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History of the United States, Precolonial to the Civil War (210-1-20)


Michaela Kleber
Michaela Kleber (Ph.D., William & Mary, 2020) is a historian of early America, with a particular focus on Native America, French empire, and gender and sexuality. Her current work centers on the Illinois in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and the French who colonized among them. Her project recovers the gender and sexuality structures of indigenous Illinois society in order to explain how these structures guided French colonization.

Meeting Info

University Hall 122: Mon, Wed, Fri, 11:00AM - 11:50AM

Overview of class

Everyone, it seems, from politicians to television shows, references early American history--as an ideal or as a disappointment, as a model or as a cautionary tale. Part of the disagreement stems from the vague term "early American history," which has been understood and mobilized in a variety of different ways. One of our tasks in this course will be to explore what, exactly, "early American history" means. Does it refer to the British colonies that became the United States of America, and the westward advance of an English-speaking population? All of the territory that would eventually become the U.S.? The entirety of North America? When does "early" begin? When is it no longer "early," and is it ever on time or late? Whose history qualifies as American, and what makes it so? Even historians can offer no answers to these questions, only further complications, and they continue to debate these very questions among themselves. While it is unlikely that we will be able to offer the world a definitive definition of "early American history" by the end of this course, we will nonetheless dip our toes into over four centuries of events performed by people who might be called "Americans," in a manner that may seem "American," in a space with disputable borders called "America," and attempt to arrive at some understanding of this thing called early American history.

Learning Objectives

In addition to covering aspects of American history before 1865, this course will prepare you to use tools important, though not exclusive, to the historical profession: namely, critical, analytical, and evidence-based reading, writing, and speaking. While looking at the actual events of the past, we will also consider the way in which history is crafted, how we know what we know, and who decides what story is told.

Evaluation Method

Exams, essays, and participation

Class Materials (Required)

All the assigned readings will be uploaded on Canvas

Class Notes

History Area(s) of Concentration: European

Class Attributes

Historical Studies Distro Area

Associated Classes

DIS - Harris Hall L04: Thurs, 10:00AM - 10:50AM

DIS - Kresge Centennial Hall 2-440: Thurs, 11:00AM - 11:50AM

DIS - Harris Hall L05: Thurs, 1:00PM - 1:50PM