KORNBLITH AND LASSER: When
you begin constructing the survey, what are your foremost objectives?
Do you think about goals primarily in terms of coverage and chronology
or of themes and interpretations? Are you trying to teach specific
content or "how to think historically"? Are you concerned with introducing
students to different historical methodologies? How does your conception
of the audience for the course influence your goals?
SACKMAN: While content is
important to me, I prioritize other things in the survey, and this
has to do with how I think about what content is, and what kind
of container American history is.
I have a sense that my stance reflects my generation's experience
with the discipline. Certainly, every generation of American historians
has grappled with the epistemological problems of the enterprise—with
objectivity as an unrealizable, if noble, ideal. But in the early
1990s, when I entered graduate school at the University of California
at Irvine, the so-called postmodern challenge was at high tide,
threatening to sweep away, many thought, the pilings on which social
science had been built. The discourse did more than raise questions
about how we know what we know, for it forced us to grapple with
how any particular body of knowledge gets institutionalized.
I doubt that there is a foundational stratum of knowledge that
all students should learn before they can go on to more specialized
study. My sense is that in many places the American history curriculum
was set up with this notion in mind. I see problems both with the
idea of coming up with a unified knowledge that is American history
and with the logic of building a curriculum in history on the notion
that students must first learn the known and fixed before they are
ready to explore the unknown and contested.
The practical side of my experience in the Ph.D. program compounded
the predicament that the theorists put us in. Of course, I was expected
to master a body of knowledge in order to pass my exams (or so I
thought). The naïve graduate student assumes that the body of knowledge
is more or less fixed and assumes quite reasonably that there is
a standard set of books and articles that form the reading list.
I soon found out that reading lists and much of the character of
exams had to be worked out with committee members. It may be then
that I came to believe that history is always a product of negotiation.
Students came up with their own lists—negotiating in advance
the history that they would come to know and thus shaping themselves
as scholars rather than submitting themselves to an externally produced
and authorized body of knowledge that would do the molding. After
going through that process, it would take a fanciful leap for me
to go into the lecture hall and position myself as an expert who
commands a body of knowledge that is American history.
All of this said, I can still be shocked that the recently publicized
poll of college seniors revealed that fewer than 30 percent could
correctly identify Reconstruction on a multiple-choice test, and
I begin thinking that some way of drilling content, content, content
into students' minds must be pursued. Certainly, I don't want to
leave students with the idea that any interpretation is as good
as another or that there aren't important events and developments
that they should know about. I do like to make it possible for them
to realize that American history is not a fixed set of facts, figures,
and events, that it is not a done deal. History was contested all
along and continues to be contested. Conveying this is for me a
big part of trying to make history come alive for many students
who consider it inert, dead, and distant from themselves and their
JACOBY: The issue that preoccupies
me is what causes students to enroll in a survey course in American
history, especially at a time when interest in the liberal arts
seems to be eroding. Like many other institutions, Brown University,
where I teach, does not require students to take the American survey
to graduate. And considering what one can earn with a computer science
degree nowadays and that business is now the most popular major
at four-year colleges, it is clear that few students see any practical
reasons for studying history. Under those circumstances, I have
come to see teaching the survey as taking on the peculiar responsibility
of being an advocate for the discipline and convincing undergraduates
that the study of the past is a crucial component of what it means
to be an educated person.
This concern for drawing students to the study of history influences
much of what I do in the survey. At the most basic, I stress to
my students that the study of history teaches important skills that
can prove useful outside the academy: the ability to read analytically,
to write clearly, to discuss matters with one's peers in a constructive
way, and so on. For many of those same reasons, I make historical
methodology a central component of the survey. Weekly readings are
weighted toward primary sources in the hope that through an exposure
to the building blocks of historical scholarship, students will
begin to understand how historians formulate analyses of particular
events. I follow that approach, not because I think that a knowledge
of basic historical facts is unimportant—indeed, it seems
to me that content is inextricable from methodology—but because
I feel certain that in ten or fifteen years, students' recollections
of the exact details of the Northwest Ordinance will fade, but they
can still retain an understanding of how to construct a persuasive
argument based on a close reading of the available evidence. Moreover,
it is in the interpretative realm that the truly creative aspects
of history tend to be located, and if a key part of my job is getting
students excited about the study of history, it is essential to
expose them to one of the discipline's most alluring facets.
It may seem that I have reduced the survey to an advanced form
of vocational training. Yet my secret hope for the survey is that,
even if it attracts students for other reasons, ultimately it will
persuade undergraduates of the sheer pleasure of thinking historically—that
is, that it will inspire students to see themselves as creations
of history and to believe that by studying events in the past, they
can reach a deeper understanding of the human condition. While I
doubt such a realization has much immediate value in the marketplace,
I would like to think that it makes for a more self-aware, and therefore
more fulfilling, life.
SCHARFF: Thanks to Doug Sackman
and Karl Jacoby for their thought-provoking messages. I've taken
a somewhat different approach and answered the questions in a less
I want students to care about, and be curious about, United States
history. I want students to understand that the people they're studying
weren't always dead—that they had to make choices based on
constraints and options—some similar to those the students
themselves face, others different.
I don't think choosing between coverage and themes is an either/or
matter. I don't even know how to conceptualize what counts as good
coverage or rational chronology without thinking about themes. Some
opening questions: What is the United States? Where is the United
States? Who counts as an American, and on what terms?
Regarding interpretations, I don't think University of New Mexico
(UNM) freshmen can handle historiography as such. I might say, in
the course of a lecture, "Historians have argued about the causes
of the Civil War," but in the end, I have found that presenting
too many arguments as plausible confuses the heck out of students.
I guess that means they get my interpretation of history,
and I'm comfortable with that. I've seen enough cases where "thinking
historically" gets confused with the idea that there are no facts,
only interpretations. To understand mercantilism, for example, it's
incredibly useful to show students how the Navigation Acts changed
over time and how and why people in the colonies reacted to the
acts in the way they did. It's even fun to do that—let's recall,
we're talking about such fascinating human activities as consuming
drugs and smuggling.
I believe it's possible for anyone to think a complex thought,
but I realize that my students have lives that get in the way of
extended concentration on intellectual pursuits. Here at UNM, the
average student age is twenty-eight. Many of our students have families,
jobs, very heavy responsibilities, continuous interruptions. Thus
I tend to assume the best way to teach is not to require sustained
attention to discrete questions, but to pick a few themes and come
back to them again and again in the course of the semester.
