The core assignment of this course is a documented research paper (1500-2000 words in length = approx. 6 – 8 pages double spaced, 12-point font).
The essay should support a thesis statement with information gained from research or investigation. Your research paper will not be just a report presenting information, but will be an essay that carefully examines and presents your own historical interpretation of the topic you have chosen and your interpretation of the information you have gathered. Your research paper may include consideration of problems and solutions, define key terms, or refute arguments against your thesis statement. It is important to choose a topic of interest to you. Approach this assignment with an open and skeptical mind, then form an opinion based on what you have discovered. You must suspend belief while you are investigating and let the discoveries shape your opinion. (This is a thesis-finding approach.) Once you have found your thesis, write the paper to support it. You will use some of the following critical thinking skills in this process: Choosing an appropriate topic, limiting the topic Gathering information, summarizing sources Analyzing and evaluating sources Defining key terms Synthesizing information, comparing and contrasting sources Testing a thesis, making an historical argument, using refutation Amassing support for a position Documenting sources Because this may be a longer essay than you have written before and a complex process is involved, it is recommended that you complete this paper using the following steps: Choose a topic related to U.S. History to 1877 (Chapters 1-15) that you would truly like to explore and that you are willing to spend some time on. Your chosen topic should be focused. Pose a question that you really want to answer. You may want to begin with more than one topic in mind. Do some preliminary reading on the topic(s). You may begin with the textbook, then further explore the information available. Refine your topic. Summarize your topic, your interest in the topic, the questions you want to answer, and a hypothesis you want to test. Gather information from a variety of sources. Use a minimum of four (4)sources for your paper, and at least one (1) must be a primary source. Outline the results of your research and then plan for your essay (note you are not required to submit the outline). Examples of primary sources are ones that are used in our discussion forums 2 – 8. They are sources that are contemporary to the times under investigation. Here’s additional help with primary sources An example of a secondary source is our textbook, though the textbook also contains excerpts of primary sources, which you may use as a source in your essay. Do not use encyclopedias of any kind. Write the final draft and be sure to include a Works Cited List; be sure to use the correct MLA documentation style.
GRADING RUBRIC INTRODUCTION & THESIS: The essay makes a clear and effective statement (the thesis) about the chosen topic. /15 FOCUS AND DEVELOPMENT: Body of the essay focuses on this thesis and develops it fully, recognizing the complexity of issues. /30 SUPPORT AND SYNTHESIS: Uses sufficient and relevant evidence to support the thesis (and primary points), including facts, inferences, and judgments. Quotes, summarizes, and paraphrases accurately and effectively–appropriately introducing and explaining each quote. /30 CONVENTIONS: Uses MLA format correctly; includes a Works Cited list; is free of errors. /10 CORRECTNESS AND STYLE: Shows critical thinking and depth of understanding; uses appropriate tone; shows sophistication in language usage and sentence structure. /15 TOTAL: 100 As you begin to think about your research paper for this course, it is important that you select a topic that is of interest to YOU and that it is related to history before 1877.
