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Readings in American History


Admission requirements

Bachelor’s degree.

This course is part of the MA North American Studies, but other students are welcome too if there are places available.


This is a required course for students who start the program in February (instead of Major Issues in American History and Culture, which is only offered in the Fall semester).

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 gain knowledge and understanding regarding:

  • major issues in the history, politics, and culture of the United States, with a focus on themes like emancipation struggles, global interactions, U.S. exceptionalism, and cultural identities, as well as the main scholarly and theoretical debates on these issues;

  • the role of the United States in relation to the rest of the world;

  • research methods that are used in the field of North American Studies.

Students will practice:

  • the ability to conduct independent research in the field of North American Studies, thereby showing the ability to comprehend and apply relevant theoretical insights and multidisciplinary methodological approaches;

  • the ability to describe and justify the adopted research methods;

  • the ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question that is based on a problem that reflects insight into the key discussions and methods of the field;

  • the ability to apply knowledge of North American history and culture to current issues and developments, nationally and internationally;

  • the ability to judge the relative merits of academic opinions and scholarly arguments on contemporary developments in the field of North American Studies;

  • the ability to orally present and defend in correct academic English the result of individual and group research;

  • the ability to effectively communicate research results in correct academic English in various written formats, including book reviews, and a historiographic essay;

  • the ability to provide constructive feedback to, and formulate criticism of, the work of others and the ability to evaluate the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it.


See timetable.

Mode of instruction

Literature seminar.

Attendance is required. If a student cannot attend class, he or she needs to contact the instructor in advance with an explanation. The instructor will then decide if it is excusable and if and how the student can make up the missing work.

Course load

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

  • Lectures/class attendance = 42 hours;

  • Studying required literature = 80 hours;

  • Short writing assignments, blackboard posting, oral presentation = 58 hours

  • Research essay = 100 hours

Assessment method


  • Oral presentation (15%);

  • Two short writing assignments (20%);

  • Blackboard postings and participation in class discussion (15%);

  • Historiographical essay (5000 words) (50%).


See assessment.


If the essay receives an insufficient grade, it may be rewritten.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


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

Reading list

  • Carol Anderson, White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide

  • Chandra Manning, What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War

  • Daniel Immerwahr, Thinking Small: The United States and the Lure of Community Development

  • Greg Grandin, The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World

  • Jefferson Cowie, The Great Exception: The New Deal and the Limits of American Politics

  • Mark Philip Bradley, The World Reimagined: Americans and Human Rights in the Twentieth Century

  • A number of additional articles will be posted on Blackboard.


Via uSis.




Dr. W.M. Schmidli.