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					Teaching American History

Conceptualizing American History via

           Event Analysis

    but first – why are you here?
  Teaching American History

                Good answer!

          But here is another answer
that is related to two sets of historical facts.

Historical Facts Set 1: For several decades I
    have been interested in this question:
 Teaching American History

If I am such a wonderful teacher, then why
 don’t my students do better on my exams?

     My favorite answer to the question
 is that it is because many of my students
     do not read the assigned readings.

   But why do they not read the texts?
  Teaching American History

            Perhaps it is because

       Many history texts are boring

Many history texts are simply “data dumps”
that attempt to say a little about everything,
          and are poorly organized
  Teaching American History
        Again, let’s go back to the question,
                “Why are you here?”
                 Historical Facts Set 2:

            In 2002 I read an article in the NEJM,
             renewed a childhood friendship, and
soon the idea for 12 Days That Changed America was born

      In 2003 our dean changed the merit system,
    and I tweaked the book proposal for 12 Days and
           added Dr Olson’s issue analysis idea
         and approached Bill about a TAH grant

             In 2004, the grant was funded
Teaching American History

Since then 12 Days was converted
from a trade book into a textbook,
  changed its name to Currents,
 and was signed with McGraw Hill
     but ultimately published
         with ME Sharpe
      Teaching American History
The idea of Currents in American History is to:

- provide good stories
     about days of impact
           that can help students frame the
           contours of the American past
                and enable them to understand
                cause and effect relationships
      Teaching American History

Last year I had 3 hours for this lecture – so I
  used the time to talk about “historiography”
  and changes in the history profession over the
  last two centuries

    Lucky for you, this is now a 1 hr lecture
       so you can skip the next 15 slides
    – but please remember this one thing ...
           during the last 150 years
        the pendulum has swung from

Narrative history    to    Analytical history

       back toward Analytical history
       wrapped into a narrative structure
         (Notice: Do not learn because
              the following material
         will NOT be on the final exam)

    I will make a statement about history
              and you tell me ...

1) if you agree or disagree with the statement,

2) if you think most academic historians today
 agree with the statement, and

3) if you think historians 100 years ago would
 have agreed with the statement
    Teaching American History

Agree or disagree?

History is essentially linear, progressively marching
  on a gradual gradient upward.

The task of the historian is to arrange the facts in
  their proper order and let the facts speak for

The task of the historian is to search for universally
  applicable generalizations.
   Teaching American History

     Answer key to statements 2 and 3:

Today, most academic historians disagree with
               each statement

 100 years ago, most historians agreed with
               each statement
   Teaching American History

   Why did most historians 100 years ago
        embrace these statements?

The short answer is because most academics a
     century ago believed in the notion of

                But why.....
  Teaching American History

       If progress was really “real,”
 then the primary task of the 19th century
  historian was to explain why or how the
 march of time propelled humankind forward
            rather than backward.

Here are some common answers given by the
 great 19th century “philosophers of history”
      Teaching American History
Prophets of Progress in the “Golden Age” of

Thomas Carlyle – human progress is the result of
  great men

Jules Michelet – history is the story of people
  overcoming misery, bringing freedom into the
Teaching American History
Georg Hegel –

history is the unfolding of truth, ultimate
  reality; what happens is a reflection of
  the divine

     the dialectic method –
          thesis, antithesis, synthesis
     Teaching American History

Marx – dialectic materialism

     stages of history:
          primitive communism
          advanced communism
     Teaching American History
August Comte – “father of sociology”

    stages of humanity:
         theological era
         philosophical era
         age of science – with goal to find
              laws of society and apply them
      Teaching American History
Leopard von Ranke –
through history, humanity can discover the
  ultimate Truth, God’s plan for humanity

Herbert Spencer – Social Darwinism
 progress will proceed if mother nature has her
      Teaching American History
In the early 20th century, however, the idea of
  progress was questioned, if not outright

Why do you think 20th century scholars began to
 doubt the reality of progress?
     Teaching American History
Annales School

 Mid 20th century historians who wanted to:

         enlarge the scope of history
    make greater use of the social sciences
  focus mainly on the “structures” that cause
    events rather than the events themselves
     Teaching American History
To Annales School historians, to understand the
  past we need to understand that:

geographical time (the relationship between
  humans and the environment) moves slowly

social time (the relationship between groups in
  society) moves at a moderate pace

“individual time” (event history) moves very rapidly
    Teaching American History
To Brandel, historical events are merely:

“surface disturbances, crests of foam that
 the tides of history carry on their strong

 “Events are often only momentary
 outbursts, surface manifestations of...
 larger movements and explicable only in
 terms of them.”
       Teaching American History
Some 21st century academics (and most of the public)
  believe that:

      historical discourse today is too specialized,

  too much current history is driven by theory that
  gives too little importance to individuals as decision

and we need to return to more “narrative” history and
          Teaching American History
                    Currents in American History will

   conceptualize the American past by assessing the causes and
    consequences of 14 critical turning point events that have shaped
    American political and popular thought.

   describe each event in an engaging narrative that draws on the
    passion and emotion of each historical era.

   show how each “day of destiny” triggered a set of new events that
    changed American beliefs and led us into a new era of history.

   organize “facts” that offer insights into how the present is created
    by past actions.
Teaching American History
      If you were asked to select one
  turning point event for each generation
       since the generation of 1776,
     what moments would you select?

What factors would influence your decisions?

           My selections were ....
         Teaching American History
                           Table of Contents

Introduction: The Genesis of America

Chapter 1: Conceived in Liberty: The Story Behind the Story

Chapter 2: Defining the American Dream, July 2, 1776: The Declaration of
  Independence and the Forging of a New Nation

Chapter 3: Undeclaring War, February 18, 1799: Navigating Neutrality
       and the Ramifications of the Pursuit of Peace

Chapter 4: Struggling for Survival, September 13, 1814: The Battle for
       Baltimore and the Emergence of American Nationalism
          Teaching American History
Chapter 5: The Inauguration of Andrew Jackson, March 4, 1829:
  America Enters the Age of the Common Man

Chapter 6: In the Name of Manifest Destiny, May 9, 1846: The War with
       Mexico and the Acquisition of the American West

Chapter 7: A Nation Divides, April 12, 1861: Fort Sumter and the Era of
  the American Civil War

Chapter 8: Presidential Bargaining, February 26, 1877: The Compromise
  of 1877 and the Price of National Unity

Chapter 9: The Sinking of the Maine, February 15, 1898: The Spanish
  American War and the Emergence of America as a World Power
       Teaching American History
Chapter 10: The Silencing of Woodrow Wilson, September 25, 1919:
  Peace, Normalcy and the Rise of American Isolationism

Chapter 11: The Day of Infamy, December 7, 1941: Pearl Harbor and the
       Transformation of the Modern World

Chapter 12: A Nation Mourns, November 22, 1963: The Assassination of
       John F. Kennedy and the End of American Innocence

Chapter 13: America Taken Hostage, November 4, 1979: The Iranian
  Hostage Crisis and the Restructuring of the World Order

Chapter 14: Terrorists Stun America, September 11, 2001: Negotiating
  Security and Liberty in the 21st Century
                                                  How to use
                                                  Currents in
                                                  American History

                                                        For online maps,
                        Teaching American History, 2006 photos, primary
                                                        sources, audio-
Welcome to the SHSU Teaching American History Site! visuals, and
Here we will list resources for Summer 2006.            questions that
Links | Readings | Presentations                        support
                                                  CURRENTS IN
Currents in American History
                                                  HISTORY, see this

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