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The Columbian Exchange

In what ways did the arrival of Europeans to America bring about unforeseen and unintended consequences for the people and environments of both the New World and the Old?


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America in Class® Lessons are tailored to meet Common Core and state curriculum standards. The Lessons present challenging primary resources in a classroom-ready format, with background information and strategies that enable teachers and students to subject texts and images to analysis through close reading. Read more »

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America and the Six Nations

How does the speech Seneca Chief Cornplanter delivered before George Washington in December of 1790 reflect the shifting political landscape Native Americans faced following the American Revolution?

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Abigail Adams and “Remember the Ladies”

How does Abigail Adams’s famous appeal to “Remember the Ladies” reflect the status of women in eighteenth-century America?

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James Madison Debates a Bill of Rights

What doubts, concerns, and misgivings arose during the development of the Bill of Rights?

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“The Chinese Question from a Chinese Standpoint,” 1873

How did the Chinese in California confront anti-Chinese discrimination in the late 1800s?

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Thoreau’s Critique of Democracy in “Civil Disobedience”

What criticisms of representative democracy does Thoreau raise in “Civil Disobedience”?

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Aylmer’s Motivation in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark”

In “The Birthmark” how does Nathaniel Hawthorne use symbolism to reveal the motivation of Aylmer, the story’s protagonist?

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Individualism in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”

In his essay “Self-Reliance,” how does Ralph Waldo Emerson define individualism, and how, in his view, can it affect society?

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Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, 1776

How did Thomas Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense convince reluctant Americans to abandon the goal of reconciliation with Britain and accept that separation from Britain — independence — was the only option for preserving their liberty?

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Citizen Leadership in the Young Republic

What qualities of citizen leadership did John Adams consider essential to sustain and nurture the new republic?

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Benjamin Franklin’s Satire of Witch Hunting

How does Benjamin Franklin’s satire of a witch trial argue that human affairs should be guided by reason?

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“What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”

What arguments and rhetorical strategies did Frederick Douglass use to persuade a northern, white audience to oppose slavery and favor abolition?

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The Radio as New Technology: Blessing or Curse? A 1929 Debate

How did the debate over commercial radio reflect American attitudes toward technological change in the 1920s?

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The “Aeroplane” as a Symbol of Modernism

How did the airplane — with its marvel and mystery — symbolize modernism in the Twenties?

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Progressivism in the Factory

How did Americans define progress during the Progressive Era?

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Progressivism in the Home

How did Progressive reforms affect the domestic lives of Americans?

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The “Phenomenon of Lindbergh”

How did the instant celebrity of Charles Lindbergh after his 1927 transatlantic flight reflect Americans’ values in the Twenties?

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The Enslaved and the Civil War

How did African Americans enslaved in the Confederacy undermine the Southern cause during the Civil War?

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A Pro-Slavery Argument, 1857

How did proponents of slavery in antebellum America defend it as a positive good?

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Women, Temperance Reform, and the Cult of Domesticity

How does women’s role in the campaign against alcohol consumption in antebellum America reflect the strengths and limitations of the cult of domesticity?

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The Religious Roots of Abolition

How did American Christians in the nineteenth century come to see slavery as something that needed to be abolished?

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The Expansion of Democracy during the Jacksonian Era

How did the character of American politics change between the 1820s and the 1850s as a result of growing popular participation?

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The Cult of Domesticity

How did the cult of domesticity oppress and empower women in the nineteenth century?

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Successful European Colonies in the New World

Why did some European attempts to establish colonies in the New World succeed while most failed?

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Lexington and Concord: Tipping Point of the Revolution

How did the Battles of Lexington and Concord change the character of American resistance to British rule?

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Failed European Colonies in the New World

Why did many European attempts to establish colonies in the New World fail?

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Early Visual Representations of the New World

How did Europeans interpret the New World through some of their earliest visual depictions?

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Slavery and the Family Life of the Enslaved

How did slavery shape the family life of the enslaved in the American South?

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The American Revolution as Civil War

How did the American Revolution manifest itself as a civil war, turning neighbors into enemies?