Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Civil War Course, Yale University: Professor David Blight teaches History 119

If you can't attend an Ivy League University, why not learn vicariously from your computer. Here we present the Yale University Course on the Civil War Era with Professor Blight.

1. Introductions: Why Does the Civil War Era Have a Hold on American Historical
The Civil War and Reconstruction (HIST 119)

Professor Blight offers an introduction to the course. He summarizes some of the course readings, and discusses the organization of the course is discussed. 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.


2. Southern Society: Slavery, King Cotton, and Antebellum America's "Peculiar" Region
The Civil War and Reconstruction (HIST 119)

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.


3. A Southern World View: The Old South and Proslavery Ideology
The Civil War and Reconstruction (HIST 119)

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.


4. A Northern World View: Yankee Society, Antislavery Ideology and the Abolition Movement
The Civil War and Reconstruction (HIST 119)

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.


5. Telling a Free Story: Fugitive Slaves and the Underground Railroad in Myth and Reality
The Civil War and Reconstruction (HIST 119)

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.

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