This course name and description ONLY applies to academic year 2016-2017

HIST 13184-3: Abraham Lincoln's America

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Instructor: Daniel Graff

This seminar will use the life of the American republic's most celebrated president as a window to explore the transformations and continuities in American life during the half-century ending in the cataclysmic Civil War. Using Lincoln's own experiences as a starting point - his poor upbringing, his family's moves across the sectional borderlands, his self-motivation and professional ambition, his embrace of mass politics, and his rapid ascent to national leadership during the republic's greatest crisis - students will explore much more than the sectional struggle and the fight to save the Union from secession. Important topics will include the evolving struggles over the meanings of race, freedom, and slavery; the increasing commercialization of the economy and the forging of new class relationships and identities; migration, property-holding, and relations with Native Americans in the west; changing realities and conceptions of gender, family, childhood, and parental authority; the contested roles of local and national governments and the rise of political parties and mass political participation; and the heated contests over nativity, religion, and citizenship. In short, Lincoln's personal experiences will be the entry into understanding American society as a whole during his life (1809-1865). Students will also ponder the usefulness of biography to the larger historical project as well as the importance of memory and myth in the ways we repeatedly reconstruct the past.