The Civil War and the Emergence of Modern America, 1861-1890

A photograph of a group of people, dressed in Civil War uniforms, standing by a cannon. The cannon has just gone off.

A group of Civil War reenacters fire a cannon, one of the most widely-used weapons of the time. (Image courtesy of Jay Williams on Flickr. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.)


MIT Course Number

STS.427 / 21H.205 / STS.027

As Taught In

Spring 2015


Undergraduate / Graduate

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Course Description

Course Features

Course Description

Using the American Civil War as a baseline, the course considers what it means to become "modern" by exploring the war's material and manpower needs, associated key technologies, and how both influenced the United States' entrance into the age of "Big Business." Readings include material on steam transportation, telegraphic communications, arms production, naval innovation, food processing, medicine, public health, management methods, and the mass production of everything from underwear to uniforms—all essential ingredients of modernity. Students taking the graduate version must complete additional assignments.

Related Content

Merritt Smith. STS.427 The Civil War and the Emergence of Modern America, 1861-1890. Spring 2015. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

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