The following is a list of essay topics that you could consider for your Research Paper. These topics are only suggestions. Youâ€™re welcome to develop your own topic of interest. If you have any questions or need help getting pointed in the right direction, please let me know. CHAPTER 1 â€¢ Explain as thoroughly as you can how the slave trade affected African society. â€¢ The sophistication and diversity of the peoples in the early Americas is remarkable. Explore that diversity in an essay that discusses early Native American culture, architecture, religion, gender relations, economy, and views of freedom. CHAPTER 2 â€¢ What key political, social, and religious ideas and institutions defined the English nation around 1600? â€¢ Once England decided to create an overseas empire, it did so with impressive speed. Explain the motives behind English expansion to the North American continent, including the Great Migration. â€¢ Many degrees of freedom coexisted in seventeenth-century North America. Discuss the various definitions of freedom. Be sure to include slaves, indentured servants, women, Indians, property owners, and Puritans in your discussion. Identify any similarities and differences among these different versions of freedom. â€¢ Explain the reasons behind the various conflicts between the English and the Indians. How do differing perceptions of land and liberty fit into the story? How does trade play a part? CHAPTER 3 â€¢ William Penn called his colony a â€œholy experiment.â€ Chronicle the development of Pennsylvania, with particular attention to the advantages that the colony offered to settlers. What liberties were guaranteed and to whom? â€¢ By the 1750s, North American colonists possessed a dual identity: they were both British in their attempts at Anglicization and also distinctly American. What factors contributed to this dual identity? What reinforced the British identity? What reinforced the American identity? Be sure to discuss political, cultural, social, and economic aspects of society. â€¢ Explain how and why tobacco planters in the Chesapeake region came to rely on African slaves rather than European indentured servants over the course of the seventeenth century. At what point did the Chesapeake become a â€œslave societyâ€ rather than merely a â€œsociety with slavesâ€? â€¢ The line between slavery and freedom was more permeable in the seventeenth century than it would become later. Explain how slavery was treated in the seventeenth century by discussing the law, customs, and liberties extended to slaves. What contributed to the hardening of the line between slavery and freedom? CHAPTER 4 â€¢ The slave experience was diverse in British America. Describe how slavery evolved in the various regions of British America. What role did African religions play? What liberties, if any, were extended to slaves in the northern colonies, the Chesapeake region, and the rice kingdom of South Carolina and Georgia? What was the impact of the Stono Rebellion? â€¢ Explain the impact of the Seven Yearsâ€™ War on colonial society. Pay particular attention to how the war and its outcome shaped colonial identities as well as to the relationship between colonists and Indians. â€¢ As Europeans continued to settle the North American continent during the 1700s, Indians constantly struggled to maintain their independence and identities. Illustrate the common obstacles the Indian communities faced and the ways they tried to unite to overcome their hardships during the eighteenth century. Consider the Indians in California during the Spanish missionary period, the Creeks during the early settlement of Carolina, the Indians in Pennsylvania, and the Indians during and after the French and Indian War (including Pontiacâ€™s Rebellion). CHAPTER 5 â€¢ Discuss the debates that occurred over virtual representation. How did the leaders in London and the leaders in America view participation in governing the empire differently? â€¢ Revolution is a dynamic process with consequences no one can anticipate. Explain the initial goals of the colonists in 1765 at the time of the Stamp Act and the evolution of their ultimate decision to declare independence in 1776. What were the political and social consequences of the Revolution that had emerged by 1783? â€¢ Many students commonly believe that the Revolutionary War was a short and relatively painless war. However, for Americans, only the Vietnam War lasted longer than the Revolutionary War. In a thoughtful essay, describe why the war was so lengthy and what the costs involved were for the British and for the Americans. â€¢ Compare the relative advantages of the American and the British militaries. How was George Washington able to secure a victory over the most powerful nation in the world? â€¢ Discuss the ways in which both supporters and opponents of independence used the concepts of â€œfreedomâ€ and â€œslaveryâ€ during the American Revolution. Be sure to consider the perspectives of Thomas Paine and Jonathan Boucher (both in â€œVoices of Freedomâ€), the slaves who fought for both sides, and others whose ideas you consider significant. â€¢ How did the colonists justify their protests and ultimate rebellion? What sources did they call on? What philosophies were influential? How was the language of freedom and liberty used? CHAPTER 6 â€¢ Freedom and an individualâ€™s right to vote became interchangeable in the wake of the Revolution. Describe how that transformation came about and how the various state constitutions dealt with voting qualifications. â€¢ Thomas Paine wrote that the essence of a republic was not the â€œparticular formâ€ of government, but its object: the â€œpublic good.