SCOTT: Doug Sackman's and
Karl Jacoby's thoughts were provocative, but for me teaching the
survey rarely comes down to philosophical concerns, although they
are critical in understanding what American history is and can be.
The survey for me is a defined task that is self-evidently valuable.
Consequently I address most teaching issues pragmatically: What
is likely to work best for my students?
I want students to understand why the United States is the way
it is and how it became that way. I also want them to understand
their own connections to the past and to appreciate that historical
figures were not importantly different from contemporary people.
I try to teach a comprehensive course, one that moves chronologically
from the late sixteenth century to the present. I don't think it
is possible to think historically without historical content. People,
places, events, motivation, and circumstance are the content for
rigorous historical thinking. A provocative argument without such
content would not be good historical thinking. Like Virginia Scharff,
I see content and historical thinking as complementary to one another.
At times in the course, I introduce students to competing interpretations
to help them understand that history is an ongoing and, often, contentious
discussion over past events. But I view the survey as a survey and
do not devote much time to historiographical concerns.
My survey at Kenyon College enrolls mainly first- and second-year
students, eighteen to nineteen years old. They are not otherwise
employed, but they have little knowledge of life. My students come
largely from upper-middle-class backgrounds. They have had little
contact with the working class, small towns, or racial minorities.
One goal of the course is to make them aware of the breadth and
diversity of the United States and how Americans' histories have
varied. Many of the readings I assign are designed to open new windows
for them. I assume that they have no prior knowledge. Most take
the course out of interest in the subject since it is required neither
for the major nor for graduation. That means they are well motivated.
VINOVSKIS: Most of the students
who take our introductory history surveys at the University of Michigan
are not history majors, but individuals who may be interested in
the subject matter or need to fulfill a broad distribution requirement.
Moreover, they are quite diverse in terms of their year in school
(most are first- or second-year students, but a large number are
juniors and seniors). As a result, they have diverse backgrounds
and needs, and I see my course as a broad introduction that provides
the average college-educated person with the framework, chronology,
thematic foci, and methodological tools needed for understanding
United States history. I have also been greatly influenced by my
reading of the results of various surveys of what seniors in high
school and adults know (or don't know) about history, as well as
my experiences with students over time.
When I first taught the first half of the survey course almost
twenty-five years ago, I did not use a textbook. Instead, I lectured
about various themes in American history placed within a rough chronological
sequence and used monographs and primary documents as the readings
for the discussion sections. Over time, I came to realize that many
of the students, but not all, had a very weak background in American
history. As a result, I now use a textbook and continue to gear
my lectures to broader themes and issues—again within a rough,
chronological approach. But rather than using the textbook as a
point of reference or general reading, I have found that I have
had to reinforce some of the general ideas and issues in the textbook
so that the students will take the text seriously and pay attention
to its content. With considerable effort, I now have made the textbook
an integral piece of the survey, supplemented with some monographs
and primary sources (although, as a result, I have had to reduce
the additional reading in favor of the textbook).
Previously I taught the first half of the survey with a little
attention to the Native American population in place before Christopher
Columbus and then some comparison between Spanish and English settlement.
But basically, the story became one of English westward settlement
after the first few lectures. Now, I devote more attention to the
longer and more complex history of the initial settlement of the
Americas even before twelve thousand years ago and the diverse Native
American peoples and empires. Being in Michigan, I devote some attention
to French settlement and try to remind students of the importance
of seeing history from the sixteenth century through the nineteenth
not only from the vantage point of English settlers. Indeed, I argue
that one could write a very different history of America from the
Spanish/Mexican perspective—but I only touch on these in passing
due to time constraints. Thus, issues of who occupied or settled
North America have become much broader for me over time—partly
due to a better appreciation of the diversity of American life,
but also as a result of the richer and more sophisticated literature
PIKER: Perhaps because I have
taught two very different sorts of survey classes, I find that my
approach to the "coverage versus methodology" debate varies according
to the institutional constraints I face. In the honors version of
the class—where enrollment is kept low (9 students last spring)
and expectations for reading are high—we spend time juxtaposing
primary documents and secondary literature. I insist that students
think of themselves as historians, as people who have the ability
and knowledge to engage with primary sources, professional historians,
and their peers. We talk about the different readings that are possible,
the assumptions we bring to the texts, the ways certain questions
or problems have been embraced or elided.
By contrast, in the class with 220 students and no discussion sections,
I stress coverage. I may use a brief overview of a historiographical
debate to introduce a subject, and I do assign primary documents
(in addition to a textbook and three monographs), which I refer
to frequently in my lectures. For the most part, though, this version
of the survey presents, as Virginia Scharff put it, "my version"
of American history. The "conflicts" that I teach are those between
historical actors, between people who were debating the central
issues of their day. In other words, the contingent nature of American
history (the choices people made) is foregrounded in this course,
while the contingent nature of historical interpretation (the choices
we all make as we evaluate the past) is not.
I've adopted this approach in the larger class for two reasons.
The first has to do with simple logistics: in a class this large,
supervised discussions are impractical, and requiring my teaching
assistants (TAs) to respond to frequent writing assignments is cruel.
I decided that asking students whose names I do not know and whose
written work will be read very quickly to take part in the debates
that surround historical interpretation was impractical and artificial.
Analysis and interpretation divorced from debate and discussion
is not "doing history." The second reason I've decided on this sort
of strategy has to do with the background of my students at the
University of Oklahoma (OU). They tend to be from small, relatively
homogeneous towns. That has some advantages (religious topics—for
example, the Puritans—go over really well), but it also presents
me with some obvious challenges. I am committed to teaching a multicultural
version of American history; my own research focuses on ways to
incorporate Native Americans into our narratives of the American
past. In the honors survey, because of the intimate nature of the
class, I can guide our analyses away from certain flawed and (to
my mind) pernicious interpretations of the American experience.
In the regular survey, however, I worry that, because I can't directly
engage with individuals, the students will leave the class without
having truly questioned some of their beliefs about the American
ELISABETH PERRY: In constructing
any survey, I think both of coverage and chronology and of
themes. I agree with others who've said they can't be separated.
In selecting material, I ask myself: What do students "need" to
know about the past in order to function as informed citizens in
today's world? On the assumption that boredom will turn them off
from history, I try to find material that will fascinate them but
also help them establish guiding principles for how they will live.
A tight thematic focus helps the selection process, which is never
I begin every course I teach by attempting to raise student
consciousness about issues of diversity, inclusion and exclusion,
etc., in how the past gets "constructed." Some students come to
their college experiences already sensitized by sophisticated high
school teachers, but most do not. They expect a survey that's geared
toward some standardized test. As a result, if you're not talking
about presidents and wars, you're not talking about "real" history.
