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American History at Glasgow University

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Course Details

Course Description

The American History Level 2 course will concentrate on several fundamentally significant eras and themes in the history of the portion of North America that became the United States, covering the period from first contact between Native Americans and Europeans in 1492 to the present. These eras and themes include: political history of the United States, social and cultural history of North America, and the rise of the United States as a global power.

Class Hour and Location

The American History Level 2 module will meet Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 4:00 PM. Lectures will be held in the Boyd Orr Building, Lecture Theatre 2, while seminars will be held in the rooms arranged by the various seminar tutors.

Students should keep the hour from 4pm to 5pm free, Monday to Friday.

Teaching Team

Members of staff involved in teaching the American History Level 2 module include: Dr. Sam Maddra (Course Convenor); Dr. Simon Ball; Prof. Colin Kidd; Dr. Finn Pollard. The Course Secretary is Mrs. Alison Peden, Modern History, 2 University Gardens, telephone 330-4509, e-mail a.peden@modhist.arts.gla.ac.uk. Course technical support is provided by Ann Gow, e-mail a.gow@hatii.arts.gla.ac.uk

Admission and Pathways Onwards (General and Honours)

You will be admitted into this module provided you have completed any Level 1 module in History or Economic and Social History at Grade Band D or better, and meet other Faculty requirements for Admission to Level 2.

This module is a qualifying course for entry into any Honours combination in History, as follows: The requirement for entry into Single Honours in History is a minimum of five modules in History and/or Economic & Social History. Two of these must be the Level 1 core courses History 1A and 1B, and two more must be at Level 2. You must be awarded at least a Grade Band D in each qualifying module, and must acquire a minimum of 1440 grade points over the five qualifying modules, i.e. achieve an overall average of Band C or better.

The requirement for entry into Joint Honours in History is at least four modules in History and/or Economic & Social History, of which at least one must be at Level 2. You must be awarded at least a Band D in each qualifying module, and must acquire a minimum of 1080 grade points over the four qualifying modules, i.e. achieve an overall average of Band C or better. Grade points are worked out as follows. All level 1 modules are worth 20 credits, and all level 2 modules are worth 30 credits.

To calculate your total grade points for each module, you multiply its credit rating by 16 if you obtained Band A, by 14 if you obtained Band B, by 12 if you obtained Band C, by 10 if you obtained Band D, by 8 if you obtained Band E, by 6 if you obtained Band F, and by 2 if you obtained Band G. Other candidates may be considered for admission at the discretion of the Head of the Department of History. All students should note that they must also meet the Faculty requirements for Honours (see Calendar).

Teaching Aims

To give you an understanding of significant eras and themes in the history of the portion of North America that became the United States, covering the period between the first contact of Native Americans and Europeans in 1492 and the present day.

To improve your critical and evaluative skills in the handling of a variety of primary and secondary sources, enabling you to proceed with confidence to Honours.

To enhance your independence of judgement in dealing with conflicting interpretations of major issues.

To improve your presentational and analytical skills through assessed seminar reports and discussion.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module you will be expected:

To demonstrate an understanding of the development of the English and British colonies in North America, their path to independence, and the nature of the American republic

To be able to discuss the development of the United States from a relatively weak nation into a superpower

To be able to analyse the role of race in American history, encompassing relations between whites and native Americans, the development of slavery, the move towards civil rights, and the place of other racial groups such as Hispanic Americans

To be able to interrogate a variety of source materials, explain the problems and advantages of working with each and their role in the process of historical explanation

To be able to distinguish narrative from interpretation, and to appreciate the function of each

To demonstrate critical and analytical skills in the handling of both primary and secondary sources; and discriminating skills in deploying such sources in order to sustain clear and valid arguments both in writing and discussion.

Information Technology in the Department of History: Word Processing, use of the Web, and PC Access

The Department of History is making an increasing use of IT at all levels of undergraduate teaching. The Department expects all students to submit their written work in word-processed form. You should also check your University e-mail address regularly, for information on particular courses, on careers talks, and other matters relevant to your studies.