â€ Discuss how the various states structured their governments and how they believed those governments provided for the public good. â€¢ To what extent did Revolutionary-era Americans agree with Noah Websterâ€™s statement that equality was the very soul of a republic? Your response should define what Americans meant by equality and should consider groups that seemed to enjoy equality as well as those groups that did not. â€¢ How did Loyalists view liberty? How were they treated after the war? Why? â€¢ When Dr. Samuel Johnson, the British writer, asked how it was â€œthat we hear the loudest yelps for liberty from the drivers of negroes,â€ he was pointing to a key irony of the American independence movement. What arguments did supporters of American independence use to justify retaining the institution of slavery? Did any of their contemporaries in America counter their arguments? How? â€¢ How did women react to the language of freedom and liberty? Be sure to include in your response Abigail Adamsâ€™s opinions that appear in â€œVoices of Freedom.â€ â€¢ Not everyone supported the independence movement within the colonies. Explain who supported independence and who did not. Be sure to include a discussion about how socioeconomic standing, race, religion, and gender affected an individualâ€™s support for or opposition to independence. Also consider why the other regions of the British Empire, such as Canada, the Caribbean islands, and Florida, did not also rebel and seek independence. CHAPTER 7 â€¢ Compare the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution. Which document did a better job of protecting liberties? Running a government? Explain your answer with specific examples. â€¢ Identify the three major ways that the U.S. Constitution addressed the institution of slavery. Would you say the Constitution was a proslavery or an antislavery document? Explain your answer. â€¢ Under President Washington, Secretary of War Henry Knox had hoped to pursue a more peaceful policy with the Indians. How did U.S. policy concerning the Indians unfold in the 1790s? CHAPTER 8 â€¢ Women were increasingly coming to believe that they too had the right to knowledge, education, public discourse, and employment. Discuss the various arguments being made in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries by women regarding their changing roles in the new republic. â€¢ Did the United States really win the War of 1812? Examine the terms of the peace settlement. What was gained? What was the greater victory for America? CHAPTER 9 â€¢ Explain how improvements in transportation and communication made possible the rise of the West as a powerful, self-conscious region of the new nation. â€¢ Discuss the impact of the market revolution on women and African-Americans (both free and slave). â€¢ Explain the shift from artisan to factory worker, and discuss the factory system. What were the advantages and disadvantages? Who was left out? Who benefited? What were some ways workers responded? â€¢ Thoroughly describe the arguments made that linked American freedom to westward expansion. Who or what were obstacles to freedom in the pursuit of expansion? How did Americans deal with those obstacles? â€¢ Some women worked in the mills, relishing the freedom and independence they felt away from the farm for the first time, while others developed a cult of domesticity, thinking themselves free to not have to work outside the home. Compare the meaning of freedom for these two groups of women. Think back to previous chapters and compare the role of women during the market revolution with the â€œrepublican motherhoodâ€ role of women during the American Revolution. CHAPTER 10 â€¢ The admittance of Missouri to the Union sparked a national crisis. Describe the debates that led up to the final compromise. How does the Missouri Compromise illustrate that sectional issues would surely arise again? â€¢ Thinking back to previous chapters, analyze Americaâ€™s policies toward Indians from the Washington administration through the removal of Indians from the southeastern states in the 1830s and early 1840s. What ideas and policies about Indians remained the same? Which changed? Why? CHAPTER 11 â€¢ Despite unimaginable hardships, slaves were able to maintain a sense of identity and a determination to attain freedom. Describe how slave culture aided those endeavors and drove slavesâ€™ desire for freedom. Be sure to consider African heritage, slave family life, folklore, and religious life in your response. â€¢ What made slavery â€œpeculiarâ€ in the United States? â€¢ For the most part, white southerners defended the â€œpeculiar institutionâ€ whether or not they had slaves, whether they were rich or poor, and whether they lived on large plantations or small farms. Why was this the case? â€¢ Discuss the relationship between masters and slaves in the American South. Did masters have all the power in this relationship, or did the enslaved exert some power? Points to consider include paternalism, the size of slaveholdings, slavery and the law, forms of slave resistance, and labor organization (task and gang systems). â€¢ Slave rebellions were rare but important. Compare the slave rebellions (merely planned or actually carried out) of Denmark Vesey and Nat Turner. What did Vesey attempt to do? What did Turner attempt to do? How were these men similar? How did they view slavery and freedom? How did white society react to them, and why? CHAPTER 12 â€¢ The abolitionistsâ€™ greatest achievement lay in shattering the conspiracy of silence that had sought to preserve national unity by suppressing public debate over slavery. Explain how the abolitionists achieved this, and comment on how successful the movement was or was not. â€¢ One personâ€™s reform in some cases may be considered an attack on another personâ€™s vital interests. Describe how the antebellum reform movementsâ€”particularly temperance, colonization, abolition, and womenâ€™s rightsâ€”involved conflict between different sets of ideas and interests. â€¢ One of the debates within the antislavery crusade was colonization of African-Americans to Africa. Explain the various arguments for and against colonization â€¢ Frederick Douglass wrote, â€œWhen the true history of the antislavery cause shall be written, women will occupy a large space in its pages.