10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America

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10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America*

Okay, this is summer reading for AP US History at Elgin High School, but it won’t take 10 days! Instead, it will get you thinking about various turning points in American history while introducing you to the framework of our study. Our discussion on day 1 will depend on your thoughtful work described below.

  1. Get a copy of the book* by buying it online (about $11.00) or checking out a copy from Gail Borden Library.

  1. Read any 3 chapters.

  1. Review the 9 Time Periods, 7 Themes, and 9 Thinking Skills in the attached packet.

  1. ***The following describes the written part of your work***

For each of the 3 chapters you read,

    1. identify the time period

    2. Find a theme that this event relates to

    3. (***most importantly***) in two good paragraphs for each of the three chapters you choose, explain how the author discusses, analyzes and explains historical causation and why the change was “unexpected.”

*The book- 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America, Stephen M. Gillon, The History Channel, 2006

The Nine Thinking Skills

The College Board invites us to not just “study history,” but to “think like historians.” The nine skills outlined below define the range of work we will be doing throughout the school year. (These are the skill categories that appear in the gradebook for this course.) It is understood that these thinking skills will not be useful or coherent without the knowledge base that comes from reading, discussing and remembering the content shown in the key concept outline.

1.  Historical Causation- identify, analyze, and evaluate the relationships among multiple historical causes and effects.

2.  Patterns of Continuity and Change over Time- recognize, analyze, and evaluate the dynamics of historical continuity and change over periods of time.
3.  Periodization- describe, analyze, evaluate, and construct models that historians use to organize history into defined time periods.
4. Comparison- describe, compare, and evaluate multiple historical developments.
5. Contextualization- recognize and explain ways in which historical phenomenon or processes connect to broader regional, nation, or global processes.
6. Historical Argumentation- define and frame a question about the past through the construction of an argument.
7. Appropriate Use of Relevant Historical Evidence- describe and evaluate evidence about the past from diverse sources and draw appropriate conclusions.
8. Interpretation- describe, analyze, evaluate, and construct diverse interpretations of the past.
9. Synthesis- develop meaningful and persuasive new understandings of the past.

The Time Periods

(Our units of instruction will be based on these.)

Historians organize their interpretation and analysis of events and developments into eras. They see an endpoint or a beginning that marks a transition big enough to label a new time period. As historians review one another’s work they may differ over how the time periods should be divided up or labeled. This skill of “periodization” is based on the “interpretative lens” of the individual historian.

Period 1: 1491-1607- Contact among peoples in North America creates a New World

Period 2: 1607- 1754- Distinctive colonial and native societies emerged from the conflict and maneuvering of Europeans and American Indians.

Period 3: 1754-1800- A new American Republic emerges out of colonial reaction to the British attempts to reassert control.

Period 4: 1800-1848- Rapid economic, territorial, and demographic changes occur alongside an effort to define and extend democratic ideals.

Period 5: 1844-1877- Expansion and growth caused tensions that led to a civil war followed by an effort to define and extend democratic ideals once again.

Period 6: 1865-1898- Enormous changes grew out of the United States rapid transition from agricultural/ rural to industrial/ urban.

Period 7: 1890-1945- Challenges at home and abroad resulted in a much larger and debated role for both federal and state governments.

Period 8: 1945-1980- Post war prosperity was accompanied by new international responsibilities and a new effort to define and extend democratic ideals.

Period 9: 1980- Present- As the United States transitioned to a new century filled with challenges and possibilities, it experienced renewed ideological and cultural debates, sought to redefine its foreign policy, and adapted to economic globalization and revolutionary changes in science and technology.

The Thematic Learning Objectives

(aka “Big Ideas” that help us to understand history more intentionally and broadly.)


This theme focuses on the formation of both American national identity and group identities in U.S. history.


ID-1   Competing Conceptions of National Identity, late colonial-antebellum



ID-2   Impact of Manifest Destiny, territorial expansion, Civil War and industrialization on beliefs about progress and national destiny, 19th century



ID-3   Influence of U.S. involvement in Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Great Depression and Cold War on public debates about national identity, 20th century




ID-4   How Conceptions of Group Identity emerged out of cultural interactions between colonizing groups, Africans and American Indians, colonial era



ID-5   Role of economic, social, political and ethnic factors in formation of regional identities, colonial period through 19th century



ID-6   How migration has influenced the growth of racial and ethnic identities and conflicts over ethnic assimilation and distinctiveness, periods 3-9



ID-7   How changes in class identity and gender roles have related to economic, social and cultural transformations, since the late 19th century



ID-8   How civil rights activism in the 20th century affected the growth of identity-based political and social movements


Work, Exchange and Technology
This theme focuses on causation and change in economic and labor systems in America.