The University’s IT education unit provides basic training in word processing, e-mail, and use of the web. All first year students are expected to complete the basic IT certificate before progressing to 2nd year. There are no specific training courses for undergraduates on using IT further, but the Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute (HATII) does have lab assistants in the DISH and STELLA workrooms who can provide help to students at specific times. DISH times are: Monday 13.00 - 15.00, Tuesday 15.00 - 17.00, Wednesday 14.00 - 16.00, Friday 11.00 - 13.00. These times are subject to change from term to term: students should consult the timetables and notices in the labs for further information.

This course operates a dedicated website through which you are expected to access essential teaching and administrative materials. You may also choose to use material from sites that have not been recommended by tutors. However, be aware that material published on the web is not always subject to the same degree of scholarly scrutiny as applies to published books and journal articles. Unless a site has been checked and recommended by your tutor, you should exercise caution and seek advice. In any event you should always give the website address or website name of any material you cite so that a marker can check your reference. Please NOTE that, with websites as with other source material, it is vital that you acknowledge where your information comes from, to make sure you avoid the pitfalls of plagiarism. Copying from anywhere, without due acknowledgement, constitutes academic fraud unacceptable in any University context. Equally, a “scissors and paste” approach to essay-writing will reduce your scope for independent judgement and hence reduce the value of the work in terms of your own learning. This applies as much to web material as to printed material.

History students are entitled to access PC facilities at a number of locations in addition to Glasgow University Library. Information about these locations and the facilities they contain can be found on the HATII website: http://www.hatii.arts.gla.ac.uk Access to all these labs is subject to timetable, and students should check the sheets posted outside individual labs.


The textbook for this course is available in the bookshop.

Tindal and Shi, America: A Narrative History (brief sixth edition)

Access to books in Glasgow University Library (GUL)

The Department of History cooperates closely with GUL to try and ensure that our students have satisfactory access to key texts. If you need help finding your way in the Library ask Enquiries Desk staff for guidance.

Many of the materials to be used for essays are available on-line, but in addition some volumes will be placed in the GUL Short Loan Collection (SLC) on Level 2 and can be borrowed for either 1 week, 24 hours, 4 hours or overnight loan. Nevertheless, rising student numbers and budgetary constraints mean that pressure upon textbooks is a constant factor.

Library procedures have been devised to help you to access the Library resources you need: please use these. For instance, if books are on loan when you need them use the catalogue to ‘Place a Hold’. Books due for return within the week will be reserved for you, otherwise books will be recalled from the present borrower and you will be notified by e-mail when the book/s is/are available. If someone has already placed a hold don’t give up. Place a hold because when there are 3 holds, the book/s are recalled, placed on 24 or 4 hour loan and you will be notified by e-mail. If books are not on the shelf where they should be and not registered as on loan, complete a missing slip (available from Lending and Enquiries Desks) and you will be notified by e-mail when the book is found. Books not found are replaced. If our copy is missing, you can borrow from another library and there is no charge for this service.

If you have difficulty accessing course texts from Level 8, or the Short Loan Collection on Level 2 , then Level 1-2 students should contact their seminar tutor in the first instance; or, if the tutor is not readily available, the Course Convenor. Honours students should speak directly to their tutor. The appropriate member of staff will contact the Subject Librarian for History in GUL, so that action can be taken. If difficulties persist, or are particularly severe, please ensure that you pass the information on to your representative on the Staff-Student Committee.

Please note that books on loan to you can be recalled from you if requested by another reader, and that GUL texts kept in lockers in Glasgow University Library must be properly issued. Lockers are checked periodically by GUL staff. Students whose lockers are found to contain unissued items will receive a warning, and a repeat offence will result in withdrawal of use of the locker.


