Class Central is learner-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Columbia University

The Civil War and Reconstruction - 1861 - 1865: A New Birth of Freedom

Columbia University via edX


A New Birthof Freedom: The Civil War, 1861-1865 narrates the history of the American Civil War. While it examines individual engagements and the overall nature of the military conflict, the focus is less on the battlefield than on political, social, and economic change in the Union and the Confederacy. Central to the account are the road to emancipation, the role of black soldiers, the nature of Abraham Lincoln’s wartime leadership, internal dissent in both the North and South, the changing position of women in both societies, and the war’s long-term economic and intellectual impact. We end with a look at the beginnings of Reconstruction during the conflict.

This course is part of the XSeries, Civil War and Reconstruction , which introduces students to the most pivotal era in American history. The Civil War transformed the nation by eliminating the threat of secession and destroying the institution of slavery. It raised questions that remain central to our understanding of ourselves as a people and a nation – the balance of power between local and national authority, the boundaries of citizenship, and the meanings of freedom and equality. This XSeries will examine the causes of the war, the road to secession, the conduct of the Civil War, the coming of emancipation, and the struggle after the war to breathe meaning into the promise of freedom for four million emancipated slaves. One theme throughout the series is what might be called the politics of history – how the world in which a historian lives affects his or her view of the past, and how historical interpretations reinforce or challenge the social order of the present.


  1. Introduction to the Civil War
  2. The First Year of the War
  3. The Coming of Emancipation
  4. The Black Soldier
  5. The Confederacy
  6. The Impact of the Civil War
  7. Toward Union Victory
  8. Beginnings of Reconstruction and the End of the War

Taught by

Eric Foner


4.5 rating, based on 6 Class Central reviews

4.6 rating at edX based on 10 ratings

Start your review of The Civil War and Reconstruction - 1861 - 1865: A New Birth of Freedom

  • Anonymous
    Content is pretty light. I would have thought something produced by Columbia would have been more robust and thoroughly vetted. Quizzes are weak and actually have even some factual errors. For instance, there is 'matching' question to align states to the union or confederacy 'By December of 1861, which of the following states were in the Union and which were in the Confederacy?' which includes West Virginia.

    West Virginia didn't become a state until 1863.
  • Anonymous
    No better free and comprehensive resource to learn about the Civil War and Reconstruction era from the leading expert in the field. Eric Foner is not only a pulitzer prize winning historian for his work in this field, he is an extremely engaging, thoughtful and caring lecturer who has a way of passing his intense passion and interesting in the subject matter on to the learner. One of the best MOOC series I've ever encountered. Highly recommend.
  • Bob
    Eric Foner is not only extremely well versed on the topic, but he is a witty, engaging lecturer who makes you hate to see the course end. Do yourself a favor -- enroll in all 3 classes.
  • Valorie Hamachek
    Fascinating course. I now understand the US much better. The Professor at Columbia is smart, funny and gives great lectures. You are actually sitting in on his class which is great!
  • Profile image for Michael Ye
    Michael Ye

Never Stop Learning.

Get personalized course recommendations, track subjects and courses with reminders, and more.

Someone learning on their laptop while sitting on the floor.