WXT-1   How patterns of exchanging commodities, peoples, diseases and ideas developed around the Atlantic World and shaped North American colonial societies, periods 2-3



WXT-2   How innovations in markets, transportation and technology affected the economy and different regions, 1607-1865



WXT-3   How changes in transportation, technology and integration of U.S. economy into world markets have influenced U.S. Society since 1865




WXT-4   Development of labor systems such as slavery, indentured servitude and free labor to the end of the 18th century



WXT-5   Development, persistence and change in labor systems since 1800 and how Civil War and industrialization shaped U.S. society and workers' lives




WXT-6   How arguments about market Capitalism, the growth of corporate power and government policies influenced economic policies, periods 3-7



WXT-7   Compare beliefs and strategies of movements advocating changes to the U.S. economic system, particularly organized labor, Populist and Progressive Movements



WXT-8   How and why the role of government in regulating economic life and the environment has changed since the end of the 19th century


This theme focuses on how and why various people who moved to, from, or within the United States adapted to their new environment in America.


PEO-1   How and why people moved within the Americas and to and within the Americas, periods 1-2



PEO-2  How changes in the numbers and sources of international migrants altered social and ethnic makeup of U.S.in 19th and 20th centuries



PEO-3   Causes and effects of internal migration (urbanization, suburbanization, westward movement, Great Migration) in 19th and 20th centuries




PEO-4   Effects of migration, diseases and warfare on American Indian population, pds 1-6



PEO-5   How free and forced migration caused regional development, cultural diversity and blending and political and social conflict, periods 1-6



PEO-6   Role of internal and international migration on changes to urban life, cultural developments, labor issues and reform movements, mid-19th through mid-20th century



PEO-7   How and why debates over immigration have changed since turn of 20th century



Politics and Power
This theme examines the role of the state in society.


POL-1   Factors behind competition, cooperation and conflict among different societies and social groups during colonial period



POL-2  How and why major party systems and political alignments have arisen and changed, early Republic through end of 20th century



POL-3   How activist groups and reform movements (antebellum reformers, civil rights activists, social conservatives) have caused changes to state institutions and society, periods 4-9



POL-4   How and why the New Deal, the Great Society and the modern conservative movement sought to change the role of the federal government, periods 7-9


POL-5   How arguments about meaning and interpretation of the Constitution have affected U.S. politics since 1787



POL-6   How debates over political values (democracy, freedom, citizenship) and extension of American ideals abroad contributed to ideological clashes and military conflict, 19th-early 20th century



POL-7   How debates over civil rights and civil liberties have influenced political life since the early 20th century


America in the World
This theme draws our attention to the global context in which the United States originated and developed as well as the influence of the United States on world affairs.


WOR-1   How imperial competition and exchange of commodities influenced patterns of development of North American societies in the colonial period



WOR-2  How exchange of ideas among different parts of Atlantic World shaped belief systems and independence movements into early 19th century



WOR-3   How growing interconnection of U.S. with worldwide economic, labor and migration systems affected U.S. society since late 19th century



WOR-4   How U.S. involvement in global conflicts in 20th century set stage for domestic social changes




WOR-5   Motives behind and results of economic, military and diplomatic initiatives for U.S. expansion in Western Hemisphere between independence and the Civil War



WOR-6   Major aspects of domestic debates over U.S. expansionism, 19th and early 20th century



WOR-7   Goals of U.S. policymakers in major international conflicts (Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Cold Wars) and how U.S. involvement altered role in world affairs



WOR-8   How U.S. military and economic involvement in developing world and issues such as terrorism and economic globalization have changed U.S. foreign policy goals since mid-20th century


Environment and Geography--Physical and Human
This theme examines the role of environment, geography, and climate in both constraining and shaping societies.


ENV-1   How the introduction of new plants, animals and technologies altered the natural environment and affected the interaction among various groups in the colonial period



ENV-2   How the natural environment contributed to regional group identities, institutions and conflicts, pre-contact through independence



ENV-3   Role of environmental factors in regional economic and political identities in the 19th century and how they affected conflicts such as the Revolution and the Civil War




ENV-4   How the search for economic resources affected social and political developments from the colonial period through Reconstruction



ENV-5   How and why debates about the use of natural resources and the environment have changed since the late 19th century

Ideas, Beliefs and Culture
This theme explores the roles that ideas, beliefs, social mores and creative expression have played in shaping the United States.


CUL-1   Compare the cultural values of different European, African American and native peoples and explain intergroup relationships and conflict in the colonial period



CUL-2   How emerging conceptions of national identity and democratic ideals shaped value systems, gender roles and cultural movements in the late 18th and 19th centuries



CUL-3   How cultural values and artistic expression changed in response to Civil War and postwar industrialization




CUL-4   How changing religious ideals, Enlightenment beliefs and republican thought shaped politics, culture and society, colonial era through early Republic



CUL-5   Ways that philosophical, moral and scientific ideas were used to defend and challenge the dominant economic and social order in 19th and 20th centuries



CUL-6   Role of culture and the arts in 19th and 20th century movements for social and political change



CUL-7   How and why "modern" cultural values and popular culture have grown since the early 20th century and affected American politics and society

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