What are some of the reasons historians often disagree?
Is there ever a “right” or “wrong in historical interpretation? What value might historical inquiry have other than reaching a “right” or “wrong” answer?
If historians so often disagree, how should a student of history approach historical content? How might disagreement expand our understanding of history?
P. 10 – The American Population Before Columbus – 3 questions
Why is there such interest in and such vehement disagreement about the population of native peoples of the Americas in the pre-contact period?
What are some of the difficulties in trying to determine the size of the pre-Columbian population?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of using oral history as a source of information about the past?
P. 26 – Mercantilism and Colonial Commerce – 3 questions
What effect did mercantilism have on colonial economies? Did the effects differ according to which European nation owned the colony?
How did mercantilism contribute to power rivalries among the European nations?
Mercantilism as a nation’s driving economic force has largely given way to economic globalization, that is the increased interdependence of nations’ economies. Why do you think so?
P. 60 – Native Americans and the “Middle Ground” – 3 questions
How have historian’ views of Native Americans and their role in the European colonization of North America changed over time?
Why did the “middle ground” between Native Americans and European settlers disappear?
Is there a “middle ground” in the United States today? If so, where? How is this “middle ground” similar to and different from the middle ground between Native Americans and Euro American settlers in the seventeenth century?
P. 90 – The Witchcraft Trials – 3 questions
How did the Salem witchcraft trials reflect attitudes toward women and the status of women in colonial New England?
Why were colonial New Englanders willing to believe accusations of witchcraft about their fellow colonists?
What contemporary parallels are there to the Salem witchcraft trials?
P.106 – The First Global War – 3 questions
How did the seven Years War change the balance of power among the nations of Europe? Who gained and who lost in the war?
What effect did the war’s outcome have on the European colonies in North America?
Why is the Seven Years’ War described as one of the “most important wars in modern history”?
P.122 – Tea Parties – 4 questions on both pages
What is the prevailing tone of the document? To whom is the poem addressed? What specific complaints or resentments against the British government are expressed in the poem?
How does the style of the document contribute to the sentiments it expresses? Why might this style have been more effective in arousing the colonists’ feeling about the Tea Party than an objective account of the event?
How does the statement from TeaParty.org echo the sentiments expressed in the broadside about the Boston Tea Party of 1773?
The message from TeaParty.org makes a specific connection to the Boston Tea Party of 1773. Do you think TeaParty.org is justified in claiming connection to the original Tea Party?
P. 134 – The American Revolution – 4 questions
How has the debate over the origins of the American Revolution shifted over time? What are some reasons for the changing interpretations?
In what way was the American Revolution an ideological struggle?
In what way was the American Revolution a social and economic struggle?
Was the American Revolution a radical event? Why or why not?
P. 146 – The Age of Revolutions – 3 questions
How did the American Revolution influence the French Revolution?
What other nations were affected by the example of the American Revolution?
What was the significance of the revolution in Haiti, and how much attention did it get in other nations?
P. 166 – The Meaning of the Constitution – 3 questions
Is the Constitution a conservative, liberal, or radical document? Did the framers consider the Constitution something “finished”, or did they consider it a document that would evolve in response to changes in society over time?
Which parts of the Constitution suggests that the framers’ intent was to create a strong, centralized political system? Which parts suggest that the framers’ intent was to create a decentralized system with heavy emphasis on individual rights?
Although many amendments have been proposed, only twenty-seven amendments have been added to the Constitution. Why do you think so few have been added?
P. 194 – The Global Industrial Revolution – 3 questions
Why did the British government attempt to prevent the export of Britain’s industrial technology?
Was the industrial revolution truly a global revolution? Why or why not?
Are the changes that have resulted form the high-tech developments of the late twentieth century as profound as those resulting from the industrial revolution? In what way might the high-tech advances be considered a “revolution”? What have been the social and economic consequences of these advances?
P. 198 – Horse Racing in Early America – 3 questions
Why do you think horse racing was such a popular spectator sport in early America?