So, I lead off by asking "Is history an art or a science?" and see
where that takes us. Usually, pretty far! We end up discussing selection
and exclusion, what constitutes evidence, the role of interpretation,
how mainstream narratives get constructed, and so forth. And as
we proceed along the course, at relevant moments I remind them of
that opening discussion so that it becomes concrete for them. If
I don't go through that exercise at the start (or have TAs do it),
I get comments such as, "I signed up for a United States history
course, not a women's history (or black history) course!"
EAGLES: The basic objective
of my classes is to help students learn to read and write more effectively.
It is essentially a skills development approach that almost incidentally
uses American history. I work with students on how to take notes,
how to read essays and books (always scholarly works), and how to
write papers; I distribute a handout on each of the three general
tasks, and some initially find them insulting but soon profit from
them. I have found that many (most?) students have never been taught
basic skills but instead have had to develop them on their own if
they have them at all. All this may sound too elementary for many
professors, but I see too many of our colleagues' manuscripts and
eventual publications that suffer from sloppy thinking and writing,
not to mention intellectual laziness, so I am confident that our
undergraduates need such instruction.
My approach to the coverage question has been called a "posthole"
as distinct from a "ball of string" one. Each lecture is a self-contained
unit on a particular topic or theme, and the lectures are arranged
chronologically with some overlap and omissions. My lectures do
not string together to form a narrative but examine discrete topics
in considerable detail and depth, with some connections suggested
but others left to a textbook.
Content as such is not as important as organization and significance
of material. The larger significance often leads to a discussion
of interpretations and historiography. My own interests are largely
historiographical, and I find students often find the debates intriguing
and sometimes exciting—and definitely a new way of studying
history. My first class in the second half of the United States
survey, for example, deals with race relations from emancipation
to 1900 and ends with a brief discussion of the views of C. Vann
Woodward, Joel Williamson, and Howard Rabinowitz. If this is what
"thinking historically" means, then I do it.
Nearly twenty years ago, I learned not to assume that students
know much about history. They often know far more than I do about
many things, but not history or even contemporary public life. I
cannot assume they know where anything is or who anybody was. So
I try to begin at the beginning but am constantly surprised that
I did not really start at their beginning point. Students in 2000
seem even less oriented toward books and history than they were
in the late 1970s when I started teaching. My commitment to reading
and writing assignments has only deepened as students seem to have
moved away from traditional academic work.
EGERTON: I suppose my first
priority is content, although I wish it didn't have to be. The liberal
arts college I teach at (Le Moyne College) is fairly exclusive,
yet I often find that I have to provide the basics for my students,
most of whom are sophomore history and political science majors.
A good number have had supposedly college-level Advanced Placement
(AP) courses in high school, but virtually none of them had to read
anything for those classes besides a basic text. Like Douglas Sackman,
I not only worry about polls that demonstrate that a solid majority
of students cannot correctly identify Reconstruction; after fifteen
years of teaching I have solid data to support that concern. (A
student once identified the Reconstruction Act as a law passed to
reconstruct damaged bridges after the Civil War!) Most of our history
majors wish to teach high school, and given their lack of preparation,
I can't help but feel that my main responsibility is to provide
them with some basic information.
I also agree with Virginia Scharff that content and chronology,
on the one hand, and themes, on the other, are not mutually exclusive.
My two-semester survey course does include a theme of sorts: the
question of what constitutes an American and how a good many non-elite
groups struggled to broaden what was initially a very exclusive
definition. But I don't try to hammer every lecture or topic into
that hole—although most of my readings are organized around
that broad topic.
I also try to get my students to think historically, by which I
mean I want them to understand that there are more interpretations
or views than those being presented by their instructor. Because
my survey classes are rather small—about 25 students—I
integrate a good deal of discussion into my lectures. I want my
students to feel free to disagree with my interpretations, and so
I remind—inform?—them on the first day of class that
there is no such thing as capital T historical Truth. That does
not mean that all positions are historically sound, but rather that
we all carry a good deal of cultural baggage about. Historians can
come to different conclusions based upon their reading of the relevant
data—and they can even disagree about what are the relevant
data! Many of my students are conservative, and I am not, so I encourage
them to dissent from my interpretation of specific people or events.
That is not the way they have learned in high school, and it takes
them some time to adjust to the strange new notion that there is
no single correct way to view the past. Many appear confused when
I disagree with something written in one of the assigned monographs,
as they have never been told that they can disagree with the written
or spoken word.
Most of my students come from the Northeast; most are middle- or
working-class; a majority are Catholic; a majority are women; most
are bright but have to be pushed to do first-rate work. Beyond that,
my students are a rather homogeneous lot, which is both good and
bad. I rarely have either especially gifted students or especially
ill-prepared students, and perhaps only one or two out of 25 will
be above the age of twenty-one. That allows me to teach to the middle.
On the other hand, there is a depressing sameness in their views
as they have such similar backgrounds.
Over the past fifteen years, even as our SAT scores have gone up,
it seems as if the students not only know less but are less eager
to do the necessary work. I've had to resort to unhappy gimmicks
such as book quizzes to force my students to read carefully, indeed,
sometimes to read at all. But I refuse to lower my standards—or
the number of assigned monographs—from what I began with in
1985. One concern I do have is that many of my students work long
hours off campus. When I stop to get gas, there they are at the
desk. I know their schedules are tight and their dollars are short—even
as the price of books rises yearly—but I feel that I do them
(or their future high school students) no favor if I reduce the
reading load and cut back on my expectations of them.
LEWIS PERRY: There has to
be a theme, but it has to be a capacious one, and I do not believe
there is any single "right" theme for the survey. Years ago I had
several chances under a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
grant to teach a survey focusing on the development of theater in
the United States. I loved it, and I know many of the students got
a lot out of it (especially those who "don't like history"). But
when I moved to another university, it just didn't fit in the curriculum.
I used to imagine teaching United States history in a school for
the performing arts, but no such opportunity ever arose.
