AMH 6199

Foundation Seminar: 19th Century


Professor:  Elizabeth Dale

Office hours: M: 9-10AM; W: 3-4PM; by appointment

Office: Keene Flint 224

Office phone:  352.273.3387



Course description:

This seminar is intended to give you an overview of trends in 19th century US History and to help you begin to prepare for your preliminary exams in Fall 2010.


We will be asking the usual grad seminar questions:


1.    What is the thesis of the book? Does the author successfully prove his/her thesis?

2.    What approach does the author use (straight chronological narrative? Analytic or thematic? Some mix?)

3.    Does the book work? If not, why not? If so, how and why?  


To answer these questions it helps to read the books themselves, not just book reviews. It also helps to read the clues that the author has, ideally, offered about his/her intentions. So in addition to reading the books (and taking notes on them as you read them), I recommend that you also read the introduction and conclusion of each book carefully, and spend some time looking over the table of contents. Ask yourselves how the book has been arranged, and how that arrangement helps (or hurts) advance the author’s thesis.  This not only helps you hone your skills in reading scholarly material, but it also gives you a head start on thinking about writing your dissertation, by encouraging you to think about how historians chose to present their scholarship.


At the same time, we will be focusing issues peculiar to the 19th century. The problem of setting temporal boundaries is a significant issue in 19th century US history, so it is something that we will consider throughout the semester.  Specifically, we will consider two issues of periodization:

1.    What “the nineteenth century” is (that is, when it began and when it ended).

2.    What historical periods there were within the nineteenth century.  


In addition, we will concentrate on identifying the historical theme(s) in the various books assigned, and the scholarly conversation(s) the books participate in. To this end, it would be good to consider the following as you read these books:


1.    What is the major category of historical study that this book fits into? What does the author tell us about the state of the literature in that field of study (what argument(s) is the author responding to? The author may tell you this explicitly or may expect you to figure it from context).

2.    What other categories or fields of history is the author engaging? All good historical studies, and most bad ones, participate in several historical conversations—a study of 19th century women may also tell us about society and labor relations in the rural south.

3.    What theoretical approaches or sociological assumptions or perspectives is the author bringing to bear on the subject?  The author may tell you in the introduction, you may be able to figure it out by looking at footnotes or at the bibliography.  You may be able to extrapolate from other works you’ve read in this class or another class. If all else fails, I recommend trying to find a handy guide to social and/or cultural theory. You might find Peter Burke’s History and Social Theory helpful. Alternatively, you might find the discussions on useful.




Assigned readings (available at UF bookstore, or check online):

Adams, The Specter of Satan

Balough, Government Out of Sight

Cornell, Well Regulated Militia

Faust, Republic of Suffering

Gross, Colored Amazons

Haydu, Citizen Employers

Hoganson, Consumers’ Imperium

Martin, Divided Mastery

Pfeifer, Rough Justice

Rockman, Scrapping By

Wells, Origins of the Southern Middle Class

West, Contested Plains




Grades for the seminar will be based on the following:


25%:  participation. Everyone is expected to come to every seminar prepared to discuss the readings and contribute to the discussion every week.  Perfect attendance without participation is not enough.  Likewise, extensive participation will not make up for imperfect attendance. Students who miss more than more seminar will have their participation grade lowered by one full grade (ie, from a B to a C).


25%: presentation. The last three weeks of seminar are set aside for presentations on seminar papers. Presentations will be roughly 20-25 minutes long. I will pass out guidelines for presentations the week before spring break.


50%: paper.  Everyone in the class will write a 20-25 page historiography paper, examining the literature on a particular theme in 19th century US history.  Papers are due the Wednesday of finals week, by noon.  You may write on a theme of your choice, but you will need to have your topic approved. You should discuss your topic with me before the last session in January.



Schedule of classes:


Jan.  6: Intro to the course and Balough, Government Out of Sight

Jan. 13: Rockman, Scrapping By

Jan. 20: Martin, Divided Mastery

Jan. 27: Wells, Origins of the Southern Middle Class

Feb. 3: Adams, Specter of Satan

Feb. 10: Faust, Republic of Suffering

Feb. 17: West, Contested Plains

Feb. 23: Haydu, Citizen Employer                                       

March 3: Gross, Colored Amazons

March 10: Spring break

March 17: Pfeifer, Rough Justice

March 24: Hoganson, Consumers’ Imperium

March 31: Cornell, Well Regulated Militia

April 7: Paper presentations

April 14: Paper presentations

April 21: Paper presentations, last class

April 28: Final seminar papers due