First Essay –Coming of War

Due October 1, 2021 BY 5PM

On Friday, October 1, students will submit a 3-5 page typed, double-spaced essay on a Coming of War topic provided to them in class near the beginning of that week.

  • Prof. Pinsker will discuss and distribute a choice of topics in class on Tuesday, September 28th
  • Please open your paper with a descriptive title and your byline.
  • Organize your essay in a way that respects chronology and historical context.
  • Prof. Pinsker is available to review drafts (before Friday) and you may utilize the Writing Center

QUESTIONS (distributed on Tuesday, Sept. 28th)

  1. If you had to choose three historic events to explain how the conflict over American slavery escalated into Civil War, which events would you choose and why?
  1. If you had to choose three historic figures from the antebellum era to personify the bitter sectional conflict over American slavery, which people would you choose and why?


All essays must include both primary and secondary source material from the assigned readings properly cited using Chicago-style footnotes. Outside research is allowed but not required.

  • Relevant reading assignments for this essay include chapters from American Yawp, various primary and secondary source materials from the House Divided Project and the Dickinson & Slavery initiative and articles by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Prof. Pinsker,  But don’t forget to consult the discussion topic pages on the course site syllabus as well –they also contain valuable insights and examples.
  • Make sure to devise a thesis statement that can be effectively argued in a short paper.  Consult the Methods Center handout on How to Write a Thesis Statement 
  • Make sure you are formatting your footnotes correctly (see some of the samples below).  For further guidance, see this methods handout on How to Use Footnotes and consult as needed with the library’s Chicago-style guide, but make sure to use sample footnote models for formatting and NOT bibliography examples.  

Sample Footnotes

[1] Ian Beamish et al., “The Cotton Revolution,” in The American Yawp, eds. Joseph Locke and Ben Wright (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2018). [WEB]

[2] Yawp, Chapter 11: IV.

[3] Frederick Douglass, Fifth of July Speech (1852), Knowledge for Freedom seminar [WEB]


Essays will be graded on depth of analysis, use of evidence, and quality of prose. Late essays will be penalized up to 5 points each day.

  • Don’t underestimate the importance of integrating your quoted evidence with some degree of fluidity.  Awkwardly inserting quotations is one of the hallmarks of mediocre undergraduate essays.  Consult this handout from the methods center for a range of good tips.
  • Also, please guard against plagiarism.  Remember our discussion from the very first day of the semester.  Never write your own words while looking directly at your sources, especially secondary sources –unless you are quoting them.
  • And finally, always remember to proofread your work by printing it out and reading it aloud, slowly. See our methods handout on How to Proofreed [sic]