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Sample Syllabus: History 415/515

Paul Moyer
Office: FOB 145
Office hours: MF 11a-12p; TR 11:30a-12:30p; or by appointment
Office phone: 395-5681


History 415/515
Natives & Newcomers:
Cultural Encounters in Early America
Spring 2008
TR, 8-9:30a (Holmes 06)

I. Course Description & Objectives:
     This course provides an in-depth exploration of Indian-European relations in early America. Geographically and temporally speaking, it focuses on the eastern half of North America between the advent of European colonization in the fifteenth century and Indian Removal of the 1830s.
     The study of Indian-European relations is critical to any larger understanding of early America. First, early America was at its core a cultural frontier: a zone of interaction among diverse Native, European, and African peoples. Moreover, important dimensions of early American history—the formation of Europe's New World empires and the rise of the United States among them—intertwine with the story of Indian-European encounter, exchange, and conflict.
     The course is divided into three parts. It begins with a brief introduction to the field of Indian-European relations and an overview of early Indian-European encounters. The second part explores of the nature and impact of Indian-European exchange and considers what happened when different economies, cosmologies, and methods of warfare came into contact. Finally, the course examines how contact between Natives and Europeans altered each group’s sense of self and transformed constructs of gender, ethnicity, and race. It also considers how these developments ultimately helped to close early America’s cultural frontier.
     In terms of its objectives, this course aims to: (1) expose you to scholarship in and increase your knowledge of Indian-European relations in early America, (2) increase your critical thinking and analytical skills, and (3) improve your skills in writing and speaking.

II. Class Readings:
A. Books: The following book is a required reading and is available for purchase.
Andrew Cayton & Fredrika Teute, eds., Contact Points: American Frontiers from the Mohawk Valley to the Mississippi, 1750-1830. Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1998.

B. E-Reserve Readings: Nearly all of the readings for this course are in the form of journal articles, book chapters, and essays available electronically though this course’s “Angel” web-page (see Part VI of the syllabus for directions on how to access Angel). You are required to make your own copies of these readings and to bring them to class on the days we discuss them. Your inability to download readings will not be considered an excuse for you not to be prepared for class discussions. In other words, don’t wait till the night before a reading is due to try to print it out!

III. Requirements & Assignments:
A. Class Participation & Attendance: I cannot stress enough that the success of this course depends upon your thoughtful and consistent participation. In short, participation in class is not optional and I expect each of you to carefully read class readings and to share your thoughts in class. Of course, you have to come to class in order to participate in it. Thus, the quality of your attendance will have a significant impact on your class participation grade. Accruing more than two unexcused absences will be considered grounds for receiving a failing grade for class participation. Additional unexcused absences will result in additional penalties. If possible, be sure to let me know before you miss a class if you have legitimate reason is for doing so. Doctor’s/health center notes and other forms of documentation may be required to obtain an excused absence.

B. Class Discussions: Discussions of class readings form the core of this seminar-style course. During these sessions you will have the opportunity to exchange ideas and express your views. The quality of these discussions is critical to the success, not only of the class as a whole, but to your individual efforts to grasp the content of course readings, to integrate these materials with one another, and to use these larger understandings in your writing assignments.
To properly analyze class readings and prepare for class discussions, follow the five-step process outlined below. My expectation is that each of you will be prepared to address these questions during class discussions.

  1. Find the author’s thesis—what essential point(s) is the author trying to make about their topic?
  2. Map out the author’s argument—what major points does the author make to prove their thesis—in what order does he/she present these points and why?
  3. Evaluate the evidence—what evidence does the author present to support his/her argument—is the evidence they present adequate—what are its limitations?
  4. Make connections—how does the author’s work relate to other class readings—how does it challenge or confirm their arguments?
  5. Strengths & weaknesses—what does, and doesn’t, the author do well in terms of presenting and proving their argument?