It is certainly necessary to keep in mind the needs, interests,
preparation, and institutional context of the "audience." I don't
talk about "methods" as I do in seminars for majors. But I do emphasize
close reading and historical reasoning, both in discussions and
essays. For that reason, I would be reluctant today to take on the
huge enrollments I enjoyed a few times in the past (though large
lectures can work well with well-planned and coordinated discussion
Thirty years ago, I took for granted much more "basic" knowledge
of United States history than I do today. More of the students seemed
to be planning to teach history, and more of them were thinking
of majoring in the field. And that was before students tested out
of United States history based on AP scores. Today, I am less likely
to focus on a series of topics without providing a clear sense of
change and development over time. I no longer believe one can assume
even the most rudimentary acquaintance with the "colonial" period,
the "Revolution," Jacksonian "democracy," "Reconstruction," or the
"industrial revolution," for example.
I certainly adjust topics and readings on the basis of the students
in the course. I am well aware that the texture of examples discussed
in my courses has changed as I moved from the Northeast to the Midwest
to the South. That doesn't trouble me. I believe that if we taught
history as often to senior citizens as to young adults, many new
topics would be standard in the surveys (and in our research). But
I think a constant in my approach, as in that of others of my generation,
has been the amplifying and testing of core American beliefs about
the progress of liberty in the light of advancing knowledge about
the diverse experiences of American people. As we all know, some
of our colleagues charge that the survey has lost all coherence.
Some of the problems they point to are undeniable. But graduate
students have been answering "race, class, and gender" questions
for some time now. And thousands of teachers have been working out
coherent approaches in their classrooms. We will never have a single
true United States history, but I believe a very creative period
of synthesis has already begun.
MAIER: I have taught the survey
since finishing graduate school in 1968, but now I teach only the
first half—which for me ends with the Civil War and perhaps
a brief discussion of what it accomplished. I like teaching the
survey; it gives me an excuse to keep up with a broader part of
the field than I might otherwise do and to keep synthesizing, or
trying to synthesize, new scholarship into some general understanding
of the past that I convey to students. Perhaps I should say "try
to convey"; what we actually accomplish is not so clear.
I did not, thank God, go to graduate school at a time when we agonized
over the possibilities of objectivity or the extent to which and
the process by which bodies of knowledge became institutionalized.
I don't think we had or have illusions about discovering "truth"
(although we recognized some versions of the past were less erroneous
than others), nor did we remain oblivious to the way certain versions
of the past became established at definable points in time.
In the 1960s there remained, perhaps curiously, a sense that there
were certain parts of the past that every student should know about,
and chunks of specialized information passed from the antiquarian
to the historical by being related to some unfolding story that
was history. Even as narrowly focused studies began to multiply,
a certain faith remained—for a time—that, in the end,
those specialized studies would lead to a redefined story or history.
More recently, I sensed that that faith had corroded and in its
place a hostility set in (how general I can't say), not just toward
the idea that there is somehow one "master narrative" out there,
but toward all efforts to define an organizing narrative. That form
of postmodernism seems incompatible with the day-to-day work of
being a historian, and certainly of a historian who teaches the
survey or, as in my case, now and then writes parts of a textbook.
Random pieces of specialized knowledge hold in the head no more
than pieces of dry sand cohere; the human mind, I and others believe,
makes sense of experience by constructing narratives. History is
a story. The problem is deciding what story or stories we tell and
what we choose to incorporate in our story and what to leave out.
I'm prepared to say that will change with the teller—although,
postmodernism notwithstanding, I have the distinct impression that
many of us are telling stories that aren't all that different. How
could they be? We live in the same world, were trained in a common
field, and read the same books and journals. And we're all part
of a special cohort of historians who teach the survey.
If you assign a variety of sources—family trees, autobiographies,
tracts, books, etc.—the questions of how you use them and
what you can learn from them arise automatically. And the skills
conveyed are "life skills," relevant no matter what students do
in life. So is the substantive history they learn. If students realize
that people didn't always think as they do, that assumptions have
shifted over time, they've learned something of enduring human value.
The moral purpose of the humanities, I was once told, is to make
people realize what it is to be someone else—and that someone
else can be from a different time period. In understanding the distinctions
of people in other times we are simultaneously defining what's distinctive
about ourselves and our time. Getting the "self" out of history
is no easy thing, and maybe a silly objective, a courting of irrelevance,
though a history that's overly self-referential strikes me as both
morally and intellectually problematic.
KORNBLITH AND LASSER: How
do you structure the survey chronologically and thematically? What
periodization do you employ and what themes do you emphasize? Do
you focus on certain "turning points" in American history or do
you highlight long-term trends and historical processes? Do you
address (either explicitly or implicitly) recent debates over multiculturalism
in the teaching of American history?
SCOTT: For me, whatever else
an American survey includes, it should address the central political
events and structures of the United States. It should give students
a basic literacy in American political history. Beyond that, I place
political history in its economic, social, racial, gender, ideological,
cultural, and natural contexts. Even though I am not a political
historian, I think the "political narrative" is a critical and necessary
foundation for the American survey.
The subject of the course is the nation, its origin, its transformations,
its constitutional and legal system, the character of its people,
and the formative events—all issues under discussion and debate,
often quite heated. Those contested issues make up the nation's
historical discourse. It is not, however, a static discourse of
fixed events, fixed interpretations, fixed meanings, nor fixed content,
even though the most important events that punctuate the discourse
have remained fairly fixed. The years 1492, 1607, 1620, 1630, 1688,
1763, 1776, 1789, 1812, 1819, 1848, 1861, et al. have precise historical
meaning for most American historians. Had our graduate committees
known that we did not "know the historical significance" of those
dates, we would never have received our doctorates. Individuals'
abilities to participate in the discourse of American history and
to be taken seriously depend on the extent and depth of their knowledge
of the discourse and their own scholarly contribution to it. One
task of an American survey is to provide students a literacy of
the American past or, if you prefer, the discourse of American history.
No two-semester survey can address all possible questions relating
to American life since 1492. Each of us has to make choices appropriate
for our students and their interests. In that sense we are storytellers
more than social scientists. Our use and manipulation of data may
be logical and even empirical, but our choices are determined by
our sense of drama and our moral preferences.
Unum, however, is as important as E Pluribus or it
would not be an American survey. The American survey, regardless
of where or by whom or to whom it is taught, is largely understood
to mean the "history of the United States." The category itself
has privileged political concerns. The story goes far beyond narrow
political history, but without attention to the formation and changes
of the nation, the category "American survey" is meaningless and,
probably just as important, not interesting for most students.
