This is your syllabus for History 1377.  Check your class schedule to figure out the time and room where we will meet.  

the big goal

Our big goal in this course is for you to learn to think differently by developing the skills to easily discuss arguments, to articulate and question underlying assumptions, and to distinguish between evidence and conclusions.

the big questions

We will seek to answer three sets of questions in our course:

  1. What caused the creation of a distinctive American identity? What were the features of this American identity?

  2. What caused the establishment of a distinctive kind of American governance? What were the features of this unique brand of governance?

  3. What caused the struggle over slavery in the midst of territorial expansion after the American Revolution? What was the nature of this struggle and why did it lead to the Civil War?


At any moment during class you can stop our class proceedings and ask Who Gives a Damn? and I will explain the relevance of the material to our big questions and big goal. Our joint responsibility is to insure that you understand the relevance of the material.


A university should be about human development not gatekeeping. We shouldn’t be here simply to identify the best students and reward them.

The keys to your development involve a lot of encouragement, a lot of work, and a lot of feedback. You will have ample opportunities to develop the skills to succeed in this course before you get grades.

The material that you will eventually submit for grading includes the following:

  1. two four page papers.  Each paper will focus on one of the major questions of the class.  The two papers will constitute 40% of your grade.   A typical paper assignment will require the student to evaluate an argument or make one of their own.  All papers must be completely free of punctuation and spelling errors.  They must be on regular 8.5 by 11 inch paper, double-spaced, with standard one inch margins all around, and in 12 point font.  Papers will be turned in through  You will need a course number and enrollment key that are unique to your class in order to submit your papers for review.  

  2. two examinations which will be worth 40% of your grade.  All questions will be either short answer or essay questions.  The final will be a comprehensive exam but it will emphasize material in the latter half of the course.  Major portions of both exams will written outside of class. 

  3. a series of in-class assignments, group exercises, short essays, and quizzes that will test your skills associated with the big goal as you apply them to the text, books, articles, extra reading material, and the lectures.  These assignments will constitute 20% of the grade.  You will have one quiz each week on Friday.    

Your final numeric grade will be translated to a letter grade in keeping with standard UH policy. 


I will hold office hours each week at a time yet to be determined.  I also invite you to call, text, or email me.  My phone number is 832.466.4201; my email address is  My office is in Bonner Base which is in the Gardens underneath Moody Towers.


What we do in class will change frequently. There will be some combination of DougTalks; class exercises, which might entail Socratic method exchanges with me, you making presentations, solving problems in groups; and lecture.  

I do not allow the use of computers in class.  (If you are curious about the justification for such a policy take a look at some of the literature on computer use in the classroom.  Computers actually diminish students' ability to learn the material and their use distracts other students.)  


I will not tolerate academic dishonesty in this class.  If you have questions about what constitutes academic dishonesty please consult the University of Houston Academic Honesty Policy which appears in each edition of the Student Handbook and online at . Each student is responsible for knowing the Academic Honesty Policy.  In particular, know what constitutes plagiarism. 


  1. We will use Top Hat’s online text which you will need to buy through Top Hat. (We will be using Top Hat for its online text, its quiz feature, and online forum to ask and answer questions.)

  2. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, edited with an Introduction by David W. Blight

  3. 1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam GoodheartYou will find a reading guide for 1861 on the Extra Readings tab.  

  4. You will also be assigned a series of articles about Thomas Jefferson that you will use, along with your classmates, to assemble your own biography of our most enigmatic founder.

  5. You will be assigned a series of articles about the State of Texas that you will use to craft your own view of Texas.

  6. You will be assigned a number of reading selections; almost all of these reading selections that will be covered in class can be found under the Extra Readings tab on the home page of this website but some will be emailed to you.   


Here is a tentative schedule that shows the topics, readings, paper assignments, and exams.  Be advised that I reserve the right to change this schedule as needed.  Changes will be announced only in class.    

August 19: Introduction to the professor and more about the class; the Age of Discovery part 1; read Top Hat text, Chapter 1.

August 21: the Age of Discovery part 2; exploring the concept of history. Read “Causation” on Extra Readings tab.

August 23: the Columbian Exchange part 1. Read  "The World the Indians Made in North America and Mesoamerica" on the Extra Readings tab.

August 26: the Columbian Exchange part 2; the English arrive in the New World. read Tophat text, chapter 2. Read “The Spanish in the North” on the Extra Readings tab.

August 28: the Chesapeake Bay Colonies part 1: Jamestown, a toehold in the New World.  Read “The Lost Colony” on the Extra Readings tab.

