HIS 103B: America to 1876

  • Niagara University, Department of History, Fall 2015.
  • Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:40-11:00 a.m., Dunleavy 211

Thomas A. Chambers

  • Office Hours: MW 9-10am, Th 9-9:30am and 11am-12:30pm, or by appointment, Timon 130.
  • Phone: 286-8091 (office); 282-3368 (home)
  • Email: chambers@niagara.edu

This course seeks to introduce students to the main themes and events of American history from the age of discovery until the end of Reconstruction. It also endeavors to familiarize students with the historical method by engaging in the actual "doing" of history in class. To that end, we will read and discuss a variety of primary documents from and secondary interpretations of various events. The course will be a general overview of central themes and events, with occasional digressions into more detailed discussions of particular events. By the end of the semester you should know not only why certain things happened, but also how historians decided that it was so. 

Course Requirements

Class participation

As an interactive class, this course demands your attendance, preparation, and participation in discussions. Do the reading for each day! You should be ready to answer my questions or pose your own daily. Quality, as well as quantity, of participation counts. I take attendance and assign a participation grade each day (Excellent, Very Good, Good, Present, or Absent/Unprepared), so you only hurt yourself by missing class meetings or being unprepared. Read the assigned textbook pages and sources and be ready to discuss them. Each class session has assigned primary source readings from the "Voices of Freedom" of your textbook (the blue-grey pages) or from the web (hotlinked on the course webpage). Before each class meeting, be prepared to answer the questions in the textbook [Voices of Freedom documents] or ones that are posted as “Announcements” on the class Blackboard page [web-based documents]. These PROMPTS, several questions to focus your reading, will be the basis of class discussion. I also reserve the right to hold unannounced reading quizzes, which contribute to the Class Participation portion of your overall course grade.

Book assignments

For the two monographs we read (Horn, Henderson) compile the following:  analysis of the book's two main arguments (one page of writing for each argument), explanation of four key points or quotes that you feel are especially significant or illuminating (with page numbers), and three questions designed to provoke class discussion and probe the book's meaning. Include a proper bibliographic citation for the book at the top of your assignment. Due in class on the day that we discuss each book. Chicago-style endnotes required.

Two Examinations

Thursday, 8 October, in class; Friday, 11 December, 8:10 -10:00 a.m. Essays, Identifications, and Chronology. Final Exam is partly cumulative.

Response Paper

Once during the semester (November 10), you will complete a "Sources of Freedom" research project. Read the primary sources for Chapter 10 on the textbook webpage and complete the online worksheets based on your reading of your sources. Print out your worksheets (do NOT email them to me!) and submit them in class, along with a 4-5 page paper based on the documents and relevant textbook sections. Your paper should answer this question: Did freedom expand or shrink during the Jacksonian era? Chicago-style endnotes required.

Map Quiz (states, geographic features, major cities)

You must score at least an 80% on this quiz to pass the course; retakes for pass/fail. September 10, in class. Click here for map template and quiz items are available on the course webpage.

Course Rules

  • No late papers. Period.
  • I take academic honesty seriously, and will punish ANY offense with failure of the course (consult the Student Handbook or me if you have questions).
  • All assignments must be submitted as typed, stapled hard copies, with double-spacing, twelve-point font, and one-inch margins.
  • Click here for Academic Support and Counseling statements.
  • This syllabus is subject to change; any alterations will be posted on this webpage.


  • Class participation   15%
  • Book Assignments    25% (12.5% each)
  • Examinations    40% (20% each)
  • Response Paper    15%
  • Map Quiz    5%

Scale: 60-63, D-; 63-67, D; 67-70, D+; 70-73, C-; 73-77, C; 77-80, C+; 80-83, B-; 83-87, B; 87-90, B+; 90-93, A-; 93-95, A; 95+, A+.

Required Readings

The following titles are available for purchase in the bookstore, or online.

  • Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty!: An American History. New York: W.W. Norton, 2011. Volume One, Seagull Third Edition. Study aids, outlines, maps, etc. available at http://www.wwnorton.com/college/history/give-me-liberty4/
  • Horn, James. A Kingdom Strange: The Brief and Tragic History of the Lost Colony of Roanoke. New York: Basic Books, 2010.
  • Henderson, Timothy J. A Glorious Defeat: Mexico and Its War with the United States. New York: Hill and Wang, 2008.



1T:       Introduction, Discovery: Foner, 1-15.

Colonial America

3Th:    Invasion and Encounter: Foner, 15-34; Voices—Las Casas, Josephe. Map Quiz.

8T:       European Expansion: Foner, 35-52; Web: Hakluyt.

10Th: Discussion of Horn, A Kingdom Strange. Book assignment due.

15T:     Chesapeake: Foner, 52-65; Web: Smith.

17Th: New England Colonies: Foner, 65-81; Voices—Winthrop; Web: Metacom.

22T:     Lower South and Middle Colonies: Foner, 81-96; Web: Penn, Georgia.

24Th:  Consolidation: Foner, 105-128, Voices—Hutchinson (76), Female Servant, Memorial Against Non-English.

28T:     Plantation Slavery: Foner, 96-105, 129-145; Voices—Equiano (169); Web: Jones.


1Th:    Great Awakening: Foner, 145-160; Web: "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God."

6T:       Empire in Crisis: Foner, 160-188; Web: Boston Massacre.

8Th:    Mid-Term Exam. Sample ID

13T:     No class, Fall Break.


Creating an American Republic

15Th: Declaring Independence: Foner, 188-199; Voices—Paine, Boucher; Declaration of Independence (pp. A19-A22).

20T:     Winning Independence: Foner, 199-209, 217-246; Voices—Adams, Petitions.

22Th: Confederation: Foner, 210-217, 247-257; Web: Shaysite, Jefferson.

27T:     Creating a Nation: Foner, 257-267, 271-281; Web: Federalist 51.

29Th: Federalists and Republicans: Foner, 267-271, 282-298; Voices: Address, Murray.


3T:       Agrarian Republic: Foner, 298-308; Web: Lewis & Clark.

5Th:    War of Expansion. Foner, 308-317; Web: Hartford Convention.

10T:     Era of Good Feelings: Foner, 355-377; Voices—Monroe. Response Paper Due.

Dividing the Union

12Th: Age of Jackson: Foner, 377-394; Web: Crockett.

17T:     Reform: Foner, Chaps. 9 and 12; Voices—Operative, Grimke, Douglass.

19Th: Antebellum South: Foner, Ch. 11; Voices—Taper to Long, Slavery and Bible.

24T:     Discussion of Henderson, A Glorious Defeat. Book assignment due. Also read Foner, 466-480.

26Th: Thanksgiving Break, no class.


1T:       Sectional Crisis: Foner, 480-508; Voices—Debates; Web: Brown.

3Th:    “The Late Unpleasantness”: Foner, Ch. 14; Voices—Drayton, Lincoln.

8T:       Reconstruction: Foner, Ch. 15; Voices—Petition, Sharecropping.


Final Exam:  Friday, 11 December, 8:10-10:00 a.m.