This course examines the history of U.S. foreign relations from the American Revolution to the Civil War, covering inter alia America’s diplomacy during the War of Independence, American reactions to the French Revolution in the 1790s, the War of 1812, the Monroe Doctrine, the Mexican-American War, the transatlantic slave trade, and the international background of the Civil War. It will not only analyze the foreign policies pursued by the federal government but also investigate the connection between foreign policy and domestic politics as well as the role of non-state actors, transnational movements of ideas, goods, and peoples, and global interdependences. Particular focus will be given to the questions of how the U.S. established its sovereignty internationally, how the foreign-policy powers that the Constitution only vaguely outlined were defined more precisely through the actual diplomatic conduct of the first administrations, and how identity debates about whether the U.S. constituted a union, a nation, or an empire shaped American foreign relations.
The Revolutions of 1848 were not only a highly significant episode in European history; they were also closely connected to developments in the Americas. During the revolutionary upheaval, European actors of different political leanings invoked the American example either to justify democratic reform or to warn of profound changes. To many liberals, the American Revolution served as an inspiring example that a democracy could work in a large territorial state and their debates about the merits and shortcomings of American democracy helped shape their political identities. Perceiving the U.S. more critically, many conservatives, by contrast, inter- preted the American Revolution and its aftermath as a cautionary tale, and doubted anyway that any potential American ‘lessons’ could be applied outside the Western Hemisphere. The events in Europe made Americans, in turn, ponder what the Revolutions of 1848 meant for their conception of the American nation as an exceptional ‘land of liberty’ and how they should react to what happened in the ‘Old World.’ Furthermore, the so-called Forty-Eighters who fled from Central Europe to North America after 1849 subsequently influenced political developments in the antebellum U.S., above all through their contribution to the abolitionist movement. Meanwhile, the European revolutionary contention also spread to parts of Latin America. This course will therefore analyze the European Revolutions of 1848 within a transatlantic framework. Course requirement: oral presentation. Credit requirements: presentation handout and power point presentation; term paper (10-15 pages). Readings: Hobsbawm, Eric. The Age of Revolution, 1789-1848. New York: Vintage, 1996. Print; Rapport, Mike. 1848: Year of Revolution. New York: Basic, 2008. Print; Roberts, Timothy Mason. Distant Revolutions: 1848 and the Challenge to American Exceptionalism. Charlottesville: U of Virginia P, 2009. Print; Honeck, Mischa. We Are the Revolutionists: German-Speaking Immigrants and American Abolitionists after 1848. Athens: U of Georgia P, 2011. Print.
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