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MOOC | Eric Foner - The Civil War and Reconstruction, 1850-1861 | Sections 1 through 10

The Civil War and Reconstruction - 1850 -1861

Discover how the issue of slavery came to dominate American politics, and how political leaders struggled and failed to resolve the growing crisis in the nation.

A House Divided: The Road to Civil War, 1850-1861 is a course that begins by examining how generations of historians have explained the crisis of the Union. After discussing the institution of slavery and its central role in the southern and national economies, it turns to an account of the political and social history of the 1850s. It traces how the issue of the expansion of slavery came to dominate national politics, and how political leaders struggled, unsuccessfully, to resolve the growing crisis. We will examine the impact of key events such as Bleeding Kansas, the Dred Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, and end with the dissolution of the Union in the winter of 1860-61.

This course is part of the series, The Civil War and Reconstruction, which introduces students to the most pivotal era in American history. The Civil War transformed the nation by eliminating the threat of secession and destroying the institution of slavery. It raised questions that remain central to our understanding of ourselves as a people and a nation — the balance of power between local and national authority, the boundaries of citizenship, and the meanings of freedom and equality. The series will examine the causes of the war, the road to secession, the conduct of the Civil War, the coming of emancipation, and the struggle after the war to breathe meaning into the promise of freedom for four million emancipated slaves. One theme throughout the series is what might be called the politics of history — how the world in which a historian lives affects his or her view of the past, and how historical interpretations reinforce or challenge the social order of the present.

Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, is one of the most prominent historians in the United States. Professor Foner is the author or editor of over twenty books concentrating on the intersections of intellectual, political and social history and the history of American race relations. His recent book, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the Bancroft Prize, and the Lincoln Prize. He is the author of Give Me Liberty!: An American History, a widely-used survey textbook of U. S. history published by W. W. Norton. Additionally, he is the recipient of the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching from Columbia University. He is one of only two persons ever to serve as president of the three major professional organizations: the American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, and Society of American Historians. As co-curator of two award-winning historical exhibitions, and through frequent appearances in newspapers and magazines and on radio and television discussion programs, he has also endeavored to bring historical knowledge to a broad public outside the university.

See other courses in this series:

The Civil War and Reconstruction - 1861-1865
The Civil War and Reconstruction - 1865-1890

"The Civil War and Reconstruction" course series is Copyright © 2014, Eric Foner and the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York. Except where otherwise noted. Professor Foner’s course lecture videos in the series are licensed with the Creative Commons license BY-NC-SA 4.0, which means that anyone anywhere may copy, share, adapt, and remix the videos and the videos’ key media components, including transcripts, without having to ask for prior permission, as long as such sharing is done for noncommercial purposes and the original author, work, and copyright and Creative Commons notice above are cited. For more information, visit: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/
The Civil War and Reconstruction - 1850 -1861

Discover how the issue of slavery came to dominate American politics, and how political leaders struggled and failed to resolve the growing crisis in the nation.

A House Divided: The Road to Civil Wa...
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