How did changes in the sport of horse racing reflect similar changes in American society at large?
Is horse racing still a sport “bounded by lines of class and race”? What other spectator sports were or are similarly bounded?
P. 238 – The Age of Jackson – 3 questions
What was Jacksonian democracy? Was it a reform movement against conservative special interests? Was it a regional movement designed to shift power to the West? Or was it a class based movement to elevate workers and farmers?
Jackson was known as a “man of the people.” Which people were attracted to him?
Can you think of a political movement today that is similar to Jacksonianism (a people’s protest against restrictions of their freedom and opportunity, and the desire to make government responsive to the will of the people rather than to the power of special interests?)
P. 256 – The Penny Press – 3 questions
How were the penny press newspapers a product of the Jacksonian era?
Newspapers in America were aimed at a much narrower audience. Some published mainly business news, and other worked to advance the aims of a political party. What nationally circulated newspapers and other media today continue this tradition?
What characteristics of the penny press newspapers are still common in newspapers today? In what other contemporary news media do you se these same elements?
P. 266 – Nativism and the Anti-Immigration Sentiment – 5 questions
What attitudes toward the Arizona law is reflected in these two cartoons? Do the cartoons suggest the same attitude toward the law? What differences, it any, do you detect?
How do the cartoonists portray immigrants or those most affected by the Arizona law?
In what ways does the nativist sentiment reflected in the nineteenth-century documents differ form the attitude toward immigration behind the Arizona law?
P. 290 – Shakespeare in America – 3 questions
What does the Astor Place riot suggest about the theater in mid-nineteenth century America?
In the late nineteenth century, performances of Shakespeare ceased to be “entertainment for the masses” and became instead part of the “high culture.” What does this shift suggest about American society in general during this period?
What public entertainments today have the same widespread appeal – across lines of class, age, and gender. – that the performances of Shakespeare had in the mid-nineteenth century?
P. 310 – The Character of Slavery – 3 questions
Why have scholarly studies of slavery interpreted the system so differently? So the differing interpretation reflect general social attitudes of the period in which the studies were written?
Why might the conclusions drawn by Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman in Time on the Cross have provoked vehement criticism?
What might be some reasons for the resurgence of focus on the “damage” thesis of slavery, as in the works by Walter Johnson and Ira Berlin?
P. 316 – The Slaves’ Music – 3 questions
Does the prominent place of music in slave culture support the thesis that slavery was essentially a benign institution?
The English dramatists William Congreve wrote: Music hath charms to soothe the savage breasts, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak. How might this quote apply to the place of music in African American slave culture?
What more recent musical forums continue the tradition of the slaves’ religious songs or spirituals? In what way do these more recent forms serve purposes similar to that of the slaves’ religious songs? Does music continue to shape a distinct African American Culture?
P. 334 – The Rise of Feminist – 5 questions
Why do you think the women who wrote the Seneca Falls Declaration used that model? How did they adapt the U.S. Declaration of Independence to fit their specific demands?
What is the primary grievance expressed in the document? How long did it take for this grievance to be addressed? Why did it take so long?
How does the NOW statement of purpose echo the sentiments of the Seneca Falls Declaration?
What image of women’s status does each document create? How do these images differ?
What rights that are asked for in the Declaration of 1848 had women gained by 1966? Has the vision outlined in the NOW statement of purpose been achieved today?
P. 340 – The Abolition of Slavery – 3 questions
Why did opponents of slavery focus first on ending the slave trade, rather than abolishing slavery itself? Why was ending the slave trade easier than ending slavery?
Who do William Wilberforce’s arguments against slavery compare with those of the abolitionist in the United States?
How could a nation that declared “all men are created equal” justify slavery?
P. 342 – Sentimental Novels – 3 questions
How did the lives of the heroines of the sentimental novels compare with the lives of real women of the nineteenth century? What made them so popular?
How did sentimental novels encourage women’s participation in public life? Did the novels reinforce prevailing attitudes toward women or broaden the perception of women’s “proper role”?
