HIST 215 - The Age of Lincoln
This seminar will focus on an extraordinary individual and his times. In terms of his personal character, his public vision, and his influence on American history, Abraham Lincoln deserves our closest scrutiny. Put simply, had he never lived and acted as he did, our world today would surely be quite different. As we attempt to take the measure of this man and his lasting significance, we will place appropriate emphasis on biography, and on the relationship between the private and the public in Lincoln’s life and career.
Our attention will hardly be limited to this single individual, however, since any informed assessment of Lincoln must place him firmly in a number of relevant and precise historical contexts. To this extent we will also be using our focus on Lincoln as a vehicle for understanding better the distinctive shape and character-and hence the central problems and concerns–of American society, culture, and politics from approximately 1815 through the Civil War. Given Lincoln’s significance to the single greatest crisis in American national history, our ultimate focus will be on the legacy of the Founding Fathers, the crisis of the Union, and the ensuing war for American nationality. And given the timeless moral issues at stake in that national project, we will surely want to engage even larger concerns and questions. What is the relationship between private character and public leadership? Can politics and morality, especially in the context of war, be effectively conjoined? What constitutes responsible leadership in a democracy? Can Lincoln’s leadership enlighten and even inspire Americans (and others) in the twenty-first century as we confront our own challenges and crises?
Anticipated Terms Offered: Offered every other year