C. Presentation & Reading Synopsis: You are required to make an oral presentation before the class in which you will provide a synopsis of one of the “presentation” readings listed in the class schedule (see section V). Undergraduates must present on an article—graduate students on a book. Undergraduates will present on an article/essay, graduate students will present on a book. Your presentation must be between 10-15 minutes and must at least address the first two points of analysis outlined in section III B. You are also required to meet with me no later than the day of class before your presentation so we can discuss it.
      In addition, you are required to turn in a 3-4 page “reading synopsis” on the day of your presentation. This paper, like you presentation, must address at least the first two points of analysis outlined in section III B. (For graduate students taking this course, your readings synopsis must be 5-6 pages in length).
     Student presentations, like class discussions, form a central feature of this class. It is my expectation that you will use information presented by your peers in your writing assignments. Therefore, it is in your interest to ask your classmates questions about their presentations in order to make sure that you have a clear grasp of their content.

D.  Integrative Essays: In addition to the paper discussed above, you are required to write three “integrative essays” over the course of the semester. The first essay will be 3-4 pages in length, the second, 5-6 pages, and the third, 7-8 pages. In each of these assignments you will have to answer a question using class readings to support your argument. I will give you more details on these papers, including the questions you’ll need to address, closer to their due dates.
     The purpose of these papers is to get you to think critically about material presented in this class. Moreover, they are designed to improve your skills in constructing an argument and presenting it in clear, persuasive prose. To do well in these assignments you must not only articulate a point of view, but also adequately back up your ideas with supporting evidence (i.e. with specific references/examples drawn from course readings).
     These papers must be handed in during class on their due dates (see Part V of the syllabus). Late papers will be penalized one whole letter grade for each day they are late (i.e. a “B+” paper handed in a day late would only receive a “C+”). Papers more than three days late will automatically receive a failing grade. This does not mean that you should not hand in a paper if it is more than three days late: failure to turn in one of your papers is grounds for receiving a failing grade in the class.
     Finally, to help you develop your writing skills, you have the option of turning in a draft of your interpretive essays. You must turn in your drafts at least a week before a paper is due (e.g. for a paper due on a Thursday, you must turn it in by the previous Friday by 12pm). I will get your drafts back to you by the class before the paper is due at the latest. You should use the comments I make on your draft to guide your efforts in revising it. Finally, when you hand in the final draft of your paper you must also turn in your first draft.

E. Paper Format: Follow the guidelines specified in the History department's "Writing Style" handout. Part of your grade on your papers is based on your willingness to conform to this format. 

IV. Grades & Grading:
A. Course Grade: For undergraduates taking HST 415: Class Participation = 25%, Integrative Essays #1 = 10%, Integrative Essay #2 = 20%; Integrative Essay #3 = 25%; Class Presentation = 10%; Reading Synopsis = 10%.
    For graduate students taking HST 515: Class Participation = 20%, Integrative Essays #1 = 10%, Integrative Essay #2 = 20%; Integrative Essay #3 = 25%; Class Presentation = 10%; Reading Synopsis = 15%.

B. Written Assignments: I evaluate papers based on the following categories: 1) Does your essay meet the basic requirements of the assignment? 2) Do you present a strong thesis statement/argument? 3) How thorough and persuasive is your analysis? 4) Is your paper well written—is it organized, clear, and grammatically correct? 5) Does your paper follow the guidelines laid out for its format? I assign grades as follows:
A         Your essay demonstrates complete mastery of the material presented combined with some originality. It is well organized, well written, and largely free from errors in grammar, usage, and format.
B          Your essay shows a solid command of the material with some minor gaps or mistakes. It is generally presented in an orderly fashion with supporting evidence. It is well written and free from serious errors in grammar, usage, and format.
C         Your essay reflects an uneven understanding of the material with some major gaps/mistakes in its analysis. It exhibits substantial lapses in organization and evidence and contains some serious errors in grammar, usage, and format.
D         Your essay only demonstrates a minimal knowledge of the material. Its analysis is confused, disorganized, and unsubstantiated. It contains numerous, serious errors in grammar, usage, and format.
E          Your essay fails to engage the material. It is incomprehensible both in terms of analysis and writing.

