Reforging the Union: The Reconstruction Era in American History, 1865-1877 (HIH1547)

StaffDr Miguel Hernandez - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The aim of the module is to introduce students to the rich range of sources available that allows historians to analyse the Reconstruction Era (1865-1877). This course will examine a variety of primary material relating to this period, from oral interviews to film and literature, in an effort to prepare students for more independent research.

Students will also have the opportunity to conduct their own research into the source material, to consider its utility and limitations, and use it to explore particular topics and themes such as the mythology of the Lost Cause or the African-American experience. The module will focus on discussing the disputed territory of Reconstruction, and will emphasize topics on the cutting edge of research. Skills will be developed through oral presentation and reflection, and students will be expected to contribute to the historical debate over the nature of this period.

In doing this, the module will help students develop skills in source analysis and research that will provide a foundation for future projects such as their final-year dissertations.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Assess the nature of events and developments of the Reconstruction Era and the significance of this period, with a thorough grasp of the themes covered in the module.
  • 2. Work critically with a range of sources for the history of the Reconstruction Era and identify their uses and drawbacks.
  • 3. Assess the sources in relation to the historical debates surrounding the Reconstruction Era.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Identify the problems of using historical sources, e.g. utility, limitations, etc, and compare the validity of different types of sources.
  • 5. Answer a question briefly and concisely.
  • 6. Present work orally, respond to questions orally, and think quickly of questions to ask other students.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Conduct independent study and group work, including the presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning.
  • 8. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.
  • 9. Work with others in a team and to interact effectively with the tutor and the wider group.
  • 10. Write to a very tight word-length.

Syllabus plan

Week 1 – Introduction: The Civil War and Lincoln’s Assassination.
Week 2 – Reconstruction: Photographs.
Week 3 – Carpetbaggers and Freedmen: Autobiographies.
Week 4 – Radical Reconstruction: Public Speeches.
Week 5 – The Ku Klux Klan: Newspapers.
Week 6 – Federal Prosecution and White Vigilantism: Court Proceedings.

Week 7 – Corruption and Debt: Quantitative Sources.
Week 8 – Redemption: Political Cartoons.
Week 9 – The African-American Experience: Oral Interviews.
Week 10 – Remembrance and Mythology: Fiction
Week 11 – Conclusion

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22 hour lecture: Introduction to module
Scheduled learning and teaching activities 2010 x 2 hour seminars. At a meeting of the whole class generally a different group of 3-4 students will give a presentation to the whole class, followed by class discussion and working through the sources for that week carefully. Additional sources may be issued in the class and the lecturer will also use the time to set up issues for the following week.
Guided independent study128Students prepare for the session through reading and research; writing a weekly source essay and preparing one group presentation in the course of the term.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation (3-4 students)10-15 minutes1-4, 6-7, 9Oral
Lowest mark from portfolio of 5 source commentaries500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries602000 words (500 per commentary)1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments.
Essay on Sources401500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
4 highest marks of portfolio of 5 source commentaries4 highest marks of portfolio of 5 source commentaries1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period.
1500-word essay1500-word essay1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading: Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877 (New York: HarperPerennial, 2014).
Thomas J. Brown (ed.), Reconstructions: New Perspectives in the Postbellum United States (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).
Wyn Craig Wade, The Fiery Cross: The Ku Klux Klan in America (New York, Oxford University Press, 1998).

W.E.B Du Bois, Henry Louise Gates Jr. (ed.) Black Reconstruction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Web based and electronic resources: “Documenting the American South,”

“Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, 1836-1922,”

Available as distance learning?