History of Virginia to 1865


This three-credit course looks at Virginia's social, political, and economic history from early colonization until the end of the Civil War.  The class members will consider the following broad questions: (1) What did the various waves of settlers expect to find in Virginia, how did they prepare for the colonization, and what did they actually find and do once they arrived? (2) Why was the rise of an ideology of liberty and equality in Virginia accompanied by the rise of slavery? (3) How did wealthy planters and "common" people alike develop the radical political ideas that led them to revolution?  Did those groups share the same goals? (4) What roles did Virginia government play in the pre-Civil War state economy? (5) What efforts did Virginians make to rid their state of slavery, and make the electorate as well as legislative representation more democratic, prior to the Civil War? (6) Hod did Virginians let themselves get drawn into the Civil War?

Readings will average about 100 pages per week, with slightly more early in the semester and slightly fewer later when students will devote substantial time to researching, writing, and re-writing a term paper.  The readings will include approximately one-half of Peter Wallenstein, Cradle of America:  A History of Virginia (1914);  Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery/American Freedom:  The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia; T.H. Breen, Tobacco Culture:  The Mentality of the Great Tidewater Planters on the Eve of Revolution; Alan Taylor, The International Enemy:  Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832; and selections from William W. Freehling, Showdown in Virginia:  The 1861 Convention and the Fate of the Union.  In addition, there may be several journal articles, and readings in primary source documents.  (A final syllabus with greater specificity on required readings will be available August 1, 2016.)

There will be a short-answer mid-term exam and an essay-type final exam.  A major portion of each student's final grade will be determined by the instructor's evaluation of an 8-10 page term paper based on original research in primary source documents on a topic of the student's choice.  Students will submit multiple drafts of the term paper during the final four weeks of the semester to obtain advice and guidance from the instructor.

The class will meet twice a week each week.  At each meeting, about an hour will be devoted to lecture and the final 15 minutes will be devoted to guided class discussions of the readings and other material. 

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904


(434) 924-7147
(434) 924-7891
M-F 8am to 4:30pm
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