The Family and the Modern West

History 165

Fall 2015

Sarah McNair Vosmeier

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Course Description

This course helps us understand modern society, especially its assumptions and attitudes about individuals and family members, by studying the history of the West (Europe and America). Lectures provide background on the history of family life in the West, and discussions focus on important primary sources in political and intellectual history.

For all of human history, people have been both individuals and family members. Most people have had two other important identities as well. We will use the term "citizen-subject" to refer to the identity people have as members of political entities such as nations, and we will use "child of God" to refer to the identity people have in their relationship to their god or gods. We will consider which of these identities have been most significant in shaping attitudes and behavior for different people and times. For example,

    •If you act as an individual, you do those things that benefit you personally, even if that means ignoring what others want or need.   
    •If you act as a family member, you do those things that will benefit your family as a unit, even if that means sacrificing your own self-interest or what others want or need.
    •If you act as a citizen-subject, you do those things that will benefit your nation (or other political entity), even if that means sacrificing your own self-interest or the interests of your family or those of others.
    •If you act as a child of God, you do those things that your god (or gods or conscience) require of you, even if that means sacrificing your own self-interest or ignoring what others want or need or disobeying the laws of your nation.
Calculating Final Grades

Preparation & Participation 17%

First Paper 19%

Second paper 19%

Midterm Exam 20%

Final Exam 25%

Nota Bene

Our class time provides an opportunity, rare in modern life, to focus for an extended time on a single task and conversation. Please do not multitask - to avoid distraction for others and temptation for ourselves, we will not use laptops, cell phones, etc. in our classroom.

Late papers will be penalized, and in-class assignments cannot be made up. Students with emergencies who wish to request an exception to this rule should contact me before the due date.

A Note about Preparation, Participation, Papers, and Exams

Preparation & Participation

Good discussion depends on everyone's preparing and participating fully. People who excel in participation read carefully and come to class with effective reading notes; they make useful comments in class or ask helpful questions; and they adequately complete all the brief assignments, handing them in on time. Occasional brief assignments - such as marginalia checks or study guide contributions - allow you to demonstrate careful preparation for class. The Collective Essay and Civil War letter transcriptions are also included in this category.


For each paper (1300-2100 words), students will analyze specified primary sources, drawing on the questions and perspectives we have considered in class discussions. The first paper will concern the choices people make about education, and the second will concern the choices Americans made during the Civil War.


The exams will include identifications and essay questions.

Required Texts

The only required textbook for this class is Diana Hacker's Rules for Writers. Reading assignments are online or on reserve at the Duggan Library. Be sure to budget for printing and photocopying expenses.


Introduction: How and Why to Study History

Sep. 7, 2015 (Mon) Lecture: "Defining Terms."

Sep. 8, 2015 (Tue) "On Marginalia," 2015 (online); Vergerius, Concerning Liberal Studies, c. 1404 (online); Lord Acton, letter on historical judgement, 1887 (online).

Pre-History and Ancient History

Sep. 9, 2015 (Wed) Lecture: "History before Historical Documents." "Goddess" figures, c.23,000-1600BC (online).

Sep. 11, 2015 (Fri) T.b.a.

Sep. 14, 2015 (Mon) Lecture: "Ancient History." Hammurabi's Code, c. 1780BC (excerpt online); Ten Commandments, c. 1200BC-425BC. (Exodus 20:1-17, available online -- any version is fine.)

Sep. 15, 2015 (Tue) Genesis 1:26-28, 2:7-9, 2:15-3:22, 17:1-10, 22:1-18 (c. 1200BC-425BC). Available online -- any version is fine.

Sep. 16, 2015 (Wed) Aristotle, Politics, c. 340BC (excerpt online).

Sep. 18, 2015 (Fri) Paul, Galatians, c.53AD (3:23-29); Paul, First Corinthians, c. 54AD (1:10-17; 7:1-11; 11:1-16; 12:1-31; 13:1-13). (Available online - any version is fine.)

Renaissance and Reformation

Sep. 21, 2015 (Mon) Lecture: "Renaissance & Reformation."

Sep. 22, 2015 (Tue) Pisan, The Book of the City of Ladies, 1405 (excerpt online); Pico della Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of Man, 1486 (excerpt online).

Sep. 23, 2015 (Wed) Research & Writing Workshop: Use of Sources. "Chicago Manual Footnote Style" ( online); Hacker, ch. 55, 57. Meet in Duggan Library computer lab.

Sep. 25, 2015 (Fri) Machiavelli, The Prince, 1513 (excerpt online); Elizabeth I, speeches, 1583-1601 (online).

Sep. 28, 2015 (Mon) Luther, Treatise on Christian Liberty, 1520 (excerpt online).

