Virginia History to 1900


                This three-credit course looks at Virginia's social, political, and economic history from early colonization until the end of the Gilded Age. The class will consider the following broad questions: (1) Why was the rise of an ideology of liberty and equality in Virginia accompanied by the rise of slavery? (2) How did wealthy planters and "common" people alike develop the radical political ideas that led them to revolution? (3) What roles did government play in the state economy? (4) 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? (5) How did Virginians let themselves get drawn into the Civil War? (6) How did some Virginians work toward emancipation of enslaved African-Americans and liberal political reconstruction of the state in the 19th century while others tried to thwart such efforts? The course will devote the first three weeks of the class to the colonial period, and the balance of the semester to a deep-dive into the statehood period 1776-1900.

            Readings will average fewer than 125 pages per week. The principal readings will include: excerpts from Ronald L. Heinemann, et al., Old Dominion/New Commonwealth: A History of Virginia, 1607-2007; portions of Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery/American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia; Alan Taylor, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832; William A. Link, Roots of Secession: Slavery and Politics in Antebellum Virginia; and Elizabeth R. Varon, Appomattox: Victory, Defeat and Freedom at the End of the Civil War. (A final syllabus will be available by August 1, 2017.)

            There will be a short-answer mid-term exam and a single-essay final exam. There will be a short (2-3 page) writing exercise early in the semester to acclimate students to writing history based upon primary archival sources, such as those housed in the Special Collections Library. A major portion of each student's final grade will be based a 10-12 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 each week. At each meeting, about an hour will be devoted to lecture and 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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