2J America: A Nation Divided, c1845–1877

This option provides for the study of a period of major change in American history, which saw the disintegration of the country into Civil War, demanding a subsequent reconstruction. It explores concepts such as political authority, abolitionism and social justice. It also encourages students to consider what creates social tension and harmony, the idea of nationhood and the issues surrounding political compromise.

Part one: the origins of the American Civil War, c1845–1861

North and South in c1845

  • The American Republic: the federal government and its relationships with the states; the role of the president; the US constitution and the Supreme Court
  • The Northern states: social, economic and political characteristics
  • The Southern states: social, economic and political characteristics
  • The legacy of the past: the Missouri Compromise; the Nullification Crisis; southern fears of modernisation; the moving frontier

Attempts to maintain the Union, c1845–1854

  • Westward expansion and its impact on North and South: the ideas of Manifest Destiny; controversy over the new territories acquired by victory over Mexico
  • Attempts at political compromise: the Wilmot Proviso; the role of personalities such as Zachary Taylor, Stephen Douglas and Henry Clay; the Compromise of 1850; Texas and California; the Fugitive Slave Law
  • The growth of abolitionist sentiment in the North: political leaders such as William Seward; activists such as John Brown; popular literature and the press; the cultural and economic influence of European immigrants arriving in the northern states
  • Reactions against abolitionism in the South; political leaders such as Jefferson Davis; popular literature and the press

The outbreak of Civil War, 1854–1861

  • ‘Bleeding Kansas’: the de-stabilisation of the balance between North and South
  • The emergence of the Republican Party: the political impact of the controversy over the Kansas-Nebraska Act; the spread of Republican parties across northern states; the elections of 1856; key personalities including Lincoln, Seward and Chase
  • Hardening of positions: the Dred Scott decision; the Lincoln-Douglas debates; Harper’s Ferry; local conflicts; the split in the Democratic Party
  • The drive for secession of the South: the presidential election of 1860; southern political leaders and proclamation of the Confederacy; outbreak of hostilities

Part two: Civil War and Reconstruction, 1861–1877 (A-level only)

The War, 1861–1865 (A-level only)

  • The strengths and weaknesses of the Confederate cause: military resources; political and military leadership; economic and geographical factors; relations with foreign powers
  • The strengths and weaknesses of the Unionist cause: military resources; political and military leadership; economic and geographical factors; relations with foreign powers
  • The course of the Civil War: military campaigns; the reasons for the final defeat of the Confederacy
  • The United States at the end of the Civil War: the costs of war for the South; the costs of war for the North; the prospects for reconciliation

Early Reconstruction, 1865–1867 (A-level only)

  • Planning for the future after the war: the impact of the Emancipation Proclamation; Lincoln’s aims; the approach to preparing for post-war reconstruction
  • The Thirteenth Amendment: origins and impact
  • The Fourteenth Amendment: Thaddeus Stevens; Radical republicans; the struggle to pass the amendment; the Reconstruction Acts
  • The presidency of Andrew Johnson: personality and aims; conflicts with Congress; break with the Republicans; impeachment

Radical Reconstruction, 1867–1877 (A-level only)

  • The presidency: the election of 1868 and Andrew Johnson’s Christmas amnesty; the aims and policies of Ulysses Grant; personalities; policies; conflicts with Congress
  • Radical Reconstruction in the South: the impact of the Reconstruction Acts; southern Unionists; the role of the army; the campaign for the Fifteenth Amendment
  • Resistance to Radical Reconstruction in the South: Southern Democrats and ‘Redeemers’; the Ku Klux Klan; the issue of voter registration
  • The end of Radical Reconstruction: the position of African-Americans in North and South by 1877