U.S. History in 13 Acts
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Division: The New School for Public Engagement
School: School of Undergraduate Studies
Department: Social Sciences
Course Number: NHIS 3211
Course Format: Lecture
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
- Social Sciences
The history of the United States is tangled and contested. Most of us learn a straightforward narrative that begins with the arrival of colonizers from Europe and ends with the current presidency, presented with a coherence that obscures the messiness and contradictions experienced by the historical actors. This cohesive story omits consideration of possibilities in the past that could have led to different outcomes. This survey course offers an alternative approach to U.S. history by organizing the subject into 13 “acts” and investigating each in depth. Each week, we use a primary document, image, or other object as a starting point for an investigation that branches out to explore the various, often contentious, interpretations it has evoked. Our subjects range from the familiar (the Constitution) to the often overlooked (a tenement house). Close reading of selected texts and examination of ongoing debates about their meaning allow us a fuller and more complex view of our national past. The course introduces analytical skills that can be applied in any field of history.