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Missionaries, Muskets, And Manufactures: Designing A Course On The Civil War And Technology

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.385.1 - 4.385.7

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Paper Authors

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Patricia Click

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3361

Missionaries, Muskets, and Manufactures: Designing a Course on the Civil War and Technology

Patricia C. Click University of Virginia

I. Introduction

When I sat down to design a course on the Civil War and Technology for undergraduate engineering students at the University of Virginia, I had no inkling of the fascinating pedagogical and instructional questions it would raise. The first hints came when I mentioned my task to some friends and discovered that the topic itself served as a Rorschach test of sorts. One immediately responded by noting that he was surprised to learn that I was interested in weaponry. Another started reeling off titles of books about military tactics, and yet another asserted that he hoped I would give naval technology the attention it deserved. And then there was my friend who thought the entire course should be about the significance of the railroad. I must admit that while I valued all of these comments and suggestions, I had something in mind that was a bit broader. Of course I intended to cover military strategy and the technical developments that were significant in the wartime experience. I also wanted to cover much more. Starting with the broad definition of technology that Arnold Pacey popularized in The Culture of Technology (1983), I set out to design a course that would pay attention both to the role of technology in the tumultuous years leading up to the war and to the significance of technology during the conduct of the war. Choosing topics was a priority, but I also wanted to design a course that would help students develop their skills in critical thinking. In addition, the course had to satisfy the general requirements set out in my department’s guidelines for our 200- level courses. Although I have not yet taught this course, I have spent a lot of time planning it. This paper describes my journey.

II. Course Audience and Requirements

Realizing that any course that I designed--no matter how wonderful it happened to be--would be a failure if it did not meet my department’s guidelines for such courses, I started by establishing a general outline of what I needed to do to satisfy departmental requirements. The audience for the course would be undergraduate students in the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) at the University of Virginia (UVA). Although the course itself would not be a required core course, it would be on a list of electives offered by my department, the Division of Technology, Culture, and Communication (TCC). Besides a required first-year TCC course, and two required fourth-year TCC courses, students in the SEAS at UVA must take one elective course in TCC, usually in the second semester of their second year. All of the semester-long, 200-level TCC courses focus on some aspect of the relationship between technology and culture. In addition to fostering an understanding of the impact of technology on culture, as well as the cultural context of technological development, the courses aim to help students improve their written and oral communications skills. Students, for example, have to write substantial papers

Click, P. (1999, June), Missionaries, Muskets, And Manufactures: Designing A Course On The Civil War And Technology Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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