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Readings in American History


Admission requirements

Relevant bachelor’s degree.


This course examines some of the most important scholarly debates about American history, focusing on classic and recently-published works on such topics as the American Revolution, American liberalism, the South, immigration, the frontier, the Cold War, and the women’s movement. In addition to gaining an overview of American history, the course enables students to discuss important books in depth, and to examine the methodological and ideological approaches of leading historians.

Course objectives

Students will acquire knowledge and insight regarding:

  • the history and culture of the United States;

  • debates regarding key themes such as immigration, race, ethnicity and foreign policy;

  • the concept of “American exceptionalism,” especially as that idea reates to politics, economics and foreign policy.

Students will practice their ability to:

  • summarize, analyze, and discuss key texts in American history and culture;

  • place those texts in their historical context and identify the political and ethical values that influenced them (relativism);

  • relate historiographical and cultural debates to contemporary issues;

  • write concise book reviews based upon thorough analysis of set texts;

  • introduce an oral discussion of a set text.


See timetable.

Mode of instruction

Literature seminar.

Course load

Total course load for the course (10 ec x 28 hours): 280 hours.

  • class attendance (35 hours);

  • compulsory weekly reading (140 hours);

  • weekly writing assignments and preparation of oral presentation (105 hours).

Assessment method

  • 8 book reviews of approx. 800 words each (80%);

  • oral presentation (20%).

If the final grade is insufficient, only the research essay can be rewritten.


Blackboard gives access to syllabus, biblioraphy, documentary sources, and additional texts.

Reading list

  • Gordon Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1992);

  • Patricia Nelson Limerick, Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West (1987);

  • Michael Lind, What Lincoln Believed: The Values and Convictions of America’s Greatest President (2005);

  • David M. Potter, People of Plenty: Economic Abundance and the American Character (1958);

  • Wilbur J. Cash, The Mind of the South (1940, 1991);

  • W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (2003);

  • Oscar Handlin, The Uprooted (1953);

  • Linda Gordon, The Moral Property: A History of Birth Control Politics in America (2007);

  • Michael Hunt, Ideology and U.S. Foreign Policy (2009);

  • Godfrey Hodgson, The Myth of American Exceptionalism (2009).


Via uSis.




Dhr. Prof. dr. A. (Adam) Fairclough