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


Admission requirements

BSA norm and a pass for both first year Themacolleges.


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.

Learning objectives

The student can:

    1. carry out a common assignment
    1. reflect on the primary sources on which the scholarly literature is based;
    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. 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.

The student has:

    1. knowledge of a specialisation, more specifically of American History; including
      a. an understanding of theories of “American exceptionalism”;
      b. the ability to approach the US as a multicultural society and the consequences of that for historiography.
      c. an appreciation of the intellectual interaction between the US and Europe.
    1. knowledge and insight in the main concepts, the research methods and techniques of the specialisation
    1. knowledge and insight in the historiography and theory of history
    1. acquired knowledge of, and insight into:
      a. historical debates over Reconstruction and the New South;
      b. American politics and race relations generally;
      c. the concept of “American exceptionalism,” especially as applied to historical scholarship over the development of American democracy;
      d. the United States as a multiracial, multiethnic society.
    1. acquired a sharpened ability to:
      a. employ both traditional (print, film) and modern (digital) sources;
      b. formulate and clearly express logical arguments in English (seminar paper/essay) and (optional) Dutch (essay);
      c. reflect critically upon the relationship between the interpretations of Reconstruction and the New South and ethical values (historical relativism);
      d. understand the political and contemporary relevance of the subject matter.


See timetable.

Mode of instruction


Course load

Total course load is 10 ec x 28 hours = 280 hours:

  • classes (28 hours);

  • compulsory weekly reading (140 hours);

  • researching and writing essay (80 hours);

  • preparing seminar prentation (32 hours).


  • Essay (6000 words, including notes and bibliography)
    Measured learning objectives: 2, 3a-d, 4a-e, 6b, 7-10

  • Oral presentation
    Measured learning objectives: 1, 4a-e, 6, 7-10

  • Participation
    Measured learning objectives: 1, 4d-e, 5, 6, 8-10

Essay: 70%
Oral presentation: 20%
Participation: 10%
The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average combined with the additional requirement that the essay has to be sufficient.

Mid-term assignments and oral presentations can only be retaken in exceptional circumstances. For essays, the deadline for resubmission can be found in Overzicht deadlines van de Opleiding Geschiedenis: deadline.


This course will make use of Blackboard for:

  • contains syllabus;

  • reading;

  • articles;

  • documents;

  • 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).


Via uSis.

Aanmelden Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


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


Dhr. Prof. dr. A. (Adam) Fairclough