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History

MID-COURSE ESSAY THREE:  WRITER’S CHOICE

You may respond to either of the two prompts below.

  1. A) Ted Steinberg argues that resources are at the heart of the conflict of the Civil War, and that resources are at the heart of late-nineteenth-century American use of the Great Plains and the American South.

Consider at least one of our primary sources from that era—the Kiowa calendar, Solomon Northup’s autobiography, or Dodge’s description of a buffalo hunt—in the light of Steinberg’s analysis.

You might consider some of the following questions:  How do these primary sources agree with Steinberg?  How might they conflict?  What can we read differently in these primary sources because of Steinberg’s arguments?  What can we see differently in Steinberg because of these primary sources?

  1. B)  Henry David Thoreau and Charles Darwin were roughly contemporaries:Waldenand Origin of Species were written just five years apart (in 1854 and 1859).  Thoreau read Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle and Origin of Species carefully (Origin came out just as Thoreau’s health began to decline: he died in 1862).

We have no evidence that Darwin read Thoreau, who only later became recognized as a major writer.  Considering what you have read of each, how would you imagine each thinker reading the other?

You might consider what Darwin would notice in Thoreau’s journals, or you might consider whether Thoreau would be persuaded by Darwin’s arguments for natural selection on the basis of analogy with human-guided breeding.

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