EGERTON: As I mentioned before,
my survey course does have an explicit theme: the old question of
what constitutes an American and how most non-elite groups had to
struggle to force that definition to include them. As a result,
my two-semester class does implicitly address diversity and multiculturalism,
and I say implicitly because I consciously avoid using those terms
in class. If I simply present the diversity of cultures, peoples,
and religions in this country as a historical reality, my students
accept this reality as a given. Curiously, I've discovered that
if I employ politically loaded terms such as "multiculturalism,"
at least some of my students resist confronting this reality. Certainly,
my selection of monographs—from Graham Hodges's Root and
Branch to Catherine Clinton's Divided Houses, and from
Anthony Wallace's Death and Rebirth of the Seneca to David
Szatmary's Shays' Rebellion—implicitly recognizes themes
of diversity and struggle in the American past.10
Having said that, I do agree, in part, with Will Scott's emphasis
on political history. Although I do not agree that we must embrace
a "political narrative" in our survey courses, it certainly is true
that the one commonality upon which most early Americans could agree
was their desire to be included as citizens. One might wish to note
obvious exceptions to this drive for political inclusion—Denmark
Vesey and Handsome Lake come to mind—but certainly a discussion
of diversity in the antebellum era should include Frederick Douglass
and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. If a "political narrative" means merely
a chronology of presidential elections, as important as many of
those were, we can probably expect our students' eyes to glaze over.
But if properly understood to be the way that society, including
those not yet included as political citizens, organizes its priorities
and cultural values, then political history may be employed as a
bridge between commonality and diversity.
Finally, I do emphasize "turning points" in history. I suspect
that most of my students believe that it was somehow inevitable
that the present would turn out pretty much as it has. I wish to
emphasize in class that the actors we are discussing were real people
with real options and that there were moments when there were roads
not taken that might have considerably altered the rest of the American
saga. I often inform my students that they are now advisers to King
George III or Lyndon B. Johnson and must make policy decisions regarding
the colonies or Vietnam. I'm less interested in having my students
judge these people—although often they end up doing so—than
I am in making them understand that, say, the Founding Fathers had
a range of options when it came to slavery and freedom and that
they made certain conscious choices that made America what it is
VINOVSKIS: I use a combination
of chronological and thematic approaches. I follow Will Scott's
plea for political history and developments to a large degree but
leave myself ample opportunity to do thematic lectures on social,
demographic, and economic topics.
There is no one overall theme—but several themes. Some, like
the institution of slavery, I follow in considerable detail across
the time periods using different perspectives (political, social,
intellectual, etc.). Similarly, concerns about the threats to liberty
and the responses of Americans to such fears in different periods
are pursued. Other topics are more single issues, such as changing
attitudes toward the elderly or changing views of abortion. With
those more individual topics, I try to illustrate the variety of
histories available and the richness of our past; here I sometimes
shift the specific topics to reflect my own interests and readings
as well as interesting work in the area.
Perhaps more than some, I try to present broad, overall trends
and changes in areas such as social and economic history—and
whenever possible to add some comparative information from other
parts of the Americas or the world. I also try to make periodic
references to developments in American life that students taking
courses in other disciplines such as political science may find
useful. I often focus on events such as the Revolution and the Civil
War that have a particular impact on subsequent developments—examining
the continuities and discontinuities as a result. Sometimes, I use
obscure events, like Dorr's Rebellion, to illustrate how changes
have taken place in American life that otherwise might not have
been noted at the time.
Given my interest in history and policy making today, I frequently
refer to the present to provide some interest in the past for students—but
usually not with the intention of providing lessons or insights
for developments today. Thus, when discussing changing attitudes
and behaviors on abortion in colonial and nineteenth-century America,
I start out by acknowledging the controversies today and the ahistorical
views many Americans have about those issues—but the focus
is on the past. On the other hand, when I discuss the rituals of
death and dying in the past and the idea of the "good death," I
remind the students that we have our own myths about dying today
(such as Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's so-called stages of dying). Similarly,
when talking about children and education, I point to the similarities
between early-nineteenth-century infant schools and Head Start today—and
leave students with questions about why Americans are so quick to
put their faith in early childhood education rather than other types
of more fundamental social and economic reforms.
PIKER: I'd like to begin by
responding to Will Scott's well-stated brief for a politically based
survey. I do, in fact, spend a great deal of time on politics in
my pre-1865 survey class, but that material is backloaded. That
is, slightly more than the first third of the course focuses on
the period prior to 1763, and that section deals primarily with
issues that my students would identity as "nonpolitical"—race,
ethnicity, gender, ecology, religion, economic life, all the stuff
that goes into the messy but fascinating processes involved in intercultural
encounters and the setting up of colonial societies. Each of those
issues has its own political dimension, but I'm not convinced that
"politics" is at the center of what I'm discussing during those
weeks. That is especially true because I try to go beyond the temporal
and spatial bonds of what's often considered American history. So,
for example, pre-Columbian Indian societies get a fair bit of coverage,
as does fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Europe. Moreover, Spanish
and French colonial efforts surface frequently in my lectures.
I use this material for a variety of purposes, but one of them
is to set up the political debates that will play a large role in
the class as we consider the period from 1763 to 1865. As we move
from the Revolution and the Constitution through the early republic
and antebellum periods, I try to give my students as broad a take
as possible on what politics involved. They should leave my class
with a general understanding of the various ways "American" has
been defined, of the interests served by particular definitions,
of what it means to be "in" and "out," of how "we" deal with "them."
I hope my students will see the United States as both a nation and
a process, and I hope they will see the way politics shapes and
is shaped by the broader sociocultural milieu.
As the above suggests, my version of the survey is broadly multicultural.
Like Doug Egerton, however, I have elected not to mention the M
word. Why borrow trouble? I've found, instead, that I can get my
students to engage with diversity (and with "bottom-up" history
more generally) by insisting that they take seriously the idea that
we live in a democracy. I ask them to consider what material they'd
want to include in a history of the past year and suggest that a
history that focused only on Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, on
the marriage penalty and Social Security, would be unsatisfactory.
What if we added Mark McGwire and Britney Spears? Better, perhaps,
but they quickly recognize that this list doesn't begin to touch
on the things that really matter in their lives. I tell them that
it is those things—family and friends, work and play, faith
and fear—that will be at the heart of this class.
JACOBY: Teaching the first
half of the survey can be a curious experience, for the periodization
employed is simultaneously very fixed and very fluid. One temporal
boundary—the end point—is rigidly set. Is there any
survey sequence that does not break at 1860–1865 or 1877?
But the beginning and other turning points are left completely open
to interpretation. In my own class, I try to use this vagueness,
especially in relation to the starting date, to get the students
thinking about how the concept of "American history" has shifted
over time. Since the American history survey at Brown dates to the
1920s (the course number for the class I teach, History 51, has
not changed in over seventy years), I am in the convenient position
of simply historicizing my own course. In the 1920s, the survey
at Brown had a fixed starting date (1783), presumably because American
history began only when the United States came into existence. I
show my students how subsequent scholarly trends have pushed this
starting point backward in time. That exercise helps underscore
the different assumptions about who Americans are and what America
is contained within each starting point and, in turn, within the
larger exercise of history as a whole.
Not every date receives such methodological massaging. I do emphasize
many of the standard dates—1492, 1675, 1763, and, yes, 1877—in
large part because I think it is vital that students be able to
construct their own chronologies of the past. One of the hardest
aspects about teaching the survey, I have learned, is conveying
a sense of simultaneity—that events treated in separate lectures
and in separate sections of the textbook (such as, say, King Philip's
War, Bacon's Rebellion, and the Pueblo Revolt) were going on almost
simultaneously. Having the ability to draw comparisons across regions
and notice larger trends is only possible if students have a clear
chronological framework on which to build.
Much like Douglas Egerton and Joshua Piker, I do not explicitly
pitch my course as an exercise in multiculturalism, not because
I think it is a particularly loaded term at my school, but because
I am not exactly sure what constitutes a multicultural analysis,
other than a general impulse toward inclusion. I do make consideration
of race, class, and gender systems a fundamental part of my course,
but I also try to historicize those very concepts. I approach race,
for example, through the prism of race formation—the processes
by which different ethnic groups from Europe began to think of themselves
as white, different native tribes began to think of themselves as
"Indians," Africans from different ethnic groups conceptualized
themselves as black, and so on. Likewise, my discussion of class
is bound to the development of labor systems, both slave and free,
in the New World. My goal is not just to be inclusive on some surface
level but to showcase the new identities that emerged out of the
crucible of American history.
LEWIS PERRY: My remarks apply
to the first "half" of the survey. First of all, I believe more
and more firmly in the need to start with the best current information
on pre-Columbian America. I expect to take my class next spring
to the Cahokia mounds in western Illinois. Some of my historian
friends get nervous about how much of that information, in general
and specifically at Cahokia, is speculative and uncertain. But I
think it is misleading to simply begin with the European terms of
I probably will give less time than many others (and less than
I used to) to the colonial period. Among the themes I will stress
are "national identity"—English and "American." I like to
ask when "American" history begins and present it as a problem with
a range of answers. I don't think there's anything unusual about
my treatment of the Revolution, except that I focus more each time
on national identity and citizenship issues, with some comparisons
to France. I will definitely spend some time on the Confederation
and the Articles of Confederation (which I have found upperclassmen
often know nothing about) and try to make the Constitution a historical
event (as opposed to a sacred event).
Maybe because I also teach the early republic or early national
period, I work hard on it in the survey. If I don't, it's very hard
to make the democratic partisanship beginning in the 1820s comprehensible
to my students as something new and dramatic. I suppose much of
my emphasis is political, though I don't think of the course as
primarily political. There will be at least a week on economic change,
on the West, on the South, on reform, then all the time I have left
will be devoted to slavery, the 1850s, the Civil War. Last time
my emphasis in the Civil War was on the freedmen and citizenship.
Even restricting my time in the colonial period as I do, it is hard
to get past the Civil War.
I present this as more than a series of topics. I was interested
in Maris Vinovskis's comments on how he used to focus on topics,
without assigning a textbook, but has changed his approach. So have
I. I feel some responsibility to give students a sense of development
and change even as we discuss particular texts and issues.
I suppose you could say that I "implicitly" raise issues from current
debates on "multiculturalism." But I don't think of what I am doing
in that way. I prefer to keep the focus on historical development
and change and ask students to suspend their current opinions and
prejudices. But this gets into a big set of issues, I know.
EAGLES: For the last eighteen
years I have taught only the second half of the United States survey,
so I will restrict my comments accordingly. The course usually breaks
roughly into thirds: 1865–1877 to 1900, 1900 to 1941–1945,
and post–World War II. The selections result, not from some
grand intellectual consideration, but rather from my mundane decision
to give two exams during the course, in addition to the final exam,
which means having three parts to the course. Within each third,
lectures combine broader analyses of change and more discrete discussions
of particular events or even individuals; sometimes one class can
accommodate both in an inductive or deductive fashion. Within each
third, the material follows a rough chronology, but otherwise the
order is determined by what seems most sensible (for instance, an
explanation of the changes in the nature of work in the late nineteenth
century comes after an examination of the developing industrial
organizations). Classes present long-term trends and within them
highlight significant events, maybe even turning points such as
the Spanish-American War.
The trends in the second half of the survey cannot surprise anyone:
from small-scale production to dominance by large corporate interests;
from an almost insignificant government to a large and powerful
federal bureaucracy; the emergence of mass, popular, consumer culture(s);
the increasing liberation of minorities, etc. National politics
is not the focus of the course, but it takes on a larger importance
as the course proceeds (the New Deal still strikes me as more important
than the Chester A. Arthur administration). The themes tend to recur
throughout the course, with or without my highlighting them for
students. As I have said before, I use the "posthole" approach,
largely because I realized long ago that everything could not be
covered, that selectivity was unavoidable, and I opted for a more
complicated presentation of fewer topics instead of a more rushed
attempt to cover nearly everything. An additional benefit to a deliberately
topical method is that the course can easily be changed from one
semester to the next by switching individual topics. Each class
is told, more than once, that class lectures and discussions do
not offer comprehensive coverage (that's what the textbook is for).
Adding and deleting topics helps keep the course fresh for me and
thereby, I hope, for the students.
The topic of multiculturalism does not, for several reasons, arise.
First, it would disgust some of the more alert conservative students
at the University of Mississippi. Second, any unfamiliar polysyllabic
word loses a certain percentage of students. Third, like so many
things, doing it is better than talking about it; I prefer to present
variety rather than preach about it. The same thing goes for historiography.
I never use the word (can you see undergraduate minds close at the
mere use of the word?) but rather demonstrate it. I became self-conscious
of this years ago when a friend told me he had trouble explaining
"fundamentalism" to his students. After we talked about it, I suggested
he try explaining the concept to them and then maybe use the big
word to tell them what it was but that he definitely not start by
writing the word on the blackboard (does anyone else still use a
ELISABETH PERRY: There appears
to be quite a bit of agreement in the responses: Everyone seems
to follow a general politically based outline; no one makes a big
deal out of "multiculturalism," but everyone tries to "be" multicultural
by example rather than preachment; most everyone breaks the survey
around the Civil War and Reconstruction, etc. Instead of saying
those things over again, let me challenge some of the assumptions
that I see as lying underneath.
