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?
Text: Charles C. Mann, 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

About AIC Lessons

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 »

For permission requests, please contact Caryn Koplik, Assistant Director of Education Programs.

Rate and Review a Lesson


Successful European Colonies in the New World

Why did some European attempts to establish colonies in the New World succeed while most failed?
Text: George Percy, Observations Gathered out of a Discourse of the Plantation of the Southern Colony in Virginia by the English, 1608 (excerpts).


Failed European Colonies in the New World

Why did many European attempts to establish colonies in the New World fail?
Text: Letter from Spanish Jesuit priests in Chesapeake Bay to the governor of Cuba, 1570.


Early Visual Representations of the New World

How did Europeans interpret the New World through some of their earliest visual depictions?
Images: Watercolors by John White and engravings by Theodor de Bry, 1580s–1590s.


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?
Text: Benjamin Franklin, “A Witch Trial at Mount Holly,” 1730


The American Revolution as Civil War

How did the American Revolution manifest itself as a civil war, turning neighbors into enemies?
Text: Janet Schaw, Journal of a Lady of Quality — Being the Narrative of a Journey from Scotland to the West Indies, North Carolina, and Portugal, in the Years 1774 to 1776 (excerpts).


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?
Texts: Diary entries of Matthew Patten, 1775; Announcement of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, 1775; Resolution to resist “force by force,” 1775; Jonas Clark, The Fate of Blood-Thirsty Oppressors, 1776 (excerpts).


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?
Text: Letters from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 1775–76.


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?
Text: Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776


Citizen Leadership in the Young Republic: The Father–Son Letters of John Adams and John Quincy Adams, 1774–1793

What qualities of citizen leadership did John Adams consider essential to sustain and nurture the new republic?
Text: Correspondence of John Adams & John Quincy Adams, 1774–1793 (excerpts).


James Madison Debates a Bill of Rights

What doubts, concerns, and misgivings arose during the development of the Bill of Rights?
Text: Letter from James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 1788.


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?
Images: (1) George Caleb Bingham, The County Election, oil on canvas, 1852; (2) Richard Caton Woodville, Politics in an Oyster House, oil on fabric, 1848; (3) Workingmen’s Party of New York City, cartoon, ca. 1835.


The Religious Roots of Abolition

How did American Christians in the nineteenth century come to see slavery as something that needed to be abolished?
Text: Angelina Grimké, “Appeal to the Christian Women of the South,” The Anti-Slavery Examiner, 1836.


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?
Text: Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance,” 1841.


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?
Text: Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Birthmark,” 1843.


Thoreau’s Critique of Democracy in “Civil Disobedience”

What criticisms of representative democracy does Thoreau raise in “Civil Disobedience”?
Text: “Civil Disobedience,” by Henry David Thoreau, 1849.


“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?
Text: Frederick Douglass, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” An Address Delivered in Rochester, NY, on July 5, 1852.


A Pro-Slavery Argument, 1857

How did proponents of slavery in antebellum America defend it as a positive good?
Text: George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All! Or Slaves Without Masters, 1857 (excerpt).


Slavery and the Family Life of the Enslaved

How did slavery shape the family life of the enslaved in the American South?
Text: Selections from WPA interviews of formerly enslaved African Americans, 1936–1938.


The Enslaved and the Civil War

How did African Americans enslaved in the Confederacy undermine the Southern cause during the Civil War?
Text: Testimony of Alonzo Jackson, Southern Claims Commission, 1873 (excerpt).


The Cult of Domesticity

How did the cult of domesticity oppress and empower women in the nineteenth century?
Texts: (1) Fanny Fern, “How Husbands May Rule,” 1853; (2) Catherine Beecher, Treatise on the Domestic Economy, 1841, Ch. 1; (3) Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 1852, Ch. 9; (4) Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, 1851, Ch. 10.


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?
Texts: (1) Prohibition, a film by Ken Burns & Lynn Novick, 2011 (two short clips); (2) T. S. Arthur, Ten Nights in a Bar-Room, 1854 (excerpt).


“The Chinese Question from a Chinese Standpoint,” 1873

How did the Chinese in California confront anti-Chinese discrimination in the late 1800s?
Text: The Chinese Question from a Chinese Standpoint, 1873


Progressivism in the Factory

How did Americans define progress during the Progressive Era?
Text: Frederick Winslow Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management, 1910 (excerpt).


Progressivism in the Home

How did Progressive reforms affect the domestic lives of Americans?
Text: Excerpts from Christine Frederick, The New Housekeeping: Efficiency Studies in Home Management, 1913 (excerpt).

Driggs Elsie Aeroplane thumbnail

The “Aeroplane” as a Symbol of Modernism

How did the airplane — with its marvel and mystery — symbolize modernism in the Twenties?
Text: The “Aeroplane” in Visual Art of the 1920s (two paintings).

Lindy San Diego Welcomes from SDASM

The “Phenomenon of Lindbergh”

How did the instant celebrity of Charles Lindbergh after his 1927 transatlantic flight reflect Americans’ values in the Twenties?
Texts: Fitzhugh Green, essay on “the phenomenon of Lindbergh” entitled “A Little of What the World Thought of Lindbergh” (appendix in Charles Lindbergh’s “We, 1927), excerpts.


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?
Text: “The Radio: Blessing or Curse?” selections from The Forum, March and April 1929.

Protected: After Shays’ Rebellion

There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.