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Level 7

7AAH4011 Liberty and inequality in the American founding

Credit value20
Module convenor/tutor: Dr Max Edling
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2-hour weekly seminars
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x 4,000-word essay (100%)

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.

This module aims to critically assess the claim that the United States was founded as a nation dedicated to the liberty and equality of all people, a central tenet of American national identity. In particular, the course concentrates on the experiences of population groups who were denied full citizen rights while still being subject to the authority of state and federal government. The module looks at the formal status of groups such as women, immigrants, Native Americans, slaves and free people of colour by means of constitutional and statute law. But it also approaches the lived experience of members of these groups by means of first-person narratives and contemporary fiction as well as other primary sources, focusing on how American society maintained and policed systems of inequality but also on how subaltern groups struggled to challenge and overcome them. The module also addresses the heated historiography of the American founding with special reference to its allegedly liberal foundations.

Suggested introductory reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these texts is not mandatory

  • Francis D. Cogliano, ed., A Companion to Thomas Jefferson (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011).
  • Edward Countryman, Americans: A Collision of Histories (Palgrave Macmillan, 1997).
  • Alan Gibson, Interpreting the Founding (University Press of Kansas, 2010).
  • Michael Grossberg and Christopher Tomlins, The Cambridge History of Law in America, vol. II: The Long Nineteenth Century, 1789-1920 (Cambridge University Press, 2008).
  • Leonard J. Sadosky, Revolutionary Negotiations: Indians, Empires, and Diplomats in the Founding of America (University of Virginia Press, 2010).
  • Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, This Violent Empire: The Birth of an American National Identity (University of North Carolina Press, 2010).
  • Christopher L. Tomlins, Freedom Bound: Law, Labor, and Civic Identity in Colonizing English America, 1580-1865 (Cambridge University Press, 2010)
  • Barbara Young Welke, Law and the Borders of Belonging in the Long Nineteenth Century United States (Cambridge University Press, 2010).
  • Charles Brockden Brown: Arthur Mervyn, or Memoirs of the Year 1793 (Hackett Pub. Co., 2008 [1799]).
  • Daniel Cohen, ed., The Female Marine and Related Works (University of Massachusetts Press, 1997) [1815])
  • Oladuah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Oladuah Equiano (Penguin, 1995 [1789]).
  • Susanna Rowson, Charlotte Temple (Oxford University Press, 1986 [1794]).
  • Theresa Strouth Gaul, ed. To Marry an Indian: The Marriage of Harriet Gold and Elias Boudinot in Letters, 1823-1839 (University of North Carolina Press, 2005).
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