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HIS3181 : The American Civil War, 1861-1865 (Inactive)

  • Inactive for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Susan-Mary Grant
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The American Civil War was the formative event of American history, the war that defeated the secessionist challenge and established the modern American nation. Although the war ended in 1865, it continues to resonate in present-day America, at the extreme in the League of the South and the neo-confederate groups for whom the Civil War represents a crucial part of their heritage. This module explores the war years themselves, placing the war in the broader context of America’s demographic, political and social change in the mid-nineteenth century and in the context of other nineteenth-century conflicts; many of which were fought over the issue of nationality. As such, it will not only allow students to study an important part of American history, but also help them to understand how America fits in to the broader themes and events of world history in the nineteenth century.

This module focuses on the formative event of American national development - the American Civil War of 1861-1865 - with the aim of:

1. Introducing students to the political, economic, cultural and social background to the war; specifically the developing sectional divisions of the mid-nineteenth century.
2. Examining in depth the war years themselves, with particular reference to the leadership of Abraham Lincoln.
3. Introducing students to the historiography of the Civil War era, and the role that this period continues to play in American national identity.
4. Providing an opportunity both of investigating in some depth selected problems, including the appraisal of selected source material and the critical examination of current historiography, and of acquiring a sound general knowledge of the subject, reading widely in the (primary and secondary) literature associated with it.
5. Developing the capacity for independent study.

Outline Of Syllabus

Seminars may be structured around:

1. The cultural and social background to the war, c. 1850-1860
2. The political situation on the eve of war and the ‘secession winter’ of 1860-61:
3. The main theatres of conflict (Eastern and Western) and the main armies/generals involved;
4. Lincoln’s approach to civil liberties, and Democratic opposition to the war;
5. The decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation and the role of race in the Civil War;
6. The problems facing Jefferson Davis in the South on the political front;
7. The military and political forces that led to Northern victory; with a concentration on specific battles - e.g., Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg - and theatres of war (Eastern and Western);
8. The war in popular culture, including: the pictorial representation of the conflict via the photographs of Matthew Brady; the war in music; the war in film; and the war in literature.
9. The Civil War as a typical nineteenth-century conflict (or not)
10. The political and social situation on the home fronts; and
11. The image of Lincoln and the Civil War in American memory since 1865.
12. The Civil War’s role in American nationalism

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion551:0055:00For two assessments.
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials111:0011:00On-line asynchronous lectures and documentary analyses. Part of student contact hours.
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading551:0055:00For seminar discussion
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching112:0022:00Seminars: PiP or as required.
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities31:003:00Documentary Analyses online
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study541:0054:00From reading guides provided
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Seminars: encourage independent study and promote improvements in oral presentation, interpersonal communication, problem-solving and adaptability.

On-line lectures provide the necessary background information for effective seminar/small group discussion.

Small group work promotes the development of communication and interactive skills; working in groups; presentation of research findings.

NOTE: The teaching methods include 11 hours of lectures and 3 hours of documentary analyses.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Research paper2M45Research report of 2,000 words (including footnotes but excluding bibliography)
Essay2A55Essay, not a take-home exam. Essay to be selected from options given out after Research Exercise marked. 2000 words as before.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Research Exercises: tests the students' capacity for independent research into a topic, developing the material and reading set to address original questions about the chosen topic, find material relating to this via the library and other on-line sites, and reach a conclusion about the state of current research in the field. They require the ability to compare and contrast related source texts on a common subject, as well as the ability to expound and criticize a textual extract lucidly, succinctly and with relevance in a relatively short number of words.

Essays: test the students' capacity for constructing and defending an argument, using both primary and secondary literature to evidence the argument, and presenting it in a coherent, relatively concise, but persuasive way, using the appropriate footnoting for History.

This module can be taken by study-abroad, exchange and Loyola students.

Study-abroad, 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