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


Admission requirements

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.

This BA-Werkcollege is linked to the Kerncollege ‘De grenzen van de macht’.

Course objectives

General learning objectives
The student can:

    1. Carry out a common assignment;
    1. Devise and conduct research of limited scope, including:
      a. searching, selecting and ordering relevant literature;
      b. organising and using relatively large amounts of information;
      c. analyzing a scholarly debate;
      d. placing the research within the context of a scholarly debate;
    1. Consider the primary sources upon which the literature is based;
    1. Write a problem-based essay and give an oral presentation according to the format of the syllabus Themacolleges,and thereby:
      a. keep to a realistic plan
      b. devise a research question and sub-questions;
      c. formulate a well-argued conclusion;
      d. give and receive feedback;
      e. respond to advice from the lecturer.
    1. Participate in class discussion.

Objectives specific to the specialization/ track

    1. The student has acquired knowledge that is specific to the study track to which the BA-werkcollege belongs; In the American History track this will include:
      a. understanding of “American exceptionalism;”
      b. appreciation of the US as a culturally diverse society and how this is reflected in historiography;
      c. the ability to detect interactions between European and American ideas.
    1. The student has knowledge of and insight into the key concepts and research methods of the study. Track.
    • in General History, this includes the study of primary sources and the relativity of national history;
    • in the study track American History, this includes the analysis of historiographical and intellectual debates, especially those related to “American exceptionalism.”

Learning objectives pertaining to this BA Werkcollege
The student will:

    1. Understand historical debates over Reconstruction and the New South.
    1. Understand the concepts of federalism and constitutionalism, and be able to apply them to the subject.
    1. Be able to state the relevance of the topic to present-day race relations in the US
    1. Understand how the topic has influenced shaped Ameican politics
    1. Gain insight into the problems of “democratization.”
    1. Be able to reflect on the use of both traditional (print, film) and modern (digital) sources.


Zie Rooster Geschiedenis (in Dutch)

Mode of instruction

Werkcollege (seminar)

Course Load

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

  • Class attendance: 28 hours

  • Compulsory weekly reading: 140 hours

  • Researching and writing essay: 80 hours

  • Preparing seminar presentation: 32 hours

Assessment method

  • Written paper (ca. 6000 words, based on historiography, including footnotes and bibliography)
    Measured learning objectives: 2-4, 7

  • Seminar presentation (collaborative assignment)
    Measured learning objectives: 1,2,4,5

  • Participation (class discussion based upon weekly reading assignments)
    Measured learning objectives: 3,5,6,8-13

Written paper: 70%
Seminar presentation: 20%
Participation: 10 %

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

If a student fails the essay, he/she may re-submit by a deadline set by the lecturer.
Failure to give a seminar presentation (except in extraordinary circumstances) will result in a fail for the whole course. The seminar presentation cannot be re-taken.


Blackboard contains syllabus, reading, articles, documents, and links to websites.

Reading list

Students must buy the following books, and read Foner before the start of the course:

  • Eric Foner, A Short History of Reconstruction (New York: HarperPerennial, 1990)

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


Via uSis

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


mr. Prof.dr. A. Fairclough
Huizinga-gebouw 1.67


Seminar presentations and class discussions are in English. Essays may be written in either English or Dutch.