HIST 2331: Civil War and Reconstruction

Professor Cameron Blevins (c.blevins@northeastern.edu)
Northeastern University (Spring 2019)
Cargill Hall 97, M/W 2:50-4:30
Office Hours: Meserve Hall 237, Weds. 9:30-11:30am

“All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory.”

-Viet Thahn Nguyen

Course Description

No episode in United States history looms larger in the collective memory of the nation than the American Civil War. This course examines the war along with its less-studied aftermath, the era of Reconstruction. Students will learn about some of this period’s defining issues: slavery and race, democratic politics and sectional division, violence and warfare, and struggles over the meaning of citizenship. Students will not only learn what happened, but how these events are remembered. A central goal of this course is to develop a working literacy of the different forms through which the past gets interpreted, narrated, and memorialized, from YouTube videos to podcasts to Hollywood films. Finally, students will learn about the legacies of this era and the ways the Civil War and Reconstruction continue to shape the present-day United States.

Student Learning Outcomes

Major Themes
Students will develop a working knowledge of the key historical events, issues, and processes from the era of the Civil War and Reconstruction. The emphasis of this course is not on memorizing dates or people, but building a deeper understanding of the era’s central themes and their enduring relevance to the present.

The Different Forms of History
History doesn’t always come from a book. Students will learn how to recognize, critically evaluate, and produce their own historical narratives and interpretations across a variety of mediums: memorials and monuments, walking tours, podcasts, films, documentaries, graphic books, and roleplaying games.

History and Memory
How and why do societies remember certain events and not others? How should Americans memorialize things like slavery, violence, and war? What are the gaps between scholarly history and popular understandings of the past? Through readings, discussions, and assignments, students will gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between history and memory.