C. Oral Presentations: I evaluate class presentations based on two major criteria: (1) “delivery”—your pacing, level of eye-contact, audibility, and how engaging the presentation is overall; and (2) “content”—your ability to clearly, thoroughly, and accurately convey the material you present. I assign grades as follows:
A         Your presentation was engaging, clear, and thoroughly covered all relevant points within the time allotted.
B          Your presentation demonstrated efforts to make it engaging, was generally clear, and adequately covered all relevant points within the time allotted.
C         Your presentation demonstrated some deficiencies in terms of its delivery and suffered some lapses in terms of clarity and coverage. It filled the time allotted.
D         Your presentation suffered from serious deficiencies in terms of its delivery and major lapses in clarity and coverage. It did not fill the time allotted.
E          Critical failures in terms of delivery, coverage, and length.

D. Class Participation: I establish class participation grades based (1) on your level of participation and (2) on its quality. When evaluating quality, I consider whether participation has been voluntary or involuntary (i.e. I’ve had to call on you) and to what degree you’ve taken on a leadership role in discussions. I assign grades as follows:
A         Outstanding participation both in terms of quality and quantity.
B          Consistent, high-level, voluntary participation (about 3 times per discussion).
C         Consistent, low-level, voluntary participation (1-3 times per discussion).
D         Irregular participation (less than once per class)—only respond to prompts.
E          Consistent non-participation—failure to respond to prompts.

V. Class Schedule: Below you will find a listing of weekly topics, class readings, presentation readings, and assignments. Presentation readings marked “G” are for graduate students only.  I will try to stick to this schedule as much as possible, but I reserve the right to make any changes I deem necessary. It is your responsibility to find out about any changes in the schedule.

Part I: First Encounters.
Week #1: Introductions & Orientation
T, Jan. 29: Course introduction (Model presentation, Contact Points, pgs 1-12)
R, Jan. 31: James Axtell, “The Power of Print in the Eastern Woodlands” (10 pgs)

Week #2: Who Can Speak for Indian Peoples & How?
T, Feb. 5: Donald Fixico, "Ethics & Responsibilities in Writing Indian History" (11 pgs)
    Angela Cavender Wilson, "Power of the Spoken Word” (17 pgs)
     Presentation: Calvin Martin, “The Metaphysics of Writing Indian-White  
            History” (7 pgs)
R, Feb. 7: James Axtell, "The Ethnohistory of Native America" (15 pgs)
    Daniel Richter, "Whose Indian History?" (15 pgs)
    Presentation: James Merrell, “Some Thoughts on Colonial Historians and 
American Indians” (26 pgs)

Week #3: Pre-Contact Societies
T, Feb. 12: Neal Salisbury, "The Indians' Old World" (435-53/19 pgs)
      Jay Miller, "A Kinship of Spirit" (19 pgs)
      (Discuss integrative essays)
R, Feb. 14: William & Carla Phillips, "Old Worlds in Isolation" (24 pgs)
                   William & Carla Phillips, “The Quest for Trade & Christians” (27 pgs)
         Presentation:  N. Canny, “The Ideology of English Colonization” (24 pgs)

Week #4: First Contact & First Impressions
T, Feb. 19: James Axtell, "Through Another Glass Darkly" (19 pgs)
                  Karen Kupperman, "Reading Indian Bodies" (36 pgs)
        Presentation: Cornelius Jaenan, “Amerindian Views of French Culture”
(31 pgs)          
R, Feb. 21: Christopher Miller & George Hamell, "New Perspectives on Indian-White
                        Contact” (18 pgs)
       Bruce Trigger, "Early Native North American Responses to European
            Contact” (21 pgs)
       (Film: First Contact)

Part II: The Dimensions & Consequences of Contact

Week #5: Frontiers of Goods & Trade
T, Feb. 26: Calvin Martin, “The Four Lives of a Micmac Copper Pot” (23 pgs)
       Peter Mancall, “Consumption” (22 pgs)
       Presentation: Axtell, “The First Consumer Revolution” (18 pgs)
R, Feb. 28: Richard White, "The Fur Trade" (40 pgs)
       James Axtell, "Making Do" (27 pgs)
         Presentation: Daniel Usner, “Frontier Exchange Economy” (28 pgs)—or—
            (G) Kathryn E. Holland Braund, Deerskins & Duffles
      **Integrative Essay #1 Due**

