knowledge of American constitutionalism.  This means being prepared to discuss cases and key documents.  Students will develop skills in analyzing historical data and reaching informed conclusions about those data.  This class covers half of American history.  The second half will be covered in history 471, offered in the spring. I recommend that you take both halves, both 470 and 471.

To pass the course, students must:

  1. Attend class. Attendance is of the utmost importance.
  2. Study the readings for each week before we talk about them in class.
  3. Take the examinations and the quiz.  You must know the names of cases and documents and be prepared to summarize their significance on tests. If you do not have the time for the preparation necessary to do this work, you should drop this class immediately.
  4. Complete essay assignments.

            We will have three essay exams.  These exams will all be document-based. Our goal is to learn how to construct historical arguments using primary source documents. You have to use the documents we study in class to make an argument about what you have learned in class.  Use only documents discussed in class and taken from our book or the handouts.  Each test will consist of ten paragraphs covering eight documents of your choosing.  These are timed tests.  You must be selective in choosing information for the exams: remember that you will have only 75 minutes to write your first two essays.  You will not have time to tell all you know about the documents. Choose the most important facts. In a court case, this means summarizing the judges’ arguments, not getting bogged down in detailed background information. Figure out how to summarize the constitutional argument in each document in just three to four sentences.  Remember, history is never about telling all you know about the past, it’s about choosing the most important information.  In this class, the most important information is about our evolving federal system, how the locus of power shifts.  Keep you eye on where the power is at particular historical moments.
Final grade:
            Tests:               60% [three exams]
            Essays:             20% [two papers]
            Quizzes:           20%

            Class participation is an important part of your grade.  Obviously, you must come to class and to participate knowledgeably, you must read the assignments before discussions.

All dates and deadlines are tentative. Be alert to in-class announcements.

Schedule of Classes

August 23: Introduction to the course: principle themes and terms.
August 25: Old World
            Readings: Urofsky and Finkelman, chapter 1;Waldrep and Curry, chapter 1.
August 30: New World
            Urofsky and Finkelman, chapter 2; Waldrep and Curry, chapter 2.
September 1: Revolution
            Urofsky and Finkelman, chapter 3;Waldrep and Curry, chapter 3.
September 6 & 8:  Confederation
            Urofsky and Finkelman, chapter 4; Waldrep and Curry, pages 65-84.
September 13: Confederation
            Urofsky and Finkelman, chapter 4; Waldrep and Curry, pages 65-84.

September 15 & 16: San Francisco Rights Conference in Humanities building and the Student Center. We will not have our regular class on September 15, but students should attend the conference, most particularly the sessions led by Eric Foner. Write a five page paper that analyzes his argument based on both the book and her presentations at our conference.

Exam: September 20

September 27 & 29: Writing the Constitution
            Urofsky and Finkelman, chapters 5 & 6; Waldrep and Curry, page 84-129.
October 4 & 6: Early American Republic
            Urofsky and Finkelman, chapter 7; Waldrep and Curry, chapter 5.
October 11 & 13: The Marshall Court
            Urofsky and Finkelman, chapter 8 & 10; Waldrep and Curry, chapter 6.
October 18 & 20: Jacksonian Constitutionalism
            Urofsky and Finkelman, chapter 15; Waldrep and Curry, vol. 2, chapter 1.
October 25 & 26: Slavery
            Urofsky and Finkelman, chapter 17; Waldrep and Curry, chapter 2.
November 1:  The Impending Crisis
            Urofsky and Finkelman, chapter 18; Waldrep and Curry, chapter 3.

Second exam: November 3.

November 8 & 10:  Introduction to the Civil War
            Urofsky and Finkelman, chapters 19 & 20; Waldrep and Curry, chapter 4.
First quiz: November 10.
November 15 & 17:  The Civil War continued.

Second quiz: November 15.

First paper due November 17. The first paper should be five pages, double-spaced with correct footnotes, reviewing Eric Foner’s book, The Fiery Trial.

November 22 and 24: No classes, fall recess.

November 29 and December 1:  Reconstructing Citizenship
            Urofsky and Finkelman, chapter 21; Waldrep and Curry, chapter 5.
December 6 & 8: State Action and Civil Rights
            Urofsky and Finkelman, chapter 22; Waldrep and Curry, chapter 6.     
December 13: Second paper due, ten pages, double-spaced with a clear thesis and correct footnotes.  Using the writings of Abraham Lincoln, write a longer version of your first paper, using primary sources from these two sources:
You are required to find documents in both sources for your paper to test some conclusion Foner makes in his book. Prove him right or prove him wrong!

Final exam will be during final exam week.