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HISTORY 2305W.10
OFFICE: ROOM 324 PHILLIPS; OFFICE HOURS: W 3:00-5:00 and by appointment

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: The goals of this class are 1) to give students a thorough
understanding of the life and times of Abraham Lincoln, one of our most beloved and important
presidents, and 2) to help History majors significantly improve their writing skills through numerous
analytical writing assignments. By the end of the semester, students should be able to: a) describe the
major events in Lincoln’s career; b) demonstrate a mastery of the Lincoln historiography; c)
understand the History discipline’s writing expectations in terms of organization, evidence, argument,
clarity, succinctness, variety, and sophistication; and d) demonstrate full understanding of the basic
citation standards of the history discipline.

REQUIREMENTS: There are no prerequisites for the class. Written work will consist of four fivepage
papers (about 1,250 to a maximum of 1500 words in length). Because this class will be devoted
almost entirely to discussion and will meet only once a week, it is vital that students come to each
class meeting, do the reading, and participate in the discussions. Papers will be graded on the basis of
1) how well they are written and organized; 2) how well students document their theses with facts
AND quotations (especially of primary sources); 3) the extent to which students devote the entire
paper to answering the question; and 4) the sophistication of presentation and content. All paragraphs
with quotations must have footnotes that make it clear from which book and on what page the
quotations can be found. Papers MUST be typed and will be downgraded ONE FULL LETTERGRADE
if late, unless an extension has been granted BEFORE the day the paper is due. Please keep
a copy of your paper and BACKUP your work as you go! Papers may not under any circumstances
be submitted by e-mail or in any other electronic form unless requested by the instructor. With one
exception, do not use sources other than those assigned for this class for the papers without seeking
my permission first. That exception is The Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln, a compilation of
everything he ever wrote. It is available on-line at Another site
of interest is, which focuses on Lincoln’s pre-presidential years, but should not be used for papers without permission. Every assignment can be easily answered without using additional sources. The papers’ substance will be judged primarily on how well you construct an
argument with the resources at hand, not on how much information you find elsewhere. The key to a
good paper is to arrive at a thesis and then combine facts with quotations in a logically organized
manner to support that thesis.

grade will be based on the quality of each student’s contribution to the discussions. The remainder
will be based equally on each paper grade. Missing classes will adversely affect one’s discussion
grade unless the absence is for documented medical reasons or is conveyed to me the first week of
the semester as specified in the GW religious holidays policy. Students with disabilities requiring
accommodation should contact the Disability Support Services office at 202-994-8250 in the Rome
Hall, Suite 102, to establish eligibility and to coordinate accommodations. For additional information please refer to: Also, changes to this syllabus may be announced in class at any time, and missing class does not excuse not knowing about such changes.

PLAGIARISM AND CITATION: Plagiarism is a serious violation of university rules that can be
punished by suspension or expulsion. I prosecute all suspected cases of plagiarism. Borrowing someone else's words without giving them credit is plagiarism. Closely paraphrasing someone else’s work without making substantive changes to the content or method of organization is plagiarism.
Handing in a paper written completely or in part by someone else or for another class is academic
dishonesty. Using sources other than those specified for the assignment without permission is
academic dishonesty as well. But these facts do not mean you should footnote every sentence of your
paper. Well-known facts (for example, that Lincoln vetoed the Wade-Davis bill) do not need to be
cited at all. Nor do you need to cite mundane facts that are not central to your thesis (that he delivered
the House Divided Speech in Springfield, Ill. or that the speech commenced at 8 p.m.). But do provide citations if facts are not readily known (that Lincoln was paid the largest legal fee in antebellum U.S. history) or easily verifiable (that there are more books written about Lincoln than about any other man in history except perhaps Napoleon and Jesus). Use the books assigned for this class as a model for the number of footnotes needed per paragraph. The most sophisticated papers will have no more than one or two or, at the very most, three footnotes per paragraph. If you are unsure of the rules, see me before you hand in your papers or consult the GW Academic Integrity Code at

FOOTNOTE STYLE: You must use footnotes (not endnotes) to explain where your information
comes from. Use the following format for BOOKS:
1. Kerby Miller, Emigrants and Exiles: Ireland and the Irish Exodus to North America (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 166-167. (first cite gives all information; note that these book
titles are in italics!)
2. Miller, Emigrants and Exiles, 179. (second cite is just last name, short title, and page #)
3. Oliver MacDonagh, "The Irish Famine Emigration to the United States," Perspectives in
American History 10 (1976): 370-371. (The journal title is in italics, but the article title is not.)
4. MacDonagh, "Irish Famine Emigration," 361-366. (short second cite)
BOOKS: The following books are required and are available for purchase at the bookstore:
Michael P. Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, Slavery, and the Civil War (first edition)
David Donald, Lincoln
Don Fehrenbacher, Prelude to Greatness: Lincoln in the 1850s
The Lincoln-Douglas Debates, Oxford U. Press edition (non-abridged)
Gary Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America
Charles B. Strozier, Lincoln’s Quest for Union: Public and Private Meanings
James McPherson, Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief
Eric Foner, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery
I also recommend Sean Wilentz, ed., The Best American History Essays on Lincoln.
JANAURY 13: Introduction
JANAURY 20: Young Abe (about 100 pages of reading)
Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, pp. 1-29; Donald, Lincoln, chs. 1-3

