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HIST 3811 Syllabus

Course Syllabus

HIST 3811 - U.S. Military and Naval History

3 Credit Hours

Course Information

Course Description:

This course describes and analyzes the history of American military policy from the colonial period to the present. It focuses on the creation of American military institutions, the genesis of policy-making, the maintenance of civilian control over the military, the conduct of war, the interrelationship between foreign policy and military policy, the influence of American society upon the armed forces as social institutions, and the influence of war on American society. 

Course Outcomes:

Upon completion of this course students should have:

  1. Developed the ability to assess and think critically about military issues and how people interpret these issues.

  2. Gained a basic factual knowledge of the history of the armed forces of the United States, civil- military relations, the evolution of tactics and strategy, and the historiographical issues involved in their study.

  3. Developed skills in analyzing historical data and reaching informed conclusions about these data.

  4. Sharpened their ability to convey their analyses in both written essays and online discussions.

  5. Developed skills in analyzing military strategy, the conduct of war, and civil-military relations. 

Prerequisites & Co-requisites:

Completion of HIST 2010 and HIST 2020 is suggested but not required.

Course Topics:
Specific Course Requirements:

Textbooks, Supplementary Materials, Hardware and Software Requirements

Required Textbooks:

Please visit the Virtual Bookstore to obtain textbook information for this course. Move your cursor over the "Books" link in the navigation bar and select "Textbooks & Course Materials." Select your Program, Term, Department, and Course; then select "Submit."

Supplementary Materials:
Hardware and Software Requirements:

Minimum hardware requirements can be found here.

Minimum software requirements can be found here.

Common applications you might need:

Web Resources:

Purdue OWL Online Writing Lab (for APA, MLA, or Chicago style)

The Writing Center Online Writer's Handbook

Student Resources:
  • Technical support information can be found on the TN eCampus Help Desk page.
  • Smarthinking virtual tutoring is available FREE of charge. to access Smarthinking, visit the course homepage and select Smarthinking under Course Resources. You also view sample sessions to see what Smarthinking offers and how it works.
  • Information on other student issues or concerns can be located on the TN eCampus Student Resources page.

Instructor Information

Please see "Instructor Information" in the Getting Started Module for instructor contact information, virtual office hours, and other communication information. You can expect to receive a response from the instructor within 24-48 hours unless notified of extenuating circumstances.

Participation, Assessments, & Grading

Testing Procedures:

Both exams (midterm and final) are essay format and open book. This means that developing your ideas logically and in depth will be very important. The midterm is due halfway through the course. The final exam is due by the end of the course. The exact dates will be specified by your individual instructor in the Course Calendar and on the 'Assignments' page. Within the constraints of the due dates, you may take the exams at a place and time of your convenience and submit your work in the 'Assignments' drop box. There is a link to the 'Assignments' drop box on the Course Menu Bar under 'Evaluation Tools.' You must complete both exams and the comparative book review to pass this course. Please be sure to submit your exams as RTF or Microsoft Word files.

Late exams and papers will suffer a penalty of ten points per day late. 

Grading Procedures:


The exams will cover material from the online lessons and the assigned books. Both exams will consist of short identification items (key terms, battles, personalities, events, etc.), a short essay on the major war of the period (Civil War on the midterm, World War II on the final), and a longer essay question on some aspect of U.S. military policy. You will always have several options to choose from.

For the identification questions you will need to identify (who, what, where, when) and give the significance of a given term (i.e. how does it fit into larger conceptual issues). For example:

Alfred Thayer Mahan was a professor at the U.S. Naval War College in the 1880s and 1890s. The author of numerous works, the most important of them being The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, he became famous as the world's leading proponent of sea power. Mahan's works stressed the importance of command of the seas as the key determinant of a nation's economic and military power. He denigrated commerce-raiding and stressed instead the creation of a battleship-centered fleet which would seek out and engage an enemy's main forces in a decisive battle in the tradition of Trafalgar. Mahan's ideas were a culmination of the emergence of a modern, professional officer corps in the U.S. Navy in the late 19th century and helped push the U.S. government into embracing an imperialist foreign policy.