Week #6: The Biological & Ecological Frontier
T, Mar. 4: Calvin Martin, “The European Impact on the Culture of a Northeastern 
Algonquian Tribe” (24 pgs)  
     Shepard Krech, “Deer” (23 pgs)
      Presentation: Alfred Crosby, “Virgin Soil Epidemics” (12 pgs)
R, Mar. 6: William Cronon, “Bounding the Land” (28 pgs)
     Virginia DeJohn Anderson, "King Philips' Herds” (24 pgs)
 Presentation: (G) Alfred Crosby, Ecological Imperialism—orAlfred
Crosby, “Ecological Imperialism” (13 pgs)

Week #7: Frontiers of Belief
T, Mar. 11: James Ronda, "We Are Well As We Are” (17 pgs)
       James Axtell, "The Invasion Within” (32 pgs)
         Presentation: Nancy Shoemaker, “Kateri Tekakwitha’s Tortuous Path to 
Sainthood” (23 pgs)
R, Mar. 13: Neal Salisbury, "Red Puritans” (28 pgs)
       James Ronda, "Generations of Faith” (26 pgs).
         Presentation: J Axtell, “Were Indian Conversions Bona Fide?” (22 pgs)
Week #8: Spring Break

Week #9: The Military Frontier
T, Mar. 25: Adam Hirsch, "The Collision of Military Cultures” (26 pgs)
       Daniel Richter, "War and Culture” (32 pgs)
         Presentation: Ronald Dale Karr, “Why Should You Be So Furious?” (34)
R, Mar. 27: Stephen Brumwell, “’A Service Truly Critical’” (30 pgs)
       Paul Moyer, “’Real’ Indians, ‘White’ Indians” (17 pgs)
         Presentation: Patrick Malone, “Changing Military Technology among the
Indians” (16 pgs)—or—(G) Armstrong Starkey, European & Native American Warfare

Week #10: Diplomatic Frontiers
T, Apr. 1: Nancy Shoemaker, “An Alliance between Men” (25 pgs)
     J Merritt, “Metaphor, Meaning, & Misunderstanding,” Contact Points (28 pgs)
      Presentation: Mary Druke, "Linking Arms” (11 pgs)
R, Apr. 3: Timothy Shannon, "Dressing for Success on the Mohawk Frontier” (30 pgs)
     Gregory Dowd, “’Insidious Friends’,” Contact Points (37 pgs/skim pg 120-29)
      Presentation:  James Merrell, “’Minding the Business of the Nation” (16pgs)

Part III: From Frontiers of Inclusion to Frontiers of Exclusion.
Week #11: The Gender Frontier
T, Apr. 8: Kathleen Brown, "The Anglo-Algonquian Gender Frontier" (23 pgs)
    Lucy E. Murphy, “To Live among Us,” Contact Points (34 pgs)
     Presentation: Juliana Barr, “A Diplomacy of Gender: Rituals of First
Contact” (41 pgs)     
R, Apr. 10: Claudio Saunt, "Domestic Quiet being broke'," Contact Points (24 pgs)
       Theda Purdue, "Women, Men and American Indian Policy,” (26 pgs)
         Presentation: Kathryn Holland Braund, “Guardians of Tradition and
Handmaidens of Change” (20 pgs)
       **Integrative Essay #2 Due**

Week #12: Building a Racial Frontier
T, Apr. 15: William Hart, "Black 'Go-Betweens',” Contact Points (26 pgs)
      James Merrell, “The Racial Education of the Catawba Indians” (22 pgs)
        Presentation: Joyce Chapin, “Natural Philosophy & an Early Racial Idiom”
(24 pgs)
R, Apr. 17: Gregory Knouff, “Whiteness & Warfare on a Revolutionary Frontier” (20 pg)
       Nancy Shoemaker, “How Indians Got to be Red” (20pgs)
         Presentation: Alden Vaughan, “From White Man to Red Skin” (27 pgs)—
or—(G) Nancy Shoemaker, A Strange Likeness