JANAURY 27: Lincoln the Lawyer (130)
Donald, Lincoln, chs. 4-6; Foner, Fiery Trial, chs. 1-2
FEBRUARY 3: Lincoln the Rising Politician (125)
Donald, Lincoln, ch. 7; Fehrenbacher, Prelude to Greatness, chs. 1-2; Foner, Free Soil, ch. 4
(on electronic reserve on Blackboard)
FEBRUARY 10: Lincoln in the 1850s (155)
Donald, Lincoln, ch. 8; Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, pp. 37-69; Fehrenbacher, Prelude to
Greatness, ch. 4; Foner. Fiery Trial, chs. 3-4
Group A Essay due February 11: How radical was the “House Divided” Speech?
FEBRUARY 17: The Lincoln-Douglas Debates (295, but easy reading)
Fehrenbacher, Prelude to Greatness, chs. 5-6; Lincoln-Douglas Debates, pp. 37-285 (those
doing this paper assignment may read more of the debates than I have assigned)
Group B Essay due: Did Lincoln really tailor his stance on slavery to suit the part of Illinois in
which he was speaking, as Douglas charged at the beginning of the Galesburg debate?
FEBRUARY 24: Lincoln the Public Speaker; the Presidential Nomination (90)
Donald, Lincoln, ch. 9; Fehrenbacher, Prelude to Greatness, ch. 7; Johnson, Abraham
Lincoln, pp. 80-95; Foner; Fiery Trial, ch. 5
Group A Essay due: What made Lincoln such a good public speaker? Consider both content
and speaking style, but focus more on the content (by “content” I do not mean the
substance of what he said but the rhetorical strategies he used). You may read ahead in
the Johnson book to find additional speeches to substantiate your argument. You may
also use any speeches by Lincoln in his “Collected Works,” which can be found online
at or in the stacks of Gelman at E 457.91 1953.
MARCH 2: Lincoln the Writer; The Secession Winter (105)
Donald, Lincoln, ch. 10; Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, pp. 96-126, Foner, Fiery Trial, ch. 6
Group B Essay due: What made Lincoln such a great writer? You may read ahead in the
Johnson book to find additional letters to substantiate your argument. You may also
use any writings by Lincoln in his “Collected Works,” which can be found online at or in the stacks of Gelman at E 457.91 1953.
MARCH 9: Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief, Part One (185)
Donald, Lincoln, chs. 11-12; McPherson, Tried By War, chs. 1-5
MARCH 23: Lincoln and Emancipation (235)
Donald, Lincoln, chs. 13-16; Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, pp. 179-219; Foner, Fiery Trial,
chs. 7-8
Group A Essay due: To what extent did Lincoln’s views on race and African Americans
change from 1854 to the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation? Be sure to cite
both his words and his actions in your answer.

MARCH 30: Lincoln as Commander, Part Two (130)
McPherson, Tried By War, chs. 6-10
Group B Essay due: Rate Lincoln as a military leader.
APRIL 6: The Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s Re-election (155)
Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg, pp. 19-175
APRIL 13: A Psychohistory of Lincoln (230)
Strozier, Lincoln’s Quest for Union, pp. 3-233
Groups A and B Essays due: How useful is psychohistory for understanding the life of
Abraham Lincoln?
APRIL 20: Lincoln’s Reconstruction Plans, End of the War, Assassination, Legacy (180)
Donald, Lincoln, chs. 17-21; Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, pp. 281-306, Foner, Fiery Trial,
ch. 9

Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in. That every man may receive at least, a moderate education, and thereby be enabled to read the histories of his own and other countries, by which he may duly appreciate the value of our free institutions, appears to be an object of vital importance, even on this account alone, to say nothing of the advantages and satisfaction to be derived from all being able to read the scriptures and other works, both of a religious and moral nature, for themselves. For my part, I desire to see the time when education, and by its means, morality, sobriety, enterprise and industry, shall become much more general than at present, and should be gratified to have it in my power to contribute something to the advancement of any measure which might have a tendency to accelerate the happy period.
--March 9, 1832 - First Political Announcement

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