Lectures Seminars Course Information

THE U.S., 1789-1920


Coursework Essay Questions



  1. Describe and explain the impact of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars on the development of the American republic between 1789 and 1815.
  2. What did "Jeffersonians" believe in?
  3. What was the political significance of republican ideology in the US between 1800 and 1860?
  4. To what extent were American attitudes towards slavery (in both the North and the South) conditioned by trans-Atlantic perspectives and links?
  5. What was the economic, political and social impact of ANY ONE of the following events: the Panic of 1819, the Panic of 1837, the Panic of 1857?
  6. What were the social and cultural consequences of economic growth between 1789 and 1860?
  7. Did the "market revolution" accentuate or alleviate sectional tensions and identities?
  8. Discuss the cultural and social effects of the invention of the telgraph and the growth of the Post Office.
  9. "The Whigs were the party of intervention; the Democrats the party of laissez-faire." Discuss.
  10. Account for the high levels of popular political participation in the antebellum period.
  11. How widespread and how effective was slave resistance in the United States in the period 1800 to 1860?
  12. Describe and explain the evolution of anti-slavery sentiment in both North and South between 1789 and 1840.
  13. Was the pro-slavery ideology developed in the South in the antebellum period the product or the cause of northern abolitionism?
  14. Account for the rise of reform movements in the Northern states in the mid-nineteenth century.
  15. To what extent was the development of the women's movement in the period up to the Civil War retarded by the absence of a common lifestyle and experience among American women?
  16. "Evangelical reformers in the antebellum period were motivated by a desire for social control." Discuss.
  17. Assess the impact upon American society of the Second Great Awakening.
  18. "The abolitionists may have been unpopular but they were not unsuccessful." Discuss.
  19. Did the Missouri Controversy and the Nullification Crisis reveal the fragility of the American Union or its strength?
  20. "Native American people in the antebellum period were less the victims of materialism and greed than of racism and ethnocentrism." Discuss.
  21. Describe and explain the political realignments of the 1850s.
  22. Describe and explain the growth of anti-slavery sentiment in the North between 1848 and 1860.


  1. Why did the South secede?
  2. Assess the strength of anti-war feeling in the Union and the Confederacy between 1861 and 1865.
  3. How and why did a war to save the Union become a war to free the slaves?
  4. Why did the South lose the Civil War?
  5. Why did northerners give up the effort to enforce freedmen's rights after 1868?
  6. Was Reconstruction a failure?
  7. 'The period from 1865 to 1896 was one of successive experiments in different forms of white supremacy.' How complete is this characterisation of race relations in the South after the Civil War?
  8. How did the rise of industrial capitalism change American society in the half century after the Civil War?
  9. How did new immigrants to the US between 1865 and 1920 "become white"?
  10. What was the role of the federal government in promoting white settlement in the West in the period after the Civil War?
  11. What is "new" about the "new western history"?
  12. "‘Populism: a genuine mass democratic movement." Discuss.
  13. Why was the "money question" such a powerful poltical issue in the US in the 1890s?
  14. Assess the effects of the depression of the 1890s.
  15. Why did "trusts" become such a bogey word in late nineteenth and early twentieth century political discourse?
  16. How accurate is it to describe American foreign policy as "imperialist" between 1898 and 1914?
  17. Discuss the impact of the First World War on American politics, culture and society between 1914 and 1920.