August 30: the Chesapeake Bay Colonies part 2: religious conflict in the Mother Country, Maryland, and Montezuma's revenge. Read “The First Representative Assembly in the British North American Colonies” on the Extra Readings tab.

September 2: We will not have class this day in observance of Labor Day.

September 4: Puritanism and settling New England as a City upon a Hill. Read the Top Hat text, Chapter 3.

September 6: the Chesapeake Bay Colonies, 1650-1750 part 1. First paper, having to do with comparing and contrasting the New England and Chesapeake Bay colonies, assigned.  

September 9: the Chesapeake Bay Colonies, 1650-1750 part 2.  

September 11: slavery and the Carolinas. 

September 13: the economies, class structures, and social structures in the New England and Chesapeake Bay colonies.  Read the Top Hat text, Chapter 4. Begin reading Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave.

September 16: revolutions in trade, travel, and news.   

September 18: Awakenings: intellectual and spiritual.  

September 20: flex day. 

September 23: the British Empire: salutory neglect; the concept of contingency. Read the Top Hat text, Chapter 5.  

September 25: the Seven Years War and challenges ruling a swollen empire.  first paper due. 

September 27: the Revolutionary War part 1. Read the Top Hat text, Chapter 6.  Assign the take home portion of the midterm exam.  

September 30: the Declaration of Independence and governments of inherent authority, the radicalism of the American Revolution. take the in-class portion of the midterm exam.  Articles on Thomas Jefferson.

October 2: More on governments of inherent authority.  Read the Top Hat text, Chapter 7.

October 4: flex day. 

October 7: the Articles of Confederation and the problems of the era.  

October 9: the Constitution of 1787 part 1: its structure and as a product of compromises. The take-home portion of the midterm exam is due.  

October 11: the Constitution of 1787, part 2: federalism and the furtherance of republicanism.  Read the Top Hat text, Chapter 8.

October 14: the struggle for Ratification.  

October 16: a new nation: the Federalists and new institutions and the emergence of parties.  

October 18: Jefferson and the Democrat-Republicans. Read the Top Hat text, Chapter 9. 

October 21: the War of 1812: the Second American Revolution and the blossoming of nationalism.  Read the Top Hat text, Chapter 10. Begin reading 1861: The Civil War Awakening.

October 23: the Panic of 1819, the presidency of Monroe, and the emergence of sectionalism. Read the Top Hat text, Chapter 11.

October 25: flex day. 

October 28: the Age of Jackson.     

October 30: reform in antebellum America: abolitionism and much more.  Begin reading 1861. Second paper, having to do with American governance, is assigned.

November 1: the Lone Star Nation: Texas. Read the Top Hat text, Chapter 13.  Articles about Texas.

November 4: Polk and Manifest Destiny; war with Mexico. 

November 6: the West. 

November 8: crisis and compromise in 1850.  Read the Top Hat text, Chapter 12.

November 11: the evolving North in 1850.

November 13: the Old South in 1850. Your second paper is due in class.

November 15: the tragedy of Douglas and the election of 1852. Read Top Hat text Chapter 14.

November 18: the bonds of union fray: the scorpion's sting and Southern nationalism. 

November 20: the Rail-splitter: Lincoln. 

November 22: the eve of war and the election of 1860: irreconcilable differences and the emergence of the Republican Party and Lincoln. Read the Top Hat text, Chapter 15.  Finish 1861: The Civil War Awakening.  

November 25: the irrepressible conflict: the Civil War.  

FINAL EXAM.  Your final exam is on either December 6th or December 9th depending upon when your class meets.    

If your class meets MWF 10 a.m.-11 a.m. then your final exam is on Friday, December 6th, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in our classroom.

If your class meets MWF 11 a.m. to noon then your final exam period is on Monday, December 9th from 11 a.m - 2 p.m. in our classroom.  

Be advised that a major portion of the final exam will be assigned on the last day of class and the students will email their answers to the professor but a portion of the exam will be taken in class during the normal final exam period scheduled for your class.  

mental health

Counseling and psychological services are readily available for you at the University of Houston.  The Counseling and Psychological Services Program, CAPS, can help you if you are having difficulties managing stress, adjusting to college, or feeling sad and hopeless. You can reach CAPS by calling 713.743.5454 at any time to arrange routine appointments for yourself or anyone you know who is in crisis.  There is also a less formal, walk-in process that is called the Let's Talk program for which there are drop-in consultation services at convenient locations and hours around campus with little or no wait.   You can learn more about CAPS by visiting the website at   More about the Let's Talk program can be found at