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America in the Global Gilded Age, 1865-1914


Admission requirements

BSA norm and a pass for both first year Themacolleges.


This class will explore America’s Gilded Age in the context of what historian Eric Hobsbawm has called “the Age of Empire.” It will examine the results of the American Civil War, the expansion of voting rights in America and Europe, and the rise of big business in Germany and the U.S. It will also explore the labor movement, the emergence of an American professional class, and the beginnings of American Imperialism.

This class will examine American history in the context of the lecture series Kerncollege “Global connections” including the rise of international free trade, the creation of US multinational corporations and American empire.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

    1. carry out a common assignment
    1. divise and conduct research of limited scope, including
      a. searching, selecting and ordering relevant literature:
      b. organising and using relatively large amounts of information:
      c. an analysis of a scholarly debate:
      d. placing the research within the context of a scholarly debate.
    1. reflect on the primary sources on which the scholarly literature is based;
    1. write a problem solving essay and give an oral presentation after the format defined in the Themacolleges, including
      a. using a realistic schedule of work;
      b. formulating a research question and subquestions;
      c. formulating a well-argued conclusion;
      d. giving and receiving feedback;
      e. responding to instructions of the lecturer.
    1. participate in discussions during class.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

    1. The student has knowledge of a specialisation, more specifically of
    • in the specialisation General History the place of European history from 1500 in a worldwide perspective; with a focus on the development and role of political institutions;
    • in the track American History American exceptionalism; the US as a multicultural society and the consequences of that for historiography; the intellectual interaction between the US and Europe;
    1. Knowledge and insight in the main concepts, the research methods and techniques of the specialisation, more specifically of
    • in the specialisation General History the study of primary sources and the context specificity of nationally defined histories;
    • in the track American History exceptionalism; analysis of historiografical and intellectual debates;
  • Learning objectives, pertaining to this specific seminar*

    1. The class will explore the effects of the American Civil War, including the expansion of voting rights, the rise of a national state, the emergence of railroads and big business, and changing ideas about race and class.
    1. The seminar will examine the rise of a professional class, opposition to this class by Southerners and Populists, changing ideas about gender and sex, and the beginnings of American Imperialism
    1. The seminar will examine these American transformations in the context of what William and JR McNeill call “Breaking Old Chains” (1750-1914) and “Strains on the Web “ (the world since 1890) in their book The Human Web.


Zie Rooster Geschiedenis (in Dutch)

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load: 10 EC x 28 hrs = 280 hours

  • Practical work: discussion 3 hours per week x 13 weeks = 39 hours

  • Assessment: 1.5 hours for midterm, 2 hours for final examination = 3.5 hours

  • Literature: 80 pages per week x13 weeks = 1040 pages = approximately 148 hours total

  • Preparation lecture / assignments: 20 hours

  • Assignment: 70 hours (necessary hours to write a paper (including research and reading secondary literature)

Assessment method

  • Written paper (ca. 6000 words, based on historiography, including footnotes and bibliography)
    Measured learning objectives: 2-4, 8

  • Oral presentation
    Measured learning objectives: 3-4, 8, 9

  • Participation
    Measured learning objectives: 5

  • Assignment 1 (midterm examination)
    Measured learning objectives: 8, 10

  • Assignment 2 (final examination)
    Measured learning objectives: 9, 10

  • Assignment 3 (quizzes)
    Measured learning objectives: 8, 9, 10

Written paper: 60%
Oral presentation: 10%
Particiation: 4%
Assignment 1: 10%
Assignment 2: 15%
Assignment 3: 1%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.

Written papers should be handed in within the given deadline

The written paper can be revised, when marked insufficient. Revision should be carried out within the given deadline


Blackboard will be used for distributing pdfs of the reading materials

Reading list

All reading will be available in pdf form on Blackboard


Via uSis

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Scott Reynolds Nelson