Week #13: Indian Responses to Colonization
T, Apr. 22: Michael McConville, "The Ohio Indians' World" (26 pgs)
                  James Merrell, “The Indians’ New World: The Catawba Experience” (29 pgs)
        Presentation: James Axtell, “Native Reactions to the Invasion of America”
(15 pgs)
R, Apr. 24: Alfred Cave, "The Delaware Prophet Neolin" (26 pgs)
                   Jay Miller, “The 1806 Purge among the Indiana Delaware” (22 pgs)
         Presentation: (G) Gregory Dowd, War Under Heaven—or—Daniel
Mandell, “To Live More Like My Christian English Neighbors” (28 pgs)

Week #14: Indians & the Republic
T, Apr. 29: Stephen Aron, “Pigs and Hunters,” Contact Points (30 pgs)
       Theda Perdue, “Clan and Court” (8pgs)
         Presentation: Peter Mancall, “Men, Women & Alcohol in Indian Villages”
(24 pgs)
R, May 1:  Reginald Horsman, “American Indian Policy in the Old Northwest” (19 pgs)
                  James Merrell, "Declarations of Independence” (27 pgs)
                  (Course Evaluations)

Week #15 The Age of Removal
T, May 6: Reginald Horsman, "Racial Destiny & the Indians” (19 pgs)
     John Mack Faragher, "More Motley than Mackinaw," Contact Points (23 pgs)
       Presentation: T. Perdue, “Cherokee Women & the Trail of Tears” (17 pgs)
R, May 8: Mary Young, “Conflict Resolution on the Indian Frontier” (20pgs)
     James Ronda, “’We Have a Country’” (19 pgs)
       Presentation: Mary Hershberger, “Mobilizing Women, Anticipating
            Abolition” (26 pgs)

**Integrative Essay #3 Due—Thursday, May 15 by 12p**


VII. Final Notes:

  • I will not accept late work without penalty unless there is an unavoidable medical or family emergency--computer glitches are not considered unavoidable emergencies.
  • You must complete all required assignments in order to pass this class. Incompletes will not be given except under extreme circumstances.
  • Plagiarism will not be tolerated. See the "Academic Honesty Code" in Your Right to Know & Academic Policies and Procedures Handbook to see what constitutes plagiarism. Also refer to the attached departmental policy concerning plagiarism.
  • I urge all of you to take advantage of my office hours if you have any questions about assignments, class readings, lectures, or if you just want to come by and share some of your ideas. Please feel free to schedule other meeting times with me if you cannot make it to my regular office hours.
    • University statement on students with disabilities: “I would appreciate hearing from anyone in this class who has a special need that may be the result of a disability. I am reasonably sure we can work out whatever arrangement is necessary, be it special seating, testing, or other accommodatio.
    • This syllabus, class announcements, and course handouts will be posted on the web via the university's "Angel" course information system. To access Angel: 1) Go to the SUNY Brockport homepage ( and click on "Online Services," 2) Click on "Angel," 3) To log onto Angel enter your username and password (these are the same ones you use to access your campus e-mail account), 4) Click on the course you would like to access.
    • Electronic device policy: All electronic devices must be turned off during class. If you need to be available to receive calls, then you must tell me this in advance and, if I give consent, you can keep your cell phone on vibrate. I do not allow the use of laptop computers in class unless you need them for a registered disability. Any exceptions to these policies will be made on a case-by-case basis. 


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Last Updated 7/21/10


Our sincere congratulations to Matty Lynn Kuhar who won the 2016 School of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Undergraduate Award!

Dr. Alison Parker has been invited to be this year's Harriet Jacobs Lecturer at Purdue University. Her talk is entitled Mary Church Terrell, Black Women, and the Rise of the Democratic Party. 

Dr. Nishiyama has been invited to give a talk (title "Kamikaze Technology and Culture for War: Japan and the USA, 1941-2001") at the RIT.

Dr. Alison Parker facilitated significant donation of historical papers to Oberlin College and participates in its celebratory symposium on the life of racial justice advocate Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954).

Congratulations to Dr. Jose R. Torre on winning the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching!


History Forum will host Region 11&12 Meeting of the Association of Public Historians of New York State, on 4/30 (Saturday, from 9am to about 4pm) at McCue Auditorium (LAB104).

History Department Graduation Ceremony will be held in New York Room, Cooper Hall, at 10:30 am, May 14 (Saturday).