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Empire of Liberty and Bondage: The United States, 1775-1877

Tutor: David Huyssen (tutor for 2018-19) / Shaul Mitelpunkt

Module type: Histories and Contexts

Module Code: HIS00008I

In 1775, thirteen of Britain’s North American colonies began an unlikely revolt against the most powerful army in the world. A century later, the United States had assumed imperial dimensions and had positioned itself as a major power in geopolitics and the global economy. This module examines the emergence of the United States from the American Revolution to Reconstruction, and explores the major defining contradictions and tensions of the Early Republic—namely, between slavery, freedom, and dreams of empire—that have left indelible marks on US and world history to this day. The module will offer both an introduction to American history across this period, and an exploration of the historical approaches that have been applied to the early United States in recent decades.

The lecture programme will likely include the following:-

Week Two: Declaring independence
1. How not to run an empire
2. The path to independence

Week Three: The limits of the American Revolution
3. The constitutional counter-revolution
4. Created equal

Week Four: The location of American power
5. America and the world
6. Native Americans and the persistence of Britain

Week Five: Early national society
7. Politics in the early republic
8. How America starts getting rich

Week Six: Migration and reform
9. Politics beyond the ballot box
10. Arrivals and departures

Week Seven: Democracy and Imperialism
11. Jacksonian America
12. Empire and slavery

Week Eight: Civil War
13. Collapse of the Union
14. Crucible of a new republic

Week Nine: Reconstructions
15. ‘How to end the war’
16. Dialectic of repression and resistance

Seminar discussions will develop the themes addressed in each week’s lectures and in the required reading for each week, which will comprise around 75-100 pages.


For more information, please visit the module catalogue.