(HIST 119) This course explores the causes, course, and consequences of the American Civil War, from the 1840s to 1877. The primary goal of the course is to understand the multiple meanings of a transforming event in American history. Those meanings may be defined in many ways: national, sectional, racial, constitutional, individual, social, intellectual, or moral. Four broad themes are closely examined: the crisis of union and disunion in an expanding republic; slavery, race, and emancipation as national problem, personal experience, and social process; the experience of modern, total war for individuals and society; and the political and social challenges of Reconstruction.
This course was recorded in Spring 2008.
01 - Introductions: Why Does the Civil War era have a hold on American Historical Imagination?
Professor Blight offers an introduction to the course. He summarizes some of the course readings, and discusses the organization of the course. Professor Blight offers some thoughts on the nature of history and the study of history, before moving into a discussion of the reasons for Americans' enduring fascination with the Civil War. The reasons include: the human passion for epics, Americans' fondness for redemption narratives, the Civil War as a moment of "racial reckoning," the fascination with loss and lost causes, interest in military history, and the search for the origins of the modern United States.
02 - Southern Society: Slavery, King Cotton, and Antebellum America's "Peculiar" Region
Professor Blight offers a number of approaches to the question of southern distinctiveness. The lecture offers a survey of that manner in which commentators--American, foreign, northern, and southern--have sought to make sense of the nature of southern society and southern history. The lecture analyzes the society and culture of the Old South, with special emphasis on the aspects of southern life that made the region distinct from the antebellum North. The most lasting and influential sources of Old South distinctiveness, Blight suggests, were that society's anti-modernism, its emphasis on honor, and the booming slave economy that developed in the South from the 1820s to the 1860s.
03 - A Southern World View: the Old South and Proslavery Ideology
Professor Blight lectures on southern slavery. He makes a case for viewing the U.S. South as one of the five true "slave societies" in world history. He discusses the internal slave trade that moved thousands of slaves from the eastern seaboard to the cotton states of the Southwest between 1820 and 1860. Professor Blight then sketches the contents of the pro-slavery argument, including its biblical, historical, economic, cynical, and utopian aspects.
04 - A Northern World View: Yankee Society, Antislavery Ideology and the Abolition movement
Having finished with slavery and the pro-slavery argument, Professor Blight heads North today. The majority of the lecture deals with the rise of the Market Revolution in the North, in the 1820s, 1830s, and 1840s. Blight first describes the causes of the Market Revolution--the rise of capital, a transportation revolution--and then moves to its effects on the culture and consciousness of antebellum northerners. Among these effects were a riotous optimism mixed with a deep-rooted fear of change, an embrace of the notions of progress and Manifest Destiny, and the intensification of the divides between North and South.
05 - Telling a Free Story: Fugitive Slaves and the Underground Railroad in Myth and Reality
Professor Blight discusses the rise of abolitionism. Blight begins with an introduction to the genre of slave narratives, with particular attention to Frederick Douglass' 1845 narrative. The lecture then moves on to discuss the culture in which antebellum reform grew--the factors that encouraged its growth, as well as those that retarded it. Professor Blight then describes the movement towards radical abolitionism, stopping briefly on colonization and gradualism before introducing the character and ideology of William Lloyd Garrison.
06 - Expansion and Slavery: Legacies of the Mexican War and the Compromise of 1850
In this lecture, Professor Blight discusses some of the conflicts, controversies, and compromises that led up to the Civil War. After analyzing Frederick Douglass's 1852 Fourth of July speech and the inherent conflict between American slavery and American freedom, the lecture moves into a lengthy discussion of the war with Mexico in the 1840s. Professor Blight explains why northerners and southerners made "such a fuss" over the issue of slavery's expansion into the western territories. The lecture ends with the crisis over California's admission to statehood and the Compromise of 1850.
Professor Blight is a compelling speaker. The themes of his course are important to help one understand current political currents in the US today. Really fascinating and insightful.
I agree wholeheartedly with the review by Junebugg64. I will listen again and again. Really interesting to compare southern political strategy then to now, in 2022. So many similarities. Thank you for making this available
I would love to get the reading list and syllabus!
I have listened to these lectures numerous times. I have not heard, read or seen anything that provides the same level of detail, analysis, or insight into the Civil War. Dr. Bright is an amazing lecturer and writer. His lectures have brought me to tears on numerous occasions. Simply the best!