Global Opportunities

HIS2131 : American Slavery, American Freedom: Black and White America in the Age of Revolutions (Inactive)

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The foundation of European colonies in North America marked the birth of a society that would eventually become the United States of America. Integral to this process was the simultaneous rise of Atlantic slavery and the forced transportation of millions of Africans to the Americas. At first slavery was simply an economic system, but as it developed it infected the political, social, and intellectual life of the newly independent nation, leading to the traumatic rupture of the Civil War in 1861.

This module explores the origins of the many race, class and gender issues that America still grapples with today by placing these in the broader context of the nation's colonial origins and the revolutionary upheavals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In particular, it explores the contradictory concepts of slavery and freedom in a nation supposedly devoted to the principle of equality for all.

This module aims:
•       To introduce students to historical research and to guide them in the analysis of primary documents and texts.
•       To provide an opportunity to acquire a sound general knowledge of the subject, reading widely and critically in the primary and secondary literature associated with it and to develop the capacity for independent study.
•       To enable students to develop their own interpretation of the politics, society and culture of North America/the USA from the colonial era to the end of the Civil War.

Outline Of Syllabus

Outline syllabus, intended as a guide only.

Colonial foundations
Ideas of race and beginnings of slavery in colonial America
Race and Revolution
Westward Expansion
The Cotton Kingdom in the South
Abolitionists v. Proslavery
The Civil War
The Civil War as the Second American Revolution

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials361:0036:0018 hours of on-line podcasts/video
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion301:0030:00Weekly Workbook including summative essay component.
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading981:0098:00Set, recommended, and further reading
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops91:009:00Source analysis via on-line seminars. Multiplied by at least 10 as numbers on module = 100+
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery91:009:001 (re-adding 9 hours) on-line Q&A session
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study181:0018:00Documentary analysis
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures materials impart core knowledge and an outline of knowledge that students are expected to acquire; raise questions for students to consider in private study, and stimulate development of listening and note-taking skills. They are intended as general background frameworks for the documentary analysis and seminar discussions, and will introduce, for example, some of the major questions historians have asked of certain periods and topics, some of the historiographical debates and changes that we have seen over the years, especially on the subject of race, and how some of these interact with and inform the world that we now live in, the quotidian reality of our lives.

Source Analysis and Weekly Workbook: developing from that week's lecture, these sessions will take students through a selection of documentary, primary material that they will then need to place in historiographical context via the secondary reading which will be detailed on Canvas. All secondary reading will either be in the form of an e-book or an article available through the Robinson Library. These sessions can encourage teamwork as well as self-directed work. They are important for the development of key analytical skills, which will be further developed at Stage 3 in Special Subjects and in dissertations (HIS3020), but it is important that students become familiar now with the techniques and approaches that are necessary in any historical research project. In particular, the analysis of primary material at this stage helps to prepare them for the selection of suitable material for HIS3020. Used in conjunction with selected articles that show how a historian has used, e.g., the Slave Narratives on-line project, or the political writings of John C. Calhoun, or the WPA Narratives, the emphasis on working with primary material (being American History, much of this is on-line anyway) provides them with crucial analytical and practical descriptive and assessment skills to use going forward into Stage 3.

Seminars encourage independent as well as group study and promote improvements in on-line, oral presentation, interpersonal communication, problem-solving skills and adaptability. The on-line, oral presentation element is a particularly valuable transferable skill given the nature of the working world we live in. Some students will, inevitably, already be able to work together in this way since they are used to this from their social world, but being able to do so in a professional capacity will help prepare them for the world of the conference call, one that many will find themselves in after graduation.

There will also be a Q&A session to offer guidance on completing the Written Exercise, the assessment for this module.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1A100Assessment is completing a weekly Workbook that will be on Canvas, due at the end of the semester. Total Word Count: 4000 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Work completed during the delivery of the module tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes, and develops key skills in research, reading and writing. The assessment, a Written Exercise (Workbook) that is on Canvas and can be downloaded, is structured around several tasks: assessing primary material; researching a topic on-line and producing a short report; writing an overall assessment of the historiographical and/or public landscape of a chosen topic (from those covered in the module). The Written Exercise can be worked on each week (recommended; rather than leaving to the end) but not submitted until the lectures are over (so can be edited before submission). The total word count for all tasks in the Written Exercise is 3,000 words (excluding any notes).

The reasoning behind an ongoing, weekly Written Exercise is to engage students from the start in this module. They will be able to work through many of the tasks/questions in the context of that week's lecture, documentary analysis and seminar. In particular, the weekly approach acts as a means of encouraging active learning and engagement, as opposed to passive absorption of on-line lectures. The mix of tasks--documentary commentaries, short overview assessments, active on-line research in on-line archives--ensures that the students are not simply passive, rote learners. It enables them to own, to a great extent, what they decide to engage with, and gives them time (in a way that neither an essay nor an exam can) to develop their ideas, understanding, and abilities of the subject.

All Erasmus students at Newcastle University are expected to do the same assessment as students registered for a degree.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. This will take the form of an alternative assessment, as outlined in the formats below:

Modules assessed by Coursework and Exam:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be one essay in addition to the other coursework assessment (the length of the essay should be adjusted in order to comply with the assessment tariff); to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Exam only:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be two 2,000 word written exercises; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Coursework only:
All semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be expected to complete the standard assessment for the module; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending the whole academic year or semester 2 are required to complete the standard assessment as set out in the MOF under all circumstances.

Reading Lists