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Level 5

5AAH3013 Making Americans: Peoples, Cultures and Identities in Colonial North America and the United States, 1500-2000

Credit value: 30
Module convenor/tutor: Dr Max Edling (Sem 1) and Dr Daniel Matlin (Sem 2)
Teaching pattern: 20 x 2 hour seminars (weekly)
AvailabilityPlease see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x 3 hour examination (60%), 2 x 2,000 word essays (15% each) & 1 x oral presentation (10%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment by the following methods: 1 x 3 hour examination (60%); 2 x 2,000 word essays (15% each); 1 x 1500 word essay (10%).

N.B. This module cannot be taken in conjunction with 5AAH1035, 5AAH2023 and 5AAH3113 due to overlap of content.

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

Adopted in 1782, the Great Seal of the United States bears the motto E Pluribus Unum - out of many, one. Referring initially to the unity of thirteen former colonies in joining to create a federal government, the phrase also came to signify the forging of a unified nation from a multitude of diverse peoples, and the emergence of a national identity and culture among a population of differing origins. Beginning with early contacts between Europeans and indigenous Americans in the 16th century, this module traces the development of a multiethnic North America through exploration, conquest, voluntary and forced migration, and settlement. It examines the construction, often by means of power and violence, of an independent nation and a composite American identity and culture over five centuries of social, cultural, economic, legal, environmental and political transformation. It asks how processes of unification and ‘Americanization’ have coexisted and competed with alternative identities and social formations tied to race, ethnicity, diaspora, class, state, region, and religion. Key themes and topics include: First contact between indigenous peoples and European explorers and colonizers; European colonization; slavery; independence; the creation of a racialized and gendered citizenship; territorial expansion; movements for abolition and women’s rights and the Civil War; mass immigration and urbanization; changing conceptions of ‘whiteness’ and racial order; competing visions of immigrant assimilation and cultural pluralism; the role of mass culture in ‘Americanization’; black integrationist and nationalist ideologies; and multiculturalism and its opponents. Exploring a rich body of scholarship and a wide range of primary sources - from travellers’ accounts and political speeches to cartoons and films - this module asks how, and how completely, Americans have been made into one people.

Provisional teaching plan

  • Introduction
  • Oceans
  • Indigenes
  • Plantations
  • Slavery
  • Transformations
  • Independence
  • Republics
  • Expansion
  • Rebellions
  • Reconstruction and the Rise of Segregation
  • Immigration, Ethnicity and Identity, 1865-1917
  • Nation and Difference in the 1910s and 1920s
  • Americanism and Americanization in the Interwar Years
  • Americanism at War, 1941-1945
  • The Cold War: Americanism and Un-Americanism
  • The Second Reconstruction: Civil Rights and Black Power
  • Multiculturalism and Its Critics
  • Nation, Identity and Memory

Suggested Introductory Reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these books is not mandatory.

Ira Berlin, Generations of Captivity: A History of African-American Slaves, (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2003)

Gary Gerstle, American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002)

Michael Kazin and Joseph A. McCartin, eds, Americanism: New Perspectives on the History of an Ideal, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006)

Ronald Takaki, A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America, rev. ed. (New York: Little, Brown, 2008)

Christopher Tomlins, Freedom Bound: Law, Labor, and Civic Identity in Colonizing English America, 1580 - 1865, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010)

Wendy L. Wall, Inventing the ‘American Way’: The Politics of Consensus from the New Deal to the Civil Rights Movement (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008)

Barbara Young Welke, Law and the Borders of Belonging in the Long Nineteenth Century United States, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010)

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