History 150W-3

Antebellum Richmond

Professor Scott Nelson

Fall, 1995

Course Description

How did slavery, the emergence of national and international markets, and the decline of a self-conscious Southern elite shape Virginia's capital between 1815 and the Civil War? The first half of this course will be devoted to debating historians' accounts of economic and cultural change in antebellum Richmond. In the second half students will use diaries, newspapers and travel accounts to write a group project: a historian's walking tour of the city.

Course Books and Articles:

We will be reading selected chapters from a large number of books. As most of them out of print, I have put photocopies on reserve.

Marie Tyler-McGraw. At the Falls: Richmond, Virginia and Its People. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1994. chapters 4 and 5.

William W. Freehling. The Reintegration of American History: Slavery and the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. chapters 2 and 10.

Richard C. Wade. Slavery in the Cities: The South, 1820-1860. New York: Oxford University Press, 1964. chapters 1-4 and 9.

Ira Berlin and Herbert Gutman. "Natives and Immigrants, Free Men and Slaves: Urban Workingmen in the Antebellum American South" American Historical Review 88 (December 1983): 1175-1200.

David R. Goldfield. Urban Growth in an Age of Sectionalism: Virginia, 1847-1861. Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 1977. chapters 1 and 6.

Patricia Catherine Click. The Spirit of the Times: Amusements in Nineteenth-Century Baltimore, Norfolk and Richmond. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1989.

Arthur Hobson Quinn. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. New York: Appleton-Century Crofts, 1963. chapters 4 and 6.

Craig M. Simpson. A Good Southerner: The Life of Henry A. Wise of Virginia. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1985. chapters 8 and 9.


This course is organized into two parts. The first part of this class will be devoted to reading and writing. We will read some analyses of Antebellum Richmond and explicate them in class. Because there will be no lecture, your participation is vital. Bring your journals (see below) and photocopies to class every day. If you skip the assigned reading, the class as a whole suffers.

The second half of the course will be focused on writing a short article that uses original resarch and concerns a topic of your choice. In general your article should address some issues raised -- or neglected -- in the first half of the class. During the second half of the semester our meetings will be mostly about problems in research and writing.


journals: 20%

participation: 25%

proposal: 5%

web authoring: 20%

group project (shared grade): 20%

annotated bibliography: 10%


Journal Entries: These entries (of about 350 words per reading assignment) are designed to let you think through the themes raised in the course. They should be a very concise statements of the author's argument, followed by a critique of (for example) the author's premise, point of view, or evidence. Bring the journal to class every day until fall break. I will pick them up three or four times and return them to you the next class period. The first time I will comment without grading.

World Wide Web Site: After fall break you will learn the basic steps in developing world wide web pages - a mixture of text and graphics that can be viewed over the internet with a web "browser". You will then break into groups of 2-4. Each group will be responsible for developing a virtual historical "site" (like the offices of the Southern Literary Messenger, the Tredegar Iron Works, or Rocketts Landing). Each "site" will be a collection of web pages with links (ie "Enter the anteroom" or "Talk to the foreman") Students will describe the area on web pages using a mixture of approaches we explored in the first part of the class. Each student will be responsible for writing and signing at least 7 interconnected web pages and (after the first draft) making links between your pages and the rest of the sites in the class. In addition to textual and graphical excerpts from primary sources, I will ask that the linked collections of text comprise at least 1000 words of your own prose.

Grading sites: These hypertexts will go through two sets of readers. First I will travel through the pages and comment (by email and in a formal written analysis) on all the pages. I will point out issues of grammar, style, content and comprehensiveness. I will also comment on graphical elements: appearance, layout, use of web features.(The graphical elements will only form 15% of the grade.) Next, I will ask historians on the internet bulletin boards H-South and H-Virginia to try out the website and offer their own comments to you. You will then make a final revision of the web pages after both sets of comments, which you will turn in three weeks before the end of the course.

Final paper: The final project (5-6 pp) will be an annotated bibliography (either as a web page or on paper) of secondary sources used in the project. The bibliography will be framed around historiographical questions posed at the beginning of the course -- what strengths or weaknesses do you find in the various historiographies that you have read read and written in?

Written Work Generally: Unlike other papers you may have done before, these journal entries, web pages, and papers will not be evaluated on whether they are right or wrong, but by their ability to sway a reader. Don't write to me, but to an imagined reader with time to spare and a little knowledge of the topics in this course. And don't repeat the arguments of the authors you read here (or, God forbid, me). Mimicking other work will actually hurt you somewhat. Clarity, freshness of prose, and originality will be your aim. In grading this work I will also consider the breadth of sources you use and your attempts to generalize or draw conclusions from your findings.

Discussion: This is a very important part of your grade. Incisive and imaginative comments that get discussion going count for a lot. Helping discussion along and responding to colleagues directly (not to me) is also an important part of the discussion requirements for this class. If you are hesitant to speak up, beware, because I may call on you. Also, a good analysis of a colleague's website can help your discussion grade.

Course Schedule

date       topic                         discussing                     assignment         

w 8/23                                                                  journal entries    

m 8/28     McGraw                        the setting: Richmond          ""                 

w 8/30     meet at Swem Library Ref.     ref. materials                 ""                 

m 9/4      Freehling                     the theme: decay               ""                 

w 9/6      meet at Swem Library Ref.     ref. materials                 ""                 

m 9/11     Wade                          the characters: slaves         ""                 

w 9/13     Berlin & Gutman               the characters: free workers   ""                 

m 9/18     Goldfield, chapter 1          urban history                  ""                 

w 9/20     Goldfield, chapter 6          "    "    "    "                                  

m 9/25     Click, 1-3                    cultural history                                  

w 9/27     Click, 4-5                    "      "   "     "                                

m 10/2     Quinn                         DWM's                                             

w 10/4     Simpson                       "     "                                           

m 10/9     FALL BREAK                                                                      

w 10/11                                  world wide web                                    

m 10/16                                  unix editors                                      

w 10/18                                  HTML authoring                 write a 2 page     
                                                                        introduction to    
                                                                        your group topic,  
                                                                        a list of          
                                                                        secondary sources  
                                                                        you will share,    
                                                                        and the primary    
                                                                        sources each of    
                                                                        you will use.      

m 10/23                                  discuss group topics                              

w 10/25                                  "  "                                              

m 10/30                                  "  "                                              

w 11/1                                   "  "                           finish first       
                                                                        draft of www       

m 11/6                                   "  "                                              

w 11/8                                   "  "                                              

m 11/13                                  "  "                                              

w 11/15                                  "  "                                              

m 11/20                                  "  "                           finish second      
                                                                        draft of www       

w 11/22    THANKSGIVING BREAK                                                              

m 11/27                                                                                    

w 11/29    Last Class                                                   turn in annotated  
                                                                        bibliography. 3