In contrast, the essay questions will address overarching concepts. Facts are important for essays, but more important is how you organize and present these facts and what conclusions you draw from them. Your essay should begin with a clearly articulated thesis, which you then support with factual information presented in a clear and logical manner. A good essay anticipates counter-arguments and deals with these as well. In other words, if you wish to argue that the United States could have won the Vietnam War with air power and an intensive bombing of North Vietnam (as opposed to a protracted ground war and ‘search and destroy’ missions), you need to discuss North Vietnam’s ability to absorb and respond to air attacks. 

An excellent essay must: 1) directly address the question; 2) present a clearly defined thesis or main point, which is stated at the beginning of the essay; and 3) support this thesis with sound logical arguments, which cite relevant facts and data. Remember that the prime concern of history is to analyze change or changes through a period of time. History is not a mindless collection of names, dates, places, and events. When, why, and how changes occurred, and the significance of these changes to American military history are the concerns at the center of each question you will be asked in this course. As you study through the semester, try to use this framework. In other words, you need to understand why and how things happened, not simply that they did. Since these exams are open book, simply providing a summary of the basic events and facts will not earn you a good grade. Strength of analysis, depth of understanding, and your ability to communicate your ideas clearly will be critical for earning a good grade. Any plagiarism will, at minimum, result in a zero for the assignment and probably an 'F' for the course. 

The Comparative Book Review

You are required to complete one major writing assignments for this course, which must be 6-8 pages (1500 to roughly 2000 words) in length and written within proper academic criteria. It will be graded according to the content and aptness of your ideas, and the quality and accuracy of your prose and thought. It is due roughly two-thirds of the way into the course, mid-way between the midterm and final exams. The exact dates will be specified on the 'Assignments' page and on the course calendar. No paper will be accepted after the due date without prior arrangement with your instructor. You must discuss you choice of topic with your instructor. Failure to do will result in a failing grade for the assignment.

Your paper must be double spaced, written in clear, correct prose, and submitted in RTF or Microsoft Word format via the 'Assignments' drop box. You should have one-inch margins and use normal-sized fonts. On issues of style and grammar, consult such manuals as Kate Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations; Strunk and White, The Elements of Style; The Chicago Manual of Style; or The MLA Handbook. The Center for Military History's Style Guide is also a good choice. Please feel free to show your instructor drafts of the paper or to discuss the assignment with your instructor. Papers that have clearly not been edited will be reduced by one full letter grade (in exceptional cases even more!).

When you use another person’s writing or ideas you must have a citation, either in the form of a footnote, endnote, or MLA style citation. Borrowing the ideas or words of others without acknowledgement is plagiarism and will, at minimum, result in a zero for the assignment and probably an 'F' for the course. Please see the plagiarism policy in the Course Outline for more information on this. You should quote only when necessary, keep quotes short, and mark them as quotations. Do not turn in a paper that is merely a collection of large block quotes interspersed with your own words.

Weekly Discussion Questions

Over the course of the semester you need to participate in ten discussions (each worth 20 points or 2% of your grade). First, answer that week's discussion question in a short (3-4 substantial paragraphs) essay based on the readings in the textbooks, particularly the documents and essays in Chambers and Piehler, Major Problems in American Military History. These essays are intended to support class discussion, are due as specified in the course calendar or checklist. They may not be made up for any reason. Eleven are scheduled in the syllabus, plus an extra credit assignment, to accommodate emergency situations. If you participate in all eleven discussions, your instructor will drop your lowest discussion grade. These essays are to be posted to the appropriate course Discussion List as your initial post to the discussion. In writing these essays you must do two things: 1) prove you have actually done the reading for that week, and 2) articulate and support a clear thesis. In other words, answer that week's question and support it with evidence, details, and facts from the readings (and any other sources you choose). Students who take these seriously generally do better on the exams. Obviously, what you write needs to be your own work.

One you have answered a particular discussion, you must participate in the discussion that follows. Be sure to post to several different students and use these posts to explore that week's topic (or the broader subject) in more detail. Specific discussion instructions are available inside the course. Post early, thoughtfully, and often to the discussions to maximize this portion or your grade. 

Midterm Exam250 points
Comparative Book Review250 points
Discussion Participation (10 discussions @ 20 pts each)200 points
Final Exam300 points
Total1000 points
Grading Scale:
Fless than 600

Any plagiarism will, at the discretion of the instructor, result in an F for this course. 

