Building a Nation: Westward Expansion in the Early 19th Century

Tuesday, May 8, 2012
7:00–8:30 p.m. (EST) Enter Classroom Enter Forum


Elliott West
Alumni Distinguished Professor of History, University of Arkansas

About the Seminar

In the middle years of the nineteenth century, two great events transformed the United States: the Civil War and the acquisition of 1.2 million square miles of western territory between 1845 and 1848. The Civil War and expansion to the Pacific together created what was essentially a new nation.

Acquiring the far West aggravated old tensions between North and South and raised new, difficult issues concerning the institution of slavery. Those tensions and questions contributed greatly to the gathering political crisis that erupted finally in the secession crisis of 1860–61. It is not too much to say that the expansion of the 1840s lit the fuse of the Civil War. It could be argued that the Civil War began in the West – in Kansas in the 1850s, when Americans first killed Americans over the issue of slavery.

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