The U.S.: Colonial America to 1877

Required and Recommended Texts, Manuals, and Supplies:  The American Yawp: A Massively Collaborative Open U.S. History Textbook, Vol. 1: To 1877, edited by Joseph L. Locke and Ben Wright (Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press). Freely available here: Print copies are also available. [Vol. 1 ISBN: 9781503606715]

Grading Standards:

  • Participation & Professionalism: 10% 
  • Weekly Online Journal Posts: 25%
  • Primary Source Activities (x2): 20% (10% each) 
  • Film or Game Review: 15%
  • Final Project: 30%

Course Requirements:

Participation & Professionalism: Things that may reduce your Participation and Professionalism grade include—but are NOT limited to—being tardy to class, failure to actively participate during lecture and engage with colleagues during small group activities, working on assignments not related to the course, and misuse of electronic devices during class. Things that may improve your Participation and Professionalism grade include answering questions when asked, contributing to discussion and group assignments, taking notes, asking questions, completing in-class assignments, etc.

Online Journal Posts: You will be responsible for responding to questions/prompts designed to engage you with the required reading and help guide you in understanding the material. Each post should be approximately 250-350 words and submitted before the start of class at the beginning of each week. The questions/prompts will generally be open-ended to allow for questions/discussion about what material a student may have had trouble understanding. You will then have an opportunity at the end of each week to post a follow-up response to your original post (please do not edit original posts after the due date has passed) that may elaborate or expand on comprehension areas that were clarified for you during the weekly class activities. This will allow me to more accurately grade each weekly post based on effort, specific references to the reading, and comprehension.

Primary Source Activities: At two separate points in the term, you will engage with one of the critical activities of a historian: analysis of primary sources. You will be given a set of primary sources to analyze using questions from the National Archives Primary Source Worksheets to help guide you. In the In-Class portion of the assignment, you will work with an assigned partner to complete the worksheet. Once the worksheet is completed, you will individually write up a written version of your own analysis in short essay form, conducting a sort of comparison/contrast between the two sources. You will submit both the worksheet and the write-up and will be assessed on both parts. These will serve as practice for the final project, which requires you to examine seven primary sources.

Film or Game Review: Over the course of the semester we will cover a variety of people, places, themes, and events related to American History. You will be responsible for either A. watching a film or B. playing a game based on one of those historical pieces. Your game should be long enough or have enough in-game options that you can play a minimum of two hours. A list of pre-approved films/games is available. Examples from the American Revolution might include Assassin’s Creed III or The Patriot. If you have an alternative option in mind, you must run it by me first. After watching your film or playing your game, you will then write a review regarding things like its entertainment value, production, historical accuracy, etc. Worksheets of questions will be provided to help guide you as you draft your film or game review. You will then give your game/film a rating (0 to 4 stars) with an explanation as to the pros/cons and whether you recommend the game/film.

For film reviews check out this website:
For game reviews this site might be helpful:

Final Project: 

Option A (popularly known as an Unessay): To get you used to working with both primary and secondary sources and introduce you to the field of public history, you will create a public history product on a topic of your choice related to the course themes. Options may vary widely, but suggestions include: creating a website, designing a museum exhibit, filming a video (think Drunk History or CrashCourse), making a physical artifact, writing a pamphlet (such as those used for historical tours), creating an interactive and explanatory historical timeline (such as Tiki-Toki,, designing a public history blog, or even creating a “live-tweet” series of an event on Twitter! I’ve had students perform magic tricks, design their own choreography, and give historical tours! The options are nearly endless. A short explanatory/analytical write-up will accompany your “visual” product. 

Option B (Research Paper): This option is also designed to get you used to working with both primary and secondary sources. Rather than crafting a public history project, you will write a traditional five to eight page academic paper on a topic of your choice related to the course themes. A key element of this project is using both primary AND secondary sources to create a compelling historical argument (also known as a thesis).

Primary vs. Secondary (v. Tertiary) Sources: A Brief Review

A primary source is a document or artifact created in the past that scholars use as evidence of how people thought and lived in the period they are studying. A newspaper article, a diary, a speech, a court transcript, a map, a photograph, a building, a will, a political cartoon, a census report created at the time of your topic–all of these different types of documents could count as primary sources. Primary sources need to be viewed critically; they can have intent (to persuade the reader of a certain point of view), or be factually wrong, or be from a limited, individual perspective–all of which you need to take into consideration when using primary source evidence. Just because something is old does not automatically make it primary. For example, a newspaper article from 1823 about King Philip’s War (1675-1676) would not be primary because it was written nearly 150 years after the event.

A secondary source is a work that discusses and interprets such documents and artifacts in order to reconstruct the past (your paper will be a secondary source) and offer an argument about that reconstruction. Sometimes there is considerable debate about many issues in American history; historians are often at odds in their interpretations. If there are conflicts within the primary or secondary sources, it will be your job to evaluate the arguments, and decide which is most persuasive. The most common secondary sources you will encounter are books and academic journal articles (like you might find in a database like JSTOR).

Tertiary Sources are consolidations of primary and secondary sources. These include textbooks, encyclopedias, and websites, like Wikipedia or While they can be informative, tertiary sources are generally not acceptable for academic research, and should be used sparingly for assignments.



  • Dances with Wolves (1990)
  • Cold Mountain (2003)
  • Gangs of New York (2002)
  • The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
  • Lincoln (2012)
  • The Journey of August King (1995)
  • Songcatcher (2001)
  • John Adams (2008)
  • Beloved (1998)
  • The Patriot (2000)
  • Roots (1997 or 2016 version)
  • 12 Years a Slave (2013)
  • The Alamo (2004)
  • Saving Lincoln (2013)
  • 1776 (1972)
  • Amistad (1997)
  • Free State of Jones (2016)
  • The Crucible (1996)
  • The VVitch (2015)
  • Lincoln (2012)
  • Gettysburg (1993)
  • Gods and Generals (2003)
  • The Birth of a Nation (1915)
  • The Birth of a Nation (2016)

There is a mixture of console, computer/online, card, and board games to choose from.

  • Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation
  • Assassin’s Creed: Rogue
  • Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag
  • Total War: Empire
  • Sid Meier’s Civilization: Colonization
  • Banished
  • Victoria 2
  • Ultimate General: Civil War
  • Inca Adventure
  • Expeditions: Conquistador
  • Jamestown Online Adventure
  • American Patriots: Boston Tea Party
  • Abraham Lincoln’s Crossroads
  • Mission US: A Cheyenne Odyssey
  • Mission US: For Crown or Colony
  • Sid Meier’s Railroads
  • Oregon Trail
  • 1849: Gold Edition
  • Age of Empires
  • Red Dead Redemption II
  • When Rivers were Trails
  • Railroad Tycoon
  • Age of Empires III
  • Uncharted Waters Online
  • Lewis & Clark: The Expedition
  • Deal or Duel: Hamilton Game
  • Trade: A Game of Early American Life
  • Ticket to Ride
  • Puerto Rico
  • 1812: The Invasion of Canada
  • Liberty or Death
  • Freedom: The Underground Railroad
  • Washington’s War

See sites such as this one for assistance: