17th and Early 18th Centuries

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Themes of U.S. History

Below are some of the broader themes or categories of U.S. history

17th and Early 18th Centuries

-Know the difference between how Spanish colonies, British, and French colonies in terms of they were set up, their governments, and their relation with the native population.

-Know how the first English colonies in Massachusetts and Virginia were different and the consequences of those differences.

-Know how religion influenced and shaped developments of the colonies (particularly the character, development, and effects of the Puritan colony of Massachusetts).

-Life under slavery, how and why slavery develops more in the South, how the presence of slavery shapes development of a society.

-Know how daily life differed in the colonies and in rural places vs. cities.

The Road to Independence (1750-1781)

-Know how British policies upset colonists and how colonists responded or protested each of these acts.

-Know how the ideas and attitudes of the colonists began to differ from Great Britain, particularly colonist ideas about representation, legitimate government, and monarchy.

-Know when and how the colonists ultimately decided on complete independence (it’s NOT in the 1760s)

Creating a Functioning Government (1777-1824)

-Know the weaknesses of the Articles, and why people wanted that government replaced

-Know how new Constitution was democratic and undemocratic, how it was more

powerful, and restraints put on its power.

**Democratic—House elected directly by the people, terms for limited years, abolished nobility, no religious tests.

**Undemocratic—allows slavery to continue (3/5 compromise), senate elected by state legislatures, president elected by electoral college, Supreme Court is appointed and serve for life.

**Gov’t more powerful—it can regulate trade, business, has an executive, and has greater ability to raise and use an army.

**Restraints—Checks and balances, people are subject to reelection, power is divided state and national authority.

First Party System

-Arguments of Anti-Federalists vs. Federalists

**Federalists-stronger national government to have more control and also to protect liberty, minority rights more protected, ability to regulate commerce create a more stable economy, more powerful government can protect from foreign encroachment.

**Anti-Federalists—Government could become oppressive, the president would command large standing armies, states would loose their rights, more power should reside in politicians the people had more control of and contact with, there was no bill of rights in original constitution

-Know arguments of Hamilton vs. Jefferson/Federalists vs. Republicans and know how these two parties emerged

-Know major domestic and foreign issues faced by presidents Washington, Adams, and Jefferson and how they handled them.

**Washington—Whiskey Rebellion, Indians (can’t help), war between Britain and France—Washington stays neutral with unpopular Jay Treaty.

**Adams—XYZ affair, Alien and Sedition Acts, avoids with France—costs him the election.

**Jefferson—Revolution of 1800,” Louisiana Purchase, Embargo Act—disaster.
Death of First Two Party system

-“American System” it’s goals, and why people opposed it.

**American System—Tariffs to encourage U.S. manufacturing, having a national bank, government funding to build roads, bridges, canals, railroads, etc. People oppose this because they want the government to have so much power (could regulate slavery too?), they also didn’t want the U.S. to become a commercial society, they preferred farms, disliked taxes.

-Be able to explain how tensions over slavery affect everything from the Constitution to the crisis when Missouri applies to be a state.

**Constitution—3/5 Compromise, the inability to outlaw the slave trade until 1808, and fugitive slave clause—All of these were conditions for Southern ratification of Constitution.

**Missouri Compromise—Arguments came when Missouri applied to be a slave state in Louisiana Purchase. Maine a free, Missouri a slave, and then all territory in Louisiana Purchase north of Missouri’s Southern Border (36’30’ line) would be free.

The Beginnings of Modern American Democracy and Second Two Party System(1824-1844)

-Know how the Second Two Party system emerged (Whig vs. Democrat)

-Know how the America envisioned by Adams and Whigs differed from Jackson and Democrats

-Know how Market Economy developed, and the economic and cultural changes it brought, particularly to daily lives of those who were affected.

-Know significance of technological developments, manufacturing, transportation.

-Impact of German and Irish immigration

-Know how North and South were developing two very different societies

-Know how reform movements were developing and changes they brought, particularly Abolition movement and Women’s Suffrage movement.
**Alexis de Tocqueville “Democracy in America”

Tocqueville was a French lawyer who observed the United States in the late 1820s and wrote about his travels and observations in the early 1830s. His book Democracy in America is a study of American politics and culture, it is an extremely influential works and Tocqueville is considered to be one of the first sociologists.

Basic Concepts or Themes of De Tocqueville

1. Equality of Conditions—this defines Americas culture and politics

-Democracy is expanding rapidly, right to vote will soon be universal (From equality in economic conditions springs the idea of political equality as no one has the right to rule someone else)

2. Never has then been a country with so many people who are literate and educated and so few people who are widely learned.

3. Americans (paradoxically) have a high degree of individualism and conformity.

4. Freedom of religion makes America one of the most religious nations on earth. Religious leaders realize this, and do not want government to promote a religion and they stay out of politics (This is not as true today, obviously).

5. American Indians are being legally and philanthropically exterminated. They have few options, as to remain nomadic means they will be wiped out, but when they try to assimilate they experience only the worse parts of white civilization (because they are considered inferior, and because they do not have the skills or education necessary to get ahead in white society)

6. Slavery is a defining institution in America.

North—Industry thrives, immigrants flock there to find jobs, work is valued as an ideal.

South—Labor is despised as slave work, leisure is valued, towns and industries are not springing up everywhere, immigrants avoid as they can’t compete with slave labor.

-Race prejudice is stronger in the North where black people are technically free, but have no rights and are treated as absolute scum and not allowed to mingle at all with whites. In the North, black people are only able to have the most terrible jobs and live in wretched slums. In South, slaves and whites mingle more in daily interactions because it is easier for even the lowliest of whites to put black people in their place.
The coming war, Civil War, and Reconstruction (1845-1877)

-Know the motivations for Mexican-American War, and why that war proved to be “poison” for the United States.

-Know how slavery continued to cause tension in the U.S. (summarized in key events below) and be able to argue whether or not civil war was inevitable (unavoidable)

-Missouri Compromise

-War with Mexico and Northern accusation of a “Slave Power” conspiracy

-Compromise of 1850 (especially fugitive slave law)

-Uncle Tom’s Cabin published in 1852

-Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) and popular sovereignty

-Bleeding Kansas

-End of Whigs, birth of Republican Party

-Scott v. Sandford (1857)

-Lincoln-Douglas Debates

-John Brown and Harper’s Ferry

-Election of Lincoln in 1860

-Know how Union policy evolved from fighting to restore the Union to fighting to end slavery (be able to argue whether or not Lincoln was truly against slavery).

-Know the struggle between radicals and Johnson over Reconstruction

-Know how Southerners resisted freedom of black people.

-Black codes

-Formed KKK

-Sharecropping system which kept black people

in debt.

-Terrorized black population and white Republicans.

-Know the accomplishments of black people and how they organized and fought for greater political rights.

-became government officials, helped write state constitutions, formed organizations to protest more rights, helped create first public schools in the South, elected several black congressmen.

-Know why Reconstruction failed.

-North no longer interested in enforcing Reconstruction laws and amendments.

-South violently resisted Reconstruction every step of the way and had effectively intimated black people and white supporters. ‘
Gilded Age (1877-1900)

-Be able to explain how technological improvements and electricity changed economy, daily life, culture

Laissez-Faire Economics—know the definition, and know how it was applied

-How businesses consolidated, and how the maximized profits at expense of employees’ well being.

-Be able to discuss benefits and negatives of industrial era.

-Wealthy and middle class Americans prosper as never before.

-Increase technology, increase in luxury goods, increase in leisure time.

-Explain government first attempts at reform of business and why those attempts largely failed.

-Explain the influence of Social Darwinism on society.

-Shifts in immigration from northern and western Europe to southern and eastern and how those immigrants were perceived.

-Impact of the rise of cities.

-Explain how labor tried to organize into early unions, what obstacles they faced.

-Know how Jim Crow (segregation) developed in the South.

-Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)

-Be able to explain the debate between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois on how black people should combat inequality.

-Explain how railroads changed the country.

-How Native American culture and societies were destroyed.

-Dawes Severalty Act

-Explain what Populists were trying to do and the Silver Issue.

-How this causes a shift in Democratic Party leanings and what Republican Party stands for.

-American Imperialism—Be able to explain the process and particularly the causes and consequences of Spanish American War.
Progressive Era and WWI (1900-1920)

-Progressive and Muckraker goals (what were they, what were their tactics)

-To investigate the problem, expose, and then reform.

-Know victories of Progressives

-women’s suffrage

-child labor laws

-urban housing codes

-shorter workdays

-direct election of senators

-Taft and TR and foreign affairs

-Dollar Diplomacy

-Roosevelt Corollary

-Teddy Roosevelt’s New Nationalism vs. Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom—the idea that government has to take on more power to regulate business in order to protect freedom.

-Know how America became involved in WWI.

-Know tensions between liberty and security during the war

-Know how war sparked hatred of all things German, and Red Scare.

-Treaty of Versailles, its terms, and why it failed ratification.

**Americans did not want to be committed to League of Nations and maybe have to fight more wars in Europe.

Jazz Age and Great Depression (1920-1933)

-How does Warren G. Harding appeal to people in 1920 election—Return to “normalcy”

-How were governments pro business?

-Automobiles, radios, entertainment, sports, suburbs—explain their impact

-Lost Generation (who are they, what do they do)

-Know significance of Harlem Renaissance

-Backlash against modern and urban culture


-Fundamentalism and Scopes Monkey Trial

-Nativism and Eugenics

-Madison Grant and The Passing of the Great Race


-Know causes of Depression, Hoover’s response

-Overproduction of goods led to huge decline in prices, especially putting farmers out of work. As farmers and factory workers begin losing jobs, demand for goods goes further down, but production remains high.

-Banks are making very risky investments (no regulation), fail, as they fail many go to other banks to withdraw all their money, and many more banks fail causing people to lose life savings.

-Real estate speculation had caused values to be traded at stock market at significantly higher prices than they were worth.

-People lose jobs, are afraid of poverty or poor, consumer demand goes down, more businesses shut down, decreasing more demand.
-New Deal and Word War II (1934-45)

-How does the role of government change in New Deal?

-Why are some opposed to New Deal?

-How did U.S. enter World War II?

-Japanese Internment

-How was homefront mobilized?

-How did democracy expand in America during the war and after?

-What were reasons for using atomic bomb? What were the consequences?

Truman and Cold War (1945-1952)

-Explain how Cold War escalates

-US uses atomic bomb on Hiroshima (how did this forever change world history?)

-1945 onward—Soviet Union keeps Eastern European countries as satellites.

-1947-Truman Doctrine and Containment

-1947-Marshall Plan

-1948-Berlin blockaded, Truman does Berlin airlift.


-1949 Soviet Union successfully tests nuclear weapon

1949-China becomes communist nation

-1949-Alger Hiss of the State Department found guilty of being a spy

-1950 McCarthyism and HUAC


Be able to explain how Cold War caused or influenced interpretation of events

-Korean War

-French war in Vietnam

-Sputnik, NASA, Space Program

-Cuban Revolution

-Cuban Missile Crisis

-Vietnam War

-Civil Rights

-STAR Wars


-Be able to explain how and why the demographics of each party shifted beginning with New Deal and FDR and continuing through Lyndon Johnson’s Presidency (for example: African Americans began voting for Democrats, Southerners began voting Republican)

-Explain the causes and consequences (especially in America) of U.S. involvement in Vietnam War.

-Explain what Great Society was, why it was disliked by many, and how and why the Great Society largely failed.

-Be able to explain the tactics used during the Civil Rights Era, their successes and failures, and tension between nonviolent groups and growing black nationalism (or Black Power) movement.

-Be able to explain the tactics and goals of other movements—AIM, feminism, Chicano Movement, Gay Rights Movement

-Understand both the liberal and conservative pushes during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s and the various forces that caused the 1960s to be a time of great unrest. (AND KNOW WHAT LIBERAL AND CONSERVATIVE MEANS)

-Understand why Americans became so cynical and distrustful of politics and politicians by the 1970s.

-Be able to explain impact of immigration, particularly Hispanic immigration to the U.S. since the 1950s. Be able to compare Mexican experience to earlier experiences of other immigrant groups.

-Know the economic and international crises that plagued Jimmy Carter’s presidency

-Understand how Reagan was so popular

-Be able to explain why the era beginning with Nixon’s presidency and extending to at the least the 1980s is referred to in many history books as “The Triumph of Conservatism.” What make this time period a conservative triumph.

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