A Comm-B History 200 Syllabus

Charles L. Cohen
In the following syllabus, Professor Charles Cohen introduces his course, articulates his goals for his students, clarifies the place of a Writing Fellow in a Comm-B course, and outlines his paper assignments. Under "minor assignments", note how Professor Cohen gives a series of 50 word (that's right. . . only *50* word!) writing assignments. These assignments not only mean less grading time for the professor and TAs; they force students to gain the invaluable skill of writing to the heart of the matter on a particular topic.

This course is intended to make you into an historian—which is not the same thing as knowing where Nathaniel Bacon slept or how many commas Hamilton used in the 27th Federalist Paper.

The required readings consist of two packets designed specifically for this course. They are available from the Humanities Copy Center, 1650 Humanities Building:


    Charles L. Cohen and Maureen Conklin, comps., Bacon's Rebellion: An Anthology of Documents
    Charles L. Cohen and Maureen Conklin, comps., The Ratification of the Constitution in New York: An Anthology of Documents

All assignments come from these packets. The College Library has placed both packets on three-hour reserve.


  • Communications-B Requirement
    History 200 is a writing-intensive course aiming to promote your compositional skill as well as enhance your knowledge of early America and improving your capability to conduct scholarly research. The course satisfies the University's Communications-B Requirement.

  • Honors Credit
    History 200 confers honors credits automatically on all Honors students.

  • Written Assignments
    The major written assignments consist of two 3-page papers, a 6-page paper, and a 10-page paper. Minor assignments consist of one or two sentences. Both major and minor assignments must be typed and double-spaced; they are due at the beginning of class on the days indicated. Pages 4-5 below list the paper topics, minor assignments, and due dates. Please note that you will hand in draft versions of the 3-page papers and the 6-page paper to the Student Writing Fellow (see below), and the final version of those papers to me.

  • Student Writing Fellows
    This course takes advantage of the Student Writing Fellow Program. Fellows are competitively chosen undergraduates who help students develop their writing skills. The Writing Fellow will read the first drafts of your 3-page papers and 6-page paper, return them to you with written comments, and discuss how you should revise the essay before turning in the final version. I will read and grade the final versions myself; the Writing Fellow has no grading responsibility. The Fellow will not review the 10-page paper.

  • Grading
    Each 3-page paper counts for 10% of the final grade, the 6-page paper counts for 20%, while the 10-page paper and class participation each count for 30%. Class participation will be evaluated through a combination of attendance and quality of discussion (which is not identical to quantity). The minor assignments will be ungraded, but failure to turn them in will lower your class participation grade.

  • Email
    By January 25 everyone in the class should have a personal email account. To contact me alone, use: clcohen@facstaff.wisc.edu[.] To contact everyone in the class (including me), use: 200-cohen@lists.students.wisc.edu

Date Lectures and Assignments  
January 20 Introduction
  22 Bacon's Rebellion, II. 1-4; refer to I. 1-3 as necessary
  25 BR, II. 2
  Minor Assignment: #1  
  27 BR, II. 3
  29 BR, III. 1-2; IV. 1-6
  Draft of First 3-Page Paper Due  

Paper Topics

In writing these essays, you should draw on any and all material from the readings and class discussions, making specific statements firmly rooted in the evidence, using quotations whenever applicable, and evaluating the arguments of all "authorities" (including me!). You may of course draw on any relevant additional sources but are not required to. You may choose another topic if the suggested ones bore, fatigue or disorient you, but you must consult with me before so proceeding.

FIRST 3-PAGE PAPER: Draft due Jan. 29; final draft due Feb. 12. Compare the interpretations of Bacon's Rebellion offered by at least two of the four narratives.

6-PAGE PAPER: Draft due Feb. 26; final draft due March 19. Identify what you consider the most significant occurrence during Bacon's Rebellion and explain the reasons for your choice.

SECOND 3-PAGE PAPER: Draft due April 2; final draft due April 16. Choose one day of the Constitutional Convention described by Lansing, Yates, and Hamilton, and analyze each man's depiction of the day's events.

10-PAGE PAPER: Due May 7. Explain why the New York Convention ratified the Constitution despite the majority's Antifederalist sympathies.

Minor Assignments

#1:   Due Jan. 25. In one sentence NOT EXCEEDING 50 words (the 51st word and its successors face a terrible fate), choose one event mentioned by at least two of the three narrators you have read (Anne Cotton, John Cotton, Thomas Mathew) and compare how each author treats it.
#2:   Due Feb. 5. In one sentence NOT EXCEEDING 50 words (see above for implied threat), explain what prompted Bacon's men to attack the Occaneechee fort.
#3:   Due Feb. 19. In one or two sentences NOT EXCEEDING 75 words (same operative threat as previously, my liberality notwithstanding), identify the most prominent grievance the Virginians advanced and suggest the social or political tensions that underlay it.
#4:   Due March 26. In one sentence NOT EXCEEDING 50 words (you know the drill), describe Robert Lansing's activity in the Constitutional Convention.
#5:   Due April 9. In one sentence NOT EXCEEDING 50 words (or else...), identify the foremost disagreement between "Cato" and "Caesar."
#6:   Due April 23. In two sentences NOT EXCEEDING 75 words (need I say more?), summarize the Federalist and Anti-Federalist positions as articulated in the New York Convention debate on ratification.