Course code:

HS4046

Level:

MA - Intermediate/Advanced

Meets the following requirements:

  • HY - History
  • HS - Human Studies

Perhaps one of the most widely evoked figures in modern history, Abraham Lincoln is frequently written about, quoted, and held up as an iconic example in contemporary public debate.

Yet most people know little about Lincoln beyond a summary biographical sketch and a short speech or two. This is especially true as it relates to Lincoln’s political life before the presidency, despite the fact that these early years that offer us a wealth of moments which speak not only to the issues of the period, but also to broader questions of political action, compromise, and idealism.

This class is an intensive exploration into Lincoln’s political career prior to his election to the presidency in 1860. Students will explore Lincoln’s activities as they relate to the debate over slavery, the death of the Whig party, and the ascendancy of the newly formed Republican Party. Class reading and discussion will be driven by a threefold examination of broad historical contexts, biographical materials, and public speech texts. Students will spend an extended period of time on the analysis of the 1858 Senate debates between Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. While the class will focus intensely on the political events of the 1850’s, the class will simultaneously track broader questions of political action in the context of a democratic society. As a result, students will have the opportunity both to acquire a richer understanding the historical moment that led to Lincoln’s rise to power, as well as an opportunity to reflect on the larger issue of putting “truth” into political practice.

This course is intended for students with an interest in American history, political action, and public debate. Familiarity with these issues is not a prerequisite for the class. The class will be held in a seminar-style environment and will be driven primarily by in-class discussion. There will be an intensive reading load as well as an intensive writing component to the class. Final evaluation will be based on a number of writing assignments, participation in class discussion, and an individual class presentation.

 

Prerequisites:

None

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