First, the issue of coverage. If we continue to break the first
half of the survey at the Civil War or 1877, aren't our chances
of making it through the twentieth century in the second half declining?
There's just too much to cover. Our students need a foundation in
early American history, but isn't it increasingly important that
we give them first a strong sense of their parents' and grandparents'
generations? I wonder if we ought to think in terms of a different
kind of chronological breaking point or figure out (somehow!) if
there's a way to teach the survey backward from contemporary times.
Second, the issue of periodization. As a teacher of women's history,
I often find myself at odds with standard periodization. Take the
Progressive Era, my own period of specialization. To confine that
era to the first two decades of the twentieth century diminishes
the importance of how women set reform agendas in the late nineteenth.
It also leaves out enfranchised women's continuing (and partially
successful) efforts during the 1920s and 1930s to legislate progressive
agendas. How does one handle such issues in the survey? One way
that I do it is to make explicit that periodization is not some
historical "fact" but reflects interpretative decisions that historians
make and is contingent upon historians' own sense of what is important.
Third, the issue of "political" history. I agree with some of the
other participants that any survey has to have a general political
structure. But, as one person said, we cannot march our students
from election to election. What to do? We need to establish at the
start a broad definition of what we mean by politics. We don't mean
just elections and voters, but the whole set of issues, ideas, and
controversies over which Americans have argued, negotiated, and
fought. Starting with such a concept more easily allows us to integrate
the disfranchised, the unelected, and the citizen-activist into
United States history and make that history a more compelling experience
for the undergraduate student.
SCHARFF: Like Liz Perry, I
won't go over familiar ground, and I also share some of her concerns
about "traditional" periodization and a too narrowly defined political
history. I'd be very surprised if there's anyone out there still
doing history from one president to another. (Why waste time with
Millard Fillmore when you need so badly to get to Abraham Lincoln?
Shall we tarry with Calvin Coolidge when Franklin D. Roosevelt awaits?)
So maybe the question is less one of what counts as politics but
who counts as a political actor.
There's politics and politics, of course. Oddly, no one so far
has used the word "conquest" to talk about the process of nation
building in the United States. A couple of people have mentioned
the importance of "liberty" as an American political concept. I
like to draw lots of maps on the blackboard, showing the way in
which the United States invents itself geographically as well as
politically as an "empire for liberty." Under that kind of umbrella,
I can bring in everyone from Sacagawea to Dred Scott to Abraham
Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony stumping the Northwest for suffrage, all
kinds of Roosevelts, Bill Haywood, Earl Warren, Rosa Parks.
The question of where to break the survey is baffling, but I find
myself not unhappy with 1877. At that moment, the United States
as a territorial entity was only very provisionally continental.
I remind my students that any number of Americans in eleven states
had very recently died for the idea that those states weren't part
of the United States and that in much of the West, the locals were,
at best, grudgingly acquiescing to American authority. The end of
Reconstruction is a good place to look back and say, OK, the United
States map looked then pretty much the way it does now, aside from
Alaska and Hawaii—the empire now stretched across the continent,
from the Rio Grande to the forty-ninth parallel. The United States
really was moving into a new phase with plenty of unresolved issues
still on the plate. The question of where it was, was solved.
What and who remained open.
SACKMAN: My basic themes are
how the promise of liberty and equality have played out and what
it has meant to be an American. For the most part, I do, as Elisabeth
Perry puts it, try to "be" multicultural rather than preach multiculturalism.
But at the end of the second half of the survey, I address multiculturalism
as an explicit topic. We look at the "new immigration" since the
1960s and look back at earlier immigration debates; we look at affirmative
action debates and the legacy of the Great Society—and, more
broadly, the continuing significance of race and how race is more
than a black and white issue; and we look at the politics of history
and memory as it has been involved in the culture wars. Here, I
talk a little about the two controversial exhibits at the Smithsonian
Institution—"The West As America" and the Enola Gay
exhibit ("The Last Act: The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War
II")—using them as examples of how pervasive history continues
to be in American life and as a way of looking back at material
we covered on the conquest of the West and on World War II.
Like Elisabeth Perry, I embrace an expanded definition of politics.
On the syllabus I set out provisional definitions of politics, as
well as economics, society, and culture. My initial definition of
politics there is "the character and operations of power in a nation,
including but not limited to the roles of political parties and
elected officials, and involving such issues as life, liberty, and
the pursuit of happiness." "Culture," "society," "economics," and
"politics" are all intensely debated and elusive terms (and they
blur into one another), but by introducing the set of terms, I hope
to help students see the complicated ways that the nation was put
together and give them some initial tools for social analysis.
MAIER: How do I organize the
survey? I say something about explorations and pre-Columbian America,
including the impact of contact, then settle down with colonial
Virginia and New England, looking at them separately and drawing
comparisons. I use the "free time" in the first class after explaining
the syllabus and requirements by having students look at a family
tree—one that's attached to "John Dane's Narrative," a brief
autobiography of a seventeenth-century Puritan (published in the
New England Historical and Genealogical Magazine for 1854)
that is one of my favorite teaching documents. It's amazing how
much demographic data can be culled from one family tree. ("Hey,"
one student said, "this guy lived to be eighty-two! And look how
many kids he had!") We read the narrative itself a week or two later.
Deciphering seventeenth-century language (in modest quantity) can
be like solving a puzzle—and to go from there to grasping
a very different mind-set feels almost natural.11
Given time constraints, I have to move quickly to the Revolution.
But first I assign something on the origins of slavery. I spend
time on the independence movement and the creation of republican
governments on the state and federal levels and take a close look
at the federal Bill of Rights against Antifederalist demands. We
discuss politics in the early republic, economic development, reform
and abolitionism, expansion, the political crisis of the 1850s,
secession, and the Civil War. That seems pretty standard: there
are things we want kids to know about. Politics is included (though
I do not, as Virginia Scharff put it, trace the story from one president
to another) because, however we feel about politics today, it was
central to American culture in earlier times, and the politics of
time past helps explain the world we have inherited.
Is my treatment of survey material chronological or topical? It's
both. It cannot be comprehensive; I need to make choices, as we
all do. So some themes are privileged in the chronological narrative.