Assignments and Projects:

Discussion essays are due in most weeks (generally by Thursday, though your instructor may specify another date), and regular participation in discussions is expected. The midterm exam will be due at the end of week seven (five in the summer) and the final exam at the end of the course. The comparative book review will be due roughly between the midterm and the final exam. The exact due dates will be specified in the 'Dropbox' and the course calendar and may vary slightly between different instructors. 

Class Participation:

Students must participate in the various online discussion areas. 

Late Policy:

Course Ground Rules

The following two statements (1., 2.) were derived from the TBR System-wide Student Rules document, released January 2012:


Read the document in its entirety here.

1. Standards of Conduct:

  • Students are required to adhere to the same professional, legal and ethical standards of conduct online as on campus. In addition, students should conform to generally accepted standards of "netiquette" while sending e-mail, posting comments to the discussion board, and while participating in other means of communicating online. Specifically, students should refrain from inappropriate and/or offensive language, comments and actions.

2. Review the TN eCampus Academic Integrity/Academic Honesty Policy:

  • In their academic activities, students are expected to maintain high standards of honesty and integrity. Academic dishonesty is prohibited.

Such conduct includes, but is not limited to:

  • an attempt by one or more students to use unauthorized information in the taking of an exam
  • to submit as one's own work, themes, reports, drawings, laboratory notes, computer programs, or other products prepared by another person,
  • or to knowingly assist another student in obtaining or using unauthorized materials.

Plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic dishonesty are prohibited.

Students guilty of academic misconduct, either directly or indirectly through participation or assistance, are subject to disciplinary action through the regular procedures of the student’s home institution.  Refer to the student handbook provided by your home institution to review the student conduct policy.

In addition to other possible disciplinary sanctions that may be imposed, the instructor has the authority to assign an "F" or zero for an activity or to assign an "F" for the course.

Other Course Rules:

Students are expected to:

  • Participate in all aspects of the course
  • Communicate with other students
  • Learn how to navigate in Brightspace
  • Keep abreast of course announcements
  • Use the assigned course management (Brightspace) email address rather than a personal email address
  • Address technical problems immediately:
  • Observe course netiquette at all times.

Guidelines for Communications


  • Always include a subject line.
  • Remember without facial expressions some comments may be taken the wrong way. Be careful in wording your emails. Use of emoticons might be helpful in some cases.
  • Use standard fonts.
  • Do not send large attachments without permission.
  • Special formatting such as centering, audio messages, tables, html, etc. should be avoided unless necessary to complete an assignment or other communication.
  • Respect the privacy of other class members


  • Review the discussion threads thoroughly before entering the discussion. Be a lurker then a discussant.
  • Try to maintain threads by using the "Reply" button rather starting a new topic.
  • Do not make insulting or inflammatory statements to other members of the discussion group. Be respectful of other’s ideas.
  • Be patient and read the comments of other group members thoroughly before entering your remarks.
  • Be cooperative with group leaders in completing assigned tasks.
  • Be positive and constructive in group discussions.
  • Respond in a thoughtful and timely manner.


The Tennessee Virtual Library is available to all students enrolled in TN eCampus programs and courses. Links to library materials (such as electronic journals, databases, interlibrary loans, digital reserves, dictionaries, encyclopedias, maps, and librarian support) and Internet resources needed by learners to complete online assignments and as background reading will be included within the course modules. To access the Virtual Library, go to the course homepage and select the Virtual Library link under Course Resources.

Students with Disabilities

Qualified students with disabilities will be provided reasonable and necessary academic accommodations if determined eligible by the appropriate disability services staff at their home institution. Prior to granting disability accommodations in this course, the instructor must receive written verification of a student's eligibility for specific accommodations from the disability services staff at the home institution. It is the student's responsibility to initiate contact with their home institution's disability services staff and to follow the established procedures for having the accommodation notice sent to the instructor.

Syllabus Changes

The instructor reserves the right to make changes as necessary to this syllabus. If changes are necessitated during the term of the course, the instructor will immediately notify students of such changes both by individual email communication and posting both notification and nature of change(s) on the course bulletin board.


The information contained in this syllabus is for general information purposes only. While we endeavor to keep this information up-to-date and accurate, there may be some discrepancies between this syllabus and the one found in your online course. The syllabus of record is the one found in your online course. Please make sure you read the syllabus in your course at the beginning of the semester. Questions regarding course content should be directed to your instructor.

Last Revised on May 16, 2017