â€ Was Douglass correct? Explain the role women played in the abolitionist movement. Then analyze how that experience influenced the feminist movement. â€¢ What were the women at Seneca Falls advocating? Be sure to explain how they understood freedom and liberty. What methods were the feminists using to promote their cause? CHAPTER 13 â€¢ Did morality or economics dominate the debates over slavery in the 1850s? Explain the various arguments made for and against the expansion of slavery. Who, if anyone, was arguing for abolition? â€¢ Many Americans and immigrants from other lands believed California presented a magnificent opportunity for economic freedom once gold was discovered. However, the boundaries of freedom were tightly drawn in California. Explain the expansions and limitations of freedom there. â€¢ Using the Lincoln-Douglas debates, explore how each man viewed freedom. What can their political debates tell us about American society on the eve of the Civil War? â€¢ Analyze Roger Taneyâ€™s decision in the Dred Scott case. How did the ruling mirror the sectional debates that had been occurring in Congress? What consequences did the decision have on the liberties and freedoms of blacks in America? â€¢ Examine the aftermath of the Mexican War and its consequences for Indians, slaves, and free blacks in the newly acquired areas. Think back to Thomas Jeffersonâ€™s idea of an Empire of Liberty. Did the newly acquired land from the Mexican War promote Jeffersonâ€™s idea, or as with the Louisiana Purchase, was it an empire of liberty for only a few? â€¢ How do you explain why and when certain slave states seceded from the Union? Why did some slave statesâ€”Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouriâ€”not secede from the Union? CHAPTER 14 â€¢ What did the Union soldiers believe they were fighting for? What did the Confederate soldiers believe they were fighting for? â€¢ What was the basic premise of the Confederate government? What advantages did the Confederacy have, and why did its leaders think victory would be theirs? â€¢ Compare and contrast the leadership abilities of wartime presidents Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. How significant was each manâ€™s leadership to the course of the war? â€¢ How did the war affect the economies of the North and of the South? â€¢ Blacks eagerly signed up for service in the army and navy after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. Describe the life of a black soldier. How did it differ from the experiences of black sailors? Overall, how important were black servicemen in the outcome of the war? Finally, discuss what fighting in the war meant to these men. â€¢ Frederick Douglass declared, â€œThe work does not end with the abolition of slavery, but only begins.â€ In a thoughtful essay, discuss what you foresee as the work that will need to be done to secure freedom and liberty to the ex-slaves. Is emancipation enough? Why or why not? â€¢ Lincoln observed in 1864 that â€œwe all declare for liberty but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.â€ He continued to explain what the North meant and what the South meant, and how victory meant a national norm as defined by the North. Illustrate how liberty would come to be understood for the nation after the Civil War and analyze whether the abolishment of slavery was enough to propel the United States to finally exist as its founding documents suggested it should. CHAPTER 15 â€¢ What did freedom mean for the ex-slaves? Be sure to address economic opportunities, gender roles, religious independence, and family security. â€¢ Explain how wartime devastation set in motion a train of events that permanently altered the white yeomanryâ€™s independent way of life, leading to what they considered a loss of freedom. â€¢ Reconstruction witnessed profound changes in the lives of southerners, black and white, rich and poor. Explain the various ways that the lives of these groups changed. Were the changes for the better or worse? â€¢ Stating that he â€œlived among men, not among angels,â€ Thaddeus Stevens recognized that the Fourteenth Amendment was not perfect. Explain the strengths and weaknesses of the Fourteenth Amendment. What liberties and freedoms did it extend in the nineteenth centuryâ€”and to whom? How did it alter the relationship between the federal government and the states? â€¢ Was Reconstruction a success or a failure? Or was it something in between? In your response, consider land policy, key legislation during Presidential and Radical Reconstruction, southern politics, racial and political violence, and northern â€œfatigueâ€ with Reconstruction. Be sure to make clear what you mean by success and failure. â€¢ The debate surrounding the creation and ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment divided one-time political allies over the matter of womenâ€™s suffrage. What were the arguments for and against including a womanâ€™s right to vote in the Fifteenth Amendment? What did this debate say about the boundaries of freedom defined by Reconstruction?