The beginnings of slavery, early emancipation, the participation
of free blacks in pushing for the end of slavery and genuine equality,
the growth of abolitionism and its place in exacerbating sectional
tensions, etc.: How could anyone teach the first half of the survey
without addressing those issues? Can we understand the constitutional
questions of 1861, much less our current government, without examining
the institutional heritage of the Revolution? In theory I suppose
an instructor could cover different topics, and no doubt we give
different treatment to—or treat at different lengths—Indians,
the western movement, immigration, the Supreme Court, popular culture,
domestic life, religion, science, and technology. Surely I give
much more attention to Indians, women, and race and less to theology
and certain political topics than when I first began teaching. But
certain things remain, I think, central to the story, though sometimes
their place in that story is new or different from what it was in
1968. There's a reason Doug Sackman was shocked that students didn't
know what Reconstruction was. Like it or not, there's a core of
information we're still involved in conveying, and not because that
information was institutionalized at some point in time, but because
it's part of the unfolding story of this country. And the American
history survey traces a national history.
KORNBLITH AND LASSER: Given
the formal and informal constraints you confront in teaching the
survey, what mix of lectures, discussions, and other modes of instruction
do you employ? When you develop your schedule of reading assignments,
to what extent are you concerned about page limits, cost, and "entertainment
value"? If you assign a textbook, what is its function in the course?
If you assign primary sources, how do you use them? How important
are maps, photographs, films, and other visual media in your pedagogy?
Do you use Web sites or other interactive technology?
PIKER: I'm going to focus
my comments on my experiences teaching the large version of the
University of Oklahoma's survey, rather than the honors course.
Formal constraints are almost entirely lacking at OU: no one looks
over my shoulder as I design the syllabus, pick the texts, write
lectures, etc. As a result, the sections of the survey that my department
offers vary a great deal from professor to professor, which seems
to me to be a plus. Informal constraints do, however, surface repeatedly,
as I suspect they do at most institutions. I've mentioned some of
those: very large classes, no discussion sections, a relatively
homogeneous and conservative student body.
The class consists almost entirely of my lectures. I open the class
up for questions periodically, but I do not attempt to use the students'
questions as the basis for discussion. I try to assign several movies
during the course of the semester, and I'm working on integrating
small clips of films into my lectures as a way of illustrating a
larger point and of "hooking" the students.
I find the lecture-only method of teaching disconcerting, to put
it mildly. It often feels like I'm walking the line between pedagogy
and performance art. In the best of all possible worlds, I would
give one lecture a week (as a framing mechanism for the week's discussion),
and then students would meet twice more in small TA- or professor-led
discussion sections. OU is actually moving toward offering more
discussion sections, but the sticking point is money to hire discussion
I assign a textbook (Mary Beth Norton et al., A People and a
Nation), three monographs (one for each third of the class),
and a document reader. Last semester, the monographs were William
Cronon's Changes in the Land, Alan Taylor's William Cooper's
Town, and Noel Ignatiev's How the Irish Became White.12
I use the monographs as a chance for the students to investigate
in detail a particular issue, place, or theme that might get slighted
in the lectures. I need to work on referring back to the monographs
in my lectures. I'm still learning not to assume that the students
will see how Indian land-use strategies relate to King Philip's
War or how William Cooper's experience fits into the debates surrounding
The textbook is a supplement to the lectures, a chance for the
students to preview (or, more likely, review) some of the material
I cover in class. When I've taught other classes (say, colonial
America) without assigning a textbook, my students get nervous;
they're unsure of their ability to get "the point" of a lecture,
and they're used to having the textbook as a fallback position.
As for the primary documents, I try to find material that they'll
think is either "fun" (a Puritan writing about wigs, for example,
or a captivity narrative) or "important" (the Declaration of Independence
seems to qualify). The documents should be compelling enough to
draw the students in, and their relation to the week's themes should
be easily grasped. It's here, however, where I most feel the need
for discussion sections. Engaging with the documents without engaging
with others' interpretations of those same pieces can be a very
Beyond making sure that all the books are in paperback, I haven't
focused on cost. Pages-per-week, however, is a big issue. Anything
more than 100 is a problem. The goal is to find the line between
"We finished it but that last assignment was tooooo long" and "We've
got so much reading that we're not even going to try to do it."
SCHARFF: I was amazed at how
much my course patterns, approaches, and perplexities resemble Josh
The only constraint at the University of New Mexico is scheduling—we
either teach three fifty-minute classes per week (Monday, Wednesday,
Friday) or two seventy-five-minute classes (Tuesday and Thursday).
We usually run several large sections per semester, and my classes
run anywhere from 90 to 150 students. The largest ever was 250,
which was, unfortunately, scheduled in an auditorium with 800 seats.
I couldn't see the top third of the room but once did become aware
of people at the back—a couple, in carnal embrace. They were
noisier than they realized.
With classes this large, like Josh Piker, I find myself mostly
lecturing. I try to conduct big, crazy discussions now and then,
and it depends entirely on the chemistry of the classroom whether
they work or not. All it takes is a couple of bright, engaged, brave
students to ask provocative and thoughtful questions, and the whole
class can come alive. On the other hand, there are those semesters
where the students seem mostly disengaged. One memorable morning
I realized that a woman in the twentieth row of a crowded classroom
must have overslept and was spending the entire class finishing
her grooming: hair, makeup, and, the last straw, putting lotion
over her entire body. By the end of the period, I had joined the
students in watching her. Does this happen to other people?
I use the same text as Josh Piker, along with two supplementary
readings. This semester, the first is a novel, Hugh Nissenson's
Tree of Life—a harrowing, breathtaking novel of the
frontier. The second, a book I've used pretty much every semester
for ten years, is Frederick Douglass's Narrative. I'll be
interested to see how the Nissenson works—the Douglass has
never failed me.13
Ever since a student told me that he had to do his readings in
the post office locker room when he was on breaks, I've seen the
constraints in the amount I can assign. The limit is about 100 pages
per week. Cost is also a factor. I wouldn't dream of asking students
to pay more than $100 each term for books for the introductory survey.
I try to take care of entertainment value in the lectures and hope
they'll be hooked enough that they'll think history is per se entertaining.
For example, I try to pick interesting individuals and return to
them, over the course of several lectures, as witnesses and historymakers.
Examples: Thomas Jefferson, John and Jessie Frémont, Frederick Douglass.
I like to do the same thing with places—see New York as Dutch
village, as growing commercial center, as site of immigration, as
setting for the draft riots. I also tell stories about various people
who avoided or resisted or simply survived the spread of American
domination—the maroon communities in Florida, the Pