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After the Civil War: Reconstruction and the New South, 1865-1914


Admission requirements

(For History students): BSA norm and both first-year Themacolleges passed.


This course examines the aftermath of the American Civil War, with particular reference to the southern states. It falls into two parts: the period of Reconstruction (1865-1877) and the period of the “New South” (1878-1914). During the first part we study the conflicting visions of President Andrew Johnson and the Republican Party for restoring the Union and defining the status of ex-slaves, the constitutional crisis that it produced, and the enactment by Congress of a plan based upon equak citizenship and black suffrage. After analyzing the violent white resistance that undermined Congressional Reconstruction, we examine the period of the “New South,” during which a system of white supremacy curtailed black rights and restricted voting to whites. The course also examines how blacks sought land, education, and control of their own churches as they responded to the challenge of freedom, and, after 1877, an increasingly oppressive system of racial segregation. The course utilizes books, articles, and primary sources to offers insight into race relations and to illuminate how Reconstruction has affected the course of American politics from 1865 to the present day.

Course objectives

Students will acquire knowledge of, and insight into:

  • Historical debates over Reconstruction and the New South

  • American politics and race relations generally

  • The concept of “American exceptionalism,” especially as applied to historical scholarship over the development of American democracy.

The course will sharpen the student’s ability:

  • To employ both traditional (print, film) and modern (digital) sources

  • To formulate and clearly express logical arguments in English (seminar paper/essay) and (optional) Dutch (essay).

  • To reflect critically upon the relationship between the interpretations of Reconstruction and the New South and ethical values (historical relativism)

  • To understand the political and contemporary relevance of the subject matter.


See here.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

  • Classes: 28 hours

  • Compulsory weekly reading: 140 hours

  • Researching and writing essay: 80 hours

  • Preparing seminar prentation: 32 hours

Assessment method

  • Attendance: required

  • Participation in discussion: required

  • Seminar presentation: 25%

  • Essay (approx. 6.000 words): 75%


Yes: contains syllabus, reading, articles, documents, and links to websites.

Reading list

Students must buy the following books before the start of the course:

  • Michael W. Fitzgerald, Splendid Failure: Postwar Reconstruction in the American South (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2008).

    *C. Vann Woodward and William McFeely, The Strange Career of Jim Crow (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001). ### Registration

via uSis.

Contact information

E-mail: Prof. Dr. A. Fairclough


Seminar presentations are given in English. Essays may be written in either English or Dutch.