You will be allocated to a seminar group at the start of the module, and this group will meet with a tutor six times during the course of the module. The first meeting will be introductory, with the following five covering a broadly defined theme or subject area. Seminars are not lectures, and it is essential both that you come well prepared and that you take an active part in the discussions; seminar contribution will be evaluated and will count toward your final mark for the module. You must attend the seminar meetings of the group to which you are allocated. You will be required to do some reading for each seminar. Each student will be required to write one seminar paper of 800 words (two copies, word-processed) and give a short oral presentation based on this paper.

Attendance at seminars is compulsory: if you attend and participate in fewer than five seminars you are likely to be refused credit for this course.

  1. You will actually attend six seminars, an introductory meeting and then five substantive seminars.
  2. Attendance at all the seminars and participation in the five substantive seminars will be marked on a 22 point scale. You will be awarded 2 points for attending each seminar, and up to 2 points for participation in each of the substantive seminars.
  • For example, attendance at all seminars, but with no participation in seminar discussions would result in 12 out of a possible 22 points.
  • Attendance at all seminars, with some participation in each would result in 16 out of a possible 22 points.
  • Attendance at all five substantive seminars, with a good level of participation in each would result in 22 out of a possible 22 points.
  • Remember that seminar attendance is a mandatory part of this course, and if you fail to attend seminars without providing acceptable medical or other evidence to the Course Convenor, you are likely to have Credit Refused for this course.

If you are ill or unable to complete your work, you must hand in a medical certificate or provide an adequate and detailed written explanation for your failure to comply with the course requirements. You must inform your tutor and submit a medical certificate (or other appropriate documentation) to the course administrator Mrs. Peden in the Modern History Office. If you do not have such evidence, you may wish to make an appointment to speak with the Course Convenor, Dr Sam Maddra. Please remember: your tutor and Mrs. Peden in the Modern History Office are not authorised to excuse your absence from seminars, so it is vital that you submit the required paperwork to Mrs. Peden, or you risk failing the course.

Essays and Tutorials

Each student will write one essay of no more than 1,500 words (two copies, word-processed), to be handed in on one of three due-dates, to be arranged by your tutor in your Introductory Seminar. Essay questions are available on this website by following the link in the upper left hand corner of this page. There will be an individual tutorial on the essay once it has been marked. Essays are designed to allow you to explore in greater depth particular areas of your own choice, using a wide range of background reading. Essays must be word-processed. Each student will be assigned one of three dates for the submission of their essay.


The minimum requirement for the award of credits for this module (except in certified special circumstances) is: attendance at all seminars, completion of all course work within the time-scale specified, and attendance at the examination. If you are ill, or otherwise unable to complete your work, contact either your tutor or the Departmental office as soon as possible. Late submission of work without good cause will result in a penalty, and the mark of 0 may be given for work that is not handed in by a specified time. There will be a one-and-a-half hour exam, for which you will be required to answer three questions, at the end of the module; this exam will account for 60% for you final mark. Your essay will account for 20% of your final mark for the module. The seminar paper will account for 10% of your final mark. Also, at the end of the seminar series you will be given a mark reflecting your participation and contribution to the group. This mark will account for 10% of your total for the module.


All written work will be marked anonymously. Therefore, essays and seminar papers must have the student's matriculation number on them, but they must not have the student's name.

Faculty Marks Scale

All assessed work will be marked according to this scale: Band A, Excellent; Band B, Very good; Band C, Good; Band D, Satisfactory; Band E, Fair; Band F, Poor; Band G, Very poor.

Staff-Student Committee

Elections to represent the course on the History Department's Staff-Student Committee will be announced in the first week of the course. The SSC meets once each term to facilitate communication between staff and students, by providing an effective voice to air views regarding the Department and its courses. Student representatives include two students from each Level 1 and Level 2 module, three students in Junior Honours and three in Senior Honours. Both full-time and part-time students are eligible. Students
receive training from the GUSRC.

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