UCL Institute of the Americas


AMER0034: From Slavery to Freedom? Race, Class, Gender and Union in the Nineteenth Century US

Module Convenor: Dr. Zoe Hyman


This module explores the history of the United States - with an emphasis on the American South - during the period c.1820‐1890. It covers the emergence of 'King Cotton', the spread of plantation slavery, and the growing political power of the southern slaveholding states. It then turns to the sectional crises that made the young republic look increasingly fragile between 1820 and 1860 before exploring the causes, course and consequences of the Civil War. With Union victory, four million African Americans were free, but the meaning of that freedom was fiercely contested.

We will explore the battle for political, economic and social control during the years of Reconstruction and Redemption and then assess how and why a white supremacist regime was able to solidify in the South by the 1890s. Finally, we will consider the antebellum South and Civil War in memory and memorialisation, asking why the conflict has such a hold on the American imagination.

Throughout the module, key themes of race, class, gender, freedom and union will provide the lens through which we explore topics including black resistance and agency; planters and non‐slaveholding whites; the intersection of class, race and gender in the South; and historiographical approaches to understanding slavery, society, abolitionism, Civil War, Reconstruction, and the rise of segregation.

Introductory Reading:

  • reading list to follow shortly