Railroads: Connecting 19th-Century America

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Railroads: Connecting 19th-Century America
Humanities Course
Course CodeRAIL
Year Of Operation2002
Sites OfferedPAL, SAN, SHD
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Course Description

From the CTY Course Catalog (2002):

When thinking of the United States in the 1860s, people often focus solely on the Civil War, picturing the nation only in terms of sectional conflict, North and South. But in this class, students focus on a force that linked the United States together rather than tore it apart: the railroad.

This course concentrates on the 1860s, from the signing of the Pacific Railroad Act to the driving of the Golden Spike in Promontory Summit, Utah. Students explore the motives and techniques of the robber barons and financiers including Hopkins, Stanford, Huntington, and Crocker; examine issues surrounding the Chinese and European immigrants largely responsible for constructing the railroad; and discuss the plight of Native Americans as they were displaced in this process. This course, while focused on history, also asks students to explore geography as they determine why the rails followed one path rather than others.

By looking at the political, economic, and social circumstances surrounding the formation of the United States' first transcontinental railroad, students gain a greater understanding of a key period in American history.