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The American Civil War and Reconstruction


NB. This course is NOT available as an optional course / keuzevak! Students are only allowed to enroll if they are:

  • part of the BA-history programme of Leiden University

  • participating in the Leiden University minor or keuzepakket Amerikanistiek

  • International students (via the International Office!)

The American Civil War was the worst political crisis and most bloody military conflict in the history of the United States. Although the North crushed the Confederacy, its post-war Reconstruction policy was a costly political failure that consigned the freed slaves to second-class citizenship. This course examines the military course of the Civil War, its effects upon civilians, and the internal politics of the Union and the Confederacy. The emancipation of the slaves, and the role of Abraham Lincoln in that process, forms an important topic. We then examine the goals of Reconstruction, black political empowerment in the South, and southern white resistance to racial equality leading to the defeat of the Republican Party. The seminar also considers how the Civil War and Reconstruction have been depicted in film, literature, and popular culture, and how different generations have interpreted the meaning of these conflicts.


Seminar. (NB class attendance is mandatory, see studiereglement Instituut voor Geschiedenis, art 2)


To gain an understanding of the main historiographical problems of the Civil War and Reconstruction through study of secondary literature and primary sources. The development of research and writing skills through a study of relevant literature on a chosen topic. The development of presentational skills by means of an oral report.


Totale study load: 280 hours

  • Class attendance: 28 hours

  • Studying literature: 112 hours

  • Seminar presentation: 10 hours

  • Writing essay: 130 hours


*James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Penguin).

  • Eric Foner, A Short History of Reconstruction (Penguin).


  • Long essay (6.000 words): 80%

  • Seminar presentation (referaat): 20%


Semester II, see timetables.


With the tutor: Prof. dr. A. Fairclough




Via U-TWIST, see aanmeldingsprocedures.