Uncle Tom’s Cabin is probably one of the best-known works of American fiction. Why was this novel so much more powerful than other sentimental novels? Why has it endured?
P. 366 – Lyceums – 3 questions
What role did lyceums play in the campaign against slavery?
Why was the lyceum movement so much more successful and popular in the North than in the South?
Is there an equivalent today of the lyceum? If so, how do its popularity and influence compare with that of the lyceum?
P. 382 – Suspending the Writ of Habeas Corpus – 5 questions
What justification does Lincoln give for his suspension of habeas corpus?
Whose rights were affected by the proclamation? That is, to whom was habeas corpus denied? Why?
Was Bush’s suspension of Habeas Corpus Constitutional?
How does President Bush defend and justify his suspension of habeas corpus? How does he make use the past to help make his case?
To whom does the Military commissions Act of 2006 deny habeas corpus? Whose suspension of habeas corpus was more extensive – Lincoln’s or Bush’s?
P. 392 – Baseball and the Civil War – 3 questions
How could a competitive game of baseball erase “the barriers dividing groups from one another”?
Are pastimes afforded to those in Iraq and Afghanistan comparable to baseball in the Civil war?
Does baseball continue to cross lines of cultural differences?
P. 396 – The Consolidation of Nations – 3 questions
How did the problems facing Bismarck differ from those facing Lincoln?
Which man – Mazzini, Cavour, or Garibaldi – in the struggle to achieve the unification of Italy most closely parallels Lincoln and the fight to preserve the Union?
Does Mazzini’s argument – that peoples with common language, culture, and tradition should be free to unite and govern themselves – apply to the North’s attempt to preserve the Union, or does it better fir the South’s attempt to secede and form a separate nation?
P. 432 – The Minstrel Show – 3 questions
How did Minstrel shows performed by white minstrels reinforce prevailing attitudes toward African Americans?
Minstrel shows performed by black minstrels often conformed to existing stereotypes of African Americans. Why?
Can you think of any popular entertainments today that carry remnants of the minstrel shows of the nineteenth century?
P. 438 – The Origins of Segregation – 3 questions
Do laws shape social behavior, or is social behavior codified into law? What examples support your view?
How have historians linked segregation to urbanization?
Was segregation, whether emerging naturally or imposed by law, inevitable?
P. 456 – The Wild West Show – 3 questions
How did the West portrayed in the Wild West shows contrast with the real west?
Why do you think Indians participated in the Wild West shows? How did their participation affect white audiences’ perception of Native Americans?
Why has the romantic image of the Wild West remained so long-lived in American popular culture?
P. 458 – The “Frontier” and the West – 3 questions
What are the main tenants of Turner’s frontier thesis?
How did the portrayal of the West by the newer western historians differ from the West that Turner described?
Why did the newer western historians challenge Turner’s view, and why has their depiction of the West, in turn, provoked such controversy?
P. 482 – Philanthropy – 5 questions
What does Carnegie say is the duty and responsibility of the wealthy?
What, according to Carnegie, is the responsibility of those who receive charity from the wealthy? How does Carnegie differentiate between almost giving and philanthropy?
Does it appear that, according to his philanthropic pledge, Warren Buffett is a believer in Carnegie’s “gospel of wealth”?
What similarities are there between Buffett’s beliefs concerning wealth and personal fortune and Carnegie’s? Do you see any significant differences between the two men’s views on the responsibility of the wealthy?
Do you think Carnegie would say that Warren Buffett, according to his philanthropic pledge, fulfills the “duty of the man of wealth”?
P. 486 – The Novels of Horatio Alger – 3 questions
How do Alger’s novels both defend industrial capitalism and criticize it?
According to the essay, Alger placed great emphasis on the moral qualities of his heroes, but his publishers later eliminated that aspect of the novels. Why?
Do Alger’s themes – “rags to riches,” success as a reward for virtue, “pluck and luck” – live on in contemporary popular culture? Cite examples.