Causes of the Civil War

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Learn about the political and social issues surrounding the American Civil War.
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For interpreters at Civil War sites, understanding the political and social issues centered on the topic of slavery from the 1840s through the 1860s is vital for creating accurate presentations for the public. This course will help you establish the foundational knowledge you need to create engaging interpretive programs at your site.

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Not only will this course recount major events in the decades preceding the war, it will also link you to primary and secondary sources and provide interpretive tips to help you create public programs about the war.

Course Schedule

This course is self-paced, allowing learners the flexibility to complete the course as quickly or slowly as they need. While exploring course content, learners can investigate topics in greater detail through enrichment activities that link to real-world examples, original source materials, and policy documents. Learners can easily move from section to section as they navigate through the course, revisiting concepts as needed.

Elements of the course:

  • Informational text
  • Interactive practice activities
  • Engaging videos
  • Learn More opportunitites
  • Supplemental reference materials
  • Final assessment

After completing all course activities, you will complete a brief assessment to demonstrate your understanding of key course concepts. Upon successful completion of the assessment, you will be awarded a certificate of completion.

Course Chapters

  • Interpreting the Civil War
  • The Long Road to War: 1840s
  • Compromises and Concessions: 1850s
  • An Ever Widening Gulf: 1850s
  • Election and Destruction
  • The Lost Cause
  • Epilogue

Be able to:

  • Describe the conflicting beliefs about slavery that were the main causes of the American Civil War.
  • Identify useful techniques and strategies for discussing the causes and context of the American Civil War with visitors.
  • Recognize the permission and latitude granted to interpreters by efforts such as the “Rally on the High Ground” initiative.
  • Relate the causes of the war effectively and respectfully to visitors of varying knowledge levels and backgrounds.

Recommended Background

This introductory course is designed for those interested in learning about the social and political issues that led to the Civil War and does not require a background in interpretation or other specific areas of study.

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