The Enlightenment: Individualism and the "State of Nature"

Sep. 29, 2015 (Tue) Lecture: "Enlightenment and Revolution."

Sep. 30, 2015 (Wed) Hobbes, Leviathan, 1651 (excerpt online); Filmer, Patriarcha, 1680 (excerpt online).

The Individual, the Family, and Education

Oct. 2, 2015 (Fri) Vergerius, Concerning Liberal Studies, c. 1404 (excerpt online); Hanover College documents, 1876-1909 (excerpts online); Wright, "Legacy of Shared Experiences," 2002 (online).

Oct. 5, 2015 (Mon) Workshop: In-class essay.

The Enlightenment continued

Oct. 6, 2015 (Tue) Locke, Second Treatise on Government, 1690 (excerpt online).

Oct. 7, 2015 (Wed) First paper due.

Oct. 9, 2015 (Fri) Rousseau, Social Contract, 1762 (excerpt online).

Oct. 12, 2015 (Mon) Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, 1789 (excerpt online); Wollstonecraft, Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1792 (excerpt online).

Oct. 13, 2015 (Tue) Review.

Oct. 14, 2015 (Wed) Midterm.

Oct. 16, 2015 (Fri) Collective Essay: Post-apocalyptic film and television (1979-2010).

Fall Break

Oct. 21, 2015 (Wed) Archives Workshop: Civil War letter transcriptions. Meet in Duggan Library archives.

Responding to Individualism

Oct. 23, 2015 (Fri) Lecture: "Liberalism and Conservatism."

Oct. 26, 2015 (Mon) Jefferson, Declaration of Independence, 1776 ( online); Abigail Adams, "Remember the Ladies" letter, 1776 (online).

Oct. 27, 2015 (Tue) T.b.a.

Oct. 28, 2015 (Wed) Burke, Reflections on the French Revolution, 1790 (excerpt online).

Oct. 30, 2015 (Fri) U.S. Constitution, preamble, 1788; Bill of Rights, 1791; Reconstruction Amendments (Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments), 1865, 1868, 1870; Seventeenth Amendment, 1913; Eighteenth Amendment, 1918; Nineteenth Amendment, 1920; Twenty-first Amendment, 1933 (online).

Nov. 2, 2015 (Mon) Stanton et al., Seneca Falls Declaration, 1848 (online).

Nov. 3, 2015 (Tue) T.b.a.

Nov. 4, 2015 (Wed) Douglass, "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" 1852 (online); Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, 1863 (online).

Nov. 6, 2015 (Fri) Monfort letters, 1860s (online).

Nov. 9, 2015 (Mon) Writing workshop. Penultimate draft of second paper due.

Nov. 10, 2015 (Tue) T.b.a.

Nov. 11, 2015 (Wed) Lecture: "Communism, Totalitarianism, and Freud." Second paper due.

Nov. 13, 2015 (Fri) Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto,1848 (excerpt online); Smiles, Self Help, 1859 (excerpt online).

Nov. 16, 2015 (Mon) Kollontai, "Communism and the Family," 1920 (excerpt online); Mussolini, "The Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism," 1932 (excerpt online); Kopelev, The Education of a True Believer, 1978 memoirs of c. 1930 events (on reserve).

Nov. 17, 2015 (Tue) T.b.a.

Nov. 18, 2015 (Wed) Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, 1930 (excerpt online).

Nov. 20, 2015 (Fri) Workshop on individualism.

Recent History

Nov. 23, 2015 (Mon) Lecture: "Recent American History."

Nov. 24, 2015 (Tue) Spock, Baby and Child Care, 1946 (pp. 14-15, 26-27, 47-48, 236-238, 310-13,487, on reserve).

Thanksgiving Break

Nov. 30, 2015 (Mon) Hayden et al., Port Huron Statement, 1962 (online); Spock, Dr. Spock on Vietnam, 1968 (pp. 7-9, 88-94, on reserve).

Dec. 1, 2015 (Tue) T.b.a.

Dec. 2, 2015 (Wed) Primary sources on Greensboro sit-in, 1960: Franklin McCain (online) and Eugenia Seaman (online).

Dec. 4, 2015 (Fri) Friedan, Feminine Mystique, 1963 (pp. 11, 15-21, 31-32, on reserve); Equal Rights Amendment 1972-1982 (online); Roe v. Wade, 1973 (excerpt online).

Dec. 7, 2015 (Mon) Defense of Marriage Act, 1996 (online); Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015 (excerpt online).

Dec. 8, 2015 (Tue) T.b.a.

Dec. 9, 2015 (Wed) Friedman, Longitudes and Attitudes, 2002 (excerpt online); Gellman et al., "NSA-Intercepted Data," 2014 (online: version with images or easy-to-print version); Lord Acton, letter on historical judgement, 1887 (online).

Dec. 11, 2015 (Fri) Review.