The Department of History, The University of British Columbia, Spring 2008
HISTORY 331: THE UNITED STATES, 1865-1896
Prof. Paul Krause
Office Phone: 604.822.5168; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Questions for the Final Written Exercise
Due: Wednesday, April 23, at noon
From among the questions offered below, choose one, and answer it with a well-
organized essay that puts forward an argument based on evidence gleaned from the texts we have
read, the documentaries we have viewed, and our classroom discussions and lectures. If you
answered the question on Populism for the optional paper, be certain to choose another question
for this assignment.
Aim for a tightly argued, well-written essay of no more than 12 pages that puts forward
an interpretation in your own voice. While invoking critical authorities might seem helpful, this
assignment is really about how well you can produce an argument of your own. Feel free to
discuss these questions with your colleagues and with me.
Superior papers will explore the multiple contexts of U.S. History that figure in and
inform the questions. If, for example, you choose to write about Andrew Carnegie, try to situate
your answer not merely within the issues of urban labour and business which seem, at first
glance, most immediately relevant. And if, for example, you choose to address the question about
the U.S. and various indigenous nations, try to offer an answer that seeks out the antecedents and
historical parallels and consequences which, respectively, flowed into and out of this complicated
Some final words of advice about writing: Instead of making facile dismissals or points,
look to real people – real historical actors, groups and individuals – to make your case for you.
Why? Your argument will be more convincing if you anchor your analysis in the lived
experience of the groups or individuals you are considering. Do not write off human striving by
invoking normative analytical terms. If you pass judgment, try to summon all of the humility and
empathy you can.
Hand in your work to me or place it in my mailbox. I will be in my office on April 23 to
receive papers. My mailbox and office door will close at noon, after which the Kreider
Wastebasket Rule will be invoked. This means that late papers cannot be marked.
1.) The historian Richard Hofstadter, in writing about Abraham Lincoln, observed that
“the competitive society out of which the success myth and the self-made man have grown may
accept the Christian virtues in principle but can hardly observe them in practice.” Evaluate
Hofstadter's comments in light of your understanding of the life and times of Andrew Carnegie.
2.) In what ways can the life of Andrew Carnegie be interpreted as exemplary of the
broad issues, trends, and conflicts that characterized Gilded-Age America? In answering this, be
certain to consider Carnegie’s involvement in the Homestead Lockout of 1892 and the values and
aspirations of those who opposed him there.
3.) We have studied a wide range of people and issues in our effort to understand the
United States in the late 19th Century. Taking into account the multiple problems we have
explored this term, and with an eye aimed at offering your own definition, assess the evolving
meaning of democracy in the United States from the 1860s into the 1890s. Your answer should
offer a description as well as an analysis of that description.
4.) With specific reference to the Cheyenne Nation and the Sioux Nation, explain and
analyze the conflict between the United States and the indigenous peoples of Western North
America in the late 19th Century. How do you assess the significance of this conflict? Are there
any parallels that you can draw between this conflict and the one that raged between white
Southerners and African-Americans in the years following the Civil War? Do you see any
parallels between the resistance offered by the Cheyenne and the Sioux and that by African-
Americans? In answering, be certain to address the thought and actions of Ida B. Wells.
5.) In The Populist Moment, Lawrence Goodwyn suggests that the agrarian insurgency of
the late 1880s and early 1890s set its sights on a fundamental transformation of American
society. Does Goodwyn succeed in substantiating this claim? Why has the agrarian revolt largely
disappeared from conventional historical memory?
6.) In his article on the meaning of freedom in the 19th Century, the historian Eric Foner
argues that an important result of the battles of Reconstruction was the idea that economic and
political freedom occupy separate and unrelated spheres. What does Foner mean by this, and
what is the significance of his argument? Does your understanding of U.S. History from 1865
through the 1890s support and/or contradict Foner’s interpretation? Explain.
Here is the full citation and stable URL for Foner’s article, which is available on JSTOR:
Eric Foner, “The Meaning of Freedom in the Age of Emancipation,” The Journal of
American History, Vol. 81, No. 2. (Sep., 1994), pp. 435-460. Stable URL: