AMS-30043 - Violence and Power in Antebellum America
Coordinator: Kristen C Brill Tel: +44 1782 7 33201
Lecture Time: See Timetable...
Level: Level 6
Credits: 15
Study Hours: 150
School Office: 01782 733147

Programme/Approved Electives for 2022/23


Available as a Free Standing Elective






Barred Combinations


Description for 2022/23

After the American Revolution (ca. 1775-1783) and the year before the ratification of the American Constitution (1788), Founding Father Alexander Hamilton considered the role of violence in the new political experiment of the American nation,
It has been frequently remarked, that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country to decide, by their conduct and example, the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not, of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend, for their political constitutions, on accident and force. (First appeared as ` General Introduction¿ in The Independent Journal, October 27, 1787 and later as The Federalist, No. 1, 1788)
This module will explore the ways in which early America became dependent upon the use of force. Namely, the module will analyze violence as a mechanism of social control and political power in early America: How did state and non-state actors use violence to secure their social and political agendas? How did individuals express agency and resistance within institutions of power? What role did violence play in the formation of an early American national identity? How were the politics of race, gender and sex manipulated to justify the use of violence?
In terms of methodology, this module will adopt an interdisciplinary approach and incorporate sources from literary and historical studies, as well as from ` history from above¿ and ` history from below¿ perspectives.
The module will explore issues of power and belonging from the American Revolution to the Civil War. At its core, this module will seek to answer a fundamental and hotly debated question in early American history: how ` exceptional¿ was nineteenth-century America¿ s culture of violence?

This module aims to enhance students¿ evidence-based knowledge and analytical skills in its examination of the relationship between violence and power in nineteenth-century America.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Demonstrate a firm understanding of current approaches to and debates surrounding the history of nineteenth-century America: 1,2
Demonstrate an understanding of the longer term historical questions of continuity and discontinuity in American history: 1,2
Demonstrate an ability to use and reflect critically upon a range of relevant primary and secondary material: 1,2
Demonstrate an ability to collect and analyse relevant historical evidence to produce appropriate arguments both oral and written: 1,2
Demonstrate an ability to work independently and collaboratively: 1,2

Study hours

24 hours seminars (2 hour weekly seminar, weeks 1-12)
12 hours workshops
68 hours preparation for seminars (including group presentation)
46 hours preparation for and completion of the essay

School Rules


Description of Module Assessment

1: Group Presentation weighted 35%
Group Presentation
In small groups, students will give 15-20 minute presentations at the start of every seminar to introduce the day¿s material. Presenters should use a powerpoint presentation or provide a hard copy handout to the class outlining the major points in their presentations. A rough template for presentation structure is below: 5 minutes: Background information on the seminar topic 5 minutes: Key points in primary and secondary readings 5 minutes: Connections to the wider module themes (i.e. violence, power, gender, race, identity, etc.), offer questions for discussion.

2: Essay weighted 65%
Research Essay
Students will write a 2,500 word research essay. Students will design their own questions. The module leader must approve all essay questions by week 8. Students are encouraged to visit the module leader during office hours to discuss possible essay topics and readings. Primary and secondary sources must be included in the essay. Full referencing must be employed.