Module Catalogue 2023/24

HIS2315 : Violence in the American South: From the Colonial Era to Reconstruction

HIS2315 : Violence in the American South: From the Colonial Era to Reconstruction

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Susan-Mary Grant
  • Lecturer: Professor Bruce Baker, Dr Lauren Darwin
  • Teaching Assistant: Ms Genevieve Johnson-Smith
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System

Modules you must have done previously to study this module

Pre Requisite Comment



Modules you need to take at the same time

Co Requisite Comment



This module seeks to introduce students to the central roles that violence (and nonviolence) played in the social and political history of the American South from the colonial era through Reconstruction after the Civil War (1865-1877).

The American South is an unusual region in many ways, not least because of its perceived (and actual) relationship with violence. On the one hand, observers during the antebellum period noted that the South was exceptionally violent, a situation clearly based on the region’s dependence on slavery and later continued in the form of lynching. On the other hand, during enslavement itself and Reconstruction, non-violence on the part of African Americans functioned as a challenge to the overt aggression of some aspects of the white South.

This module places the American South and its violent history in the larger context of violence in America from the nation's inception to the present day. It revolves around three main focal themes/subjects:

1. Race and violence: Colonial Beginnings

2. Indigenous society and violence: creating the racial divide

3. White society and violence: political and personal

4. Violent transitions: from slavery to freedom

5. The opposition to violence: resistance and resilience

Outline Of Syllabus

The following are some of the central topics included in lectures and non-synchronous materials:

1. Introduction to the Histories of Violence and Nonviolence in the United States

2. The Antebellum South: A Culture of Honour, Violence, and Slavery

3. Violence on the Plantation

4. Violence in Congress

5. Resisting Violence: Rebellion and Running Away

6. The Evidence for Violence

7. Violence During the Civil War and Reconstruction

8. Guerrilla Warfare and Extra-Legal Violence

9. Post-War Violence: Legal Codes and Lynching

10. Reconstruction: Riots, Pogroms, and Feuds

11. Labour Violence

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

Students who complete this module will gain a broader understanding of the dynamic between violence and nonviolence as modes for social change and political contestation in societies in general, but with a special emphasis on the American South in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth nineteenth centuries. By studying violence and nonviolence together, they will develop a deeper understanding than by looking at the topics separately. The conjoining will permit them to understand how societies perpetuate and challenge social control through these modes and how the dichotomy of violence and nonviolence masks a spectrum of choices as part of both black and white resistance to racism and racial change. As a result, you will:

1. Be able to recognise and recall the institutional features of the historical contexts relating to violence in the US South, and be able to place the individual case studies we look at (indigenous violence; slavery; the Civil War; border conflict; lynching; and labour violence) in the context of Southern History as a whole.

2. Be able to identify and explain the social, political, legal, and cultural processes at work in the period investigated in this module; namely the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.

3. Be able to demonstrate an advanced awareness of how to appraise and productively compare different forms of evidence for the topics within the module's ambit.

4. Be able to illustrate a developing cultural awareness in communicating your views about the diverse black and white, enslaved and free worlds encountered in the module.

Intended Skill Outcomes

1. The development of associated skills in research, critical reading and reasoning, sustained discussion and appropriate presentation of the results.

2. You will be encouraged to develop a range of transferable skills which can be applied to other periods of history and other spheres of intellectual activity, including aural comprehension and note taking, the ability to follow an argument and prioritise and select material, to read and to reason critically and to participate in discussion. Students should also be able to evaluate different kinds of sources, both primary and secondary (including visual and numerical material).

3. You will be expected to investigate and evaluate historical topics both collectively (in seminars and on Canvas) and individually (in class preparation and in assessment-related work).

4. You will also be expected to demonstrate a greater competence communicating complex ideas verbally (in seminars) and in written form (via the module's assessment essay).

5. In addition the module is intended to help students understand the relationship between social structures, culture, the economy, activism, and historical change in a way that is applicable to other historical contexts.

6. Finally, the module will introduce you to some of the available evidence that historians work with when researching violence in the South, and you will learn how to search for an evaluate a selection of this evidence for yourselves.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion661:0066:00Preparation for end of module long essay; ongoing weekly.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:00Lecture
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials111:0011:00Asynchronous support materials (document analysis Etc). Part of student contact hours.
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading661:0066:00Seminar preparation: ongoing weekly.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:0011:00Seminars
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study351:0035:00General consolidation activities; drop-in sessions etc.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

1. Lectures impart core knowledge and an outline for further knowledge acquisition by the students themselves. They explain key historical concepts and identify historical debates and points of contention. They introduce a range of source materials and images appropriate to the module, and facilitate the critical appreciation of such sources.

4. SEMINARS encourage independent study and promote improvements in oral presentation, interpersonal communication, problem-solving skills, research skills and adaptability.

5. LECTURE MATERIALS (under Structured Guided Learning): Documentary Analyses to aid students in working through and using primary material. They introduce and take students through either an individual primary document or a particular source collection to enhance research skills. The material analyzed will come into seminar dicussion(s), when students are expected to assess the extent to which the historiography (book or article(s)) is supported or contradicted by the primary documents looked at.

Note: in the now unlikely event that on-campus sessions need to be reduced, the module has an already built-in capacity to present recorded lectures asynchronously online and operate via seminar discussion, also on-line via Zoom.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2A602500 words. Marking online.
Research paper2M401000 words. Primary source research paper. Marking online
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Poster2MPoster assessment of essay structure/topic and its links with research project. 500 words. Marking online.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

1. Work submitted during the delivery of the module (see FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT below, and first piece of SUMMATIVE ASSESSMENT) forms a means of determining the student’s progress.

2. SUMMATIVE ASSESSMENT tests knowledge outcomes and develops skills in research and reading.

3. FORMATIVE ASSESSMEMENT: is designed to initiate ideas for comparative analysis in preparation for the first piece of summative assessment (the research paper). It takes the form of a poster, and feedback is provided.
The essay assignment for HIS2315 has been designed to aid the students in developing skills that will be essential in this module but also at Stage 3 in HIS3020.


1. The poster is designed to construct some initial links between the essay question and the research paper, and will be a visual summary of the state of the thesis at the mid-way point of the module, enabling important feedback/suggestions/corrections to be made mid-module. It should also include some visual materials.

2. The research paper will aid students in handling original material and deploying this successfully in the end of module essay.

3. The summative essay questions will be handed out at the start, so that students may work on their selected topic weekly throughout the module. It will be comparative across chronological time and themes, and will have components relating to both violence and nonviolence. It will assesses the student’s understanding of the key themes and ideas in the module, the ability to research around a topic, and the capability of building a sustained argument, supporting it with evidence, and expressing it clearly.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. Where an exam is present, an alternative form of assessment will be set and where coursework is present, an alternative deadline will be set. Details of the alternative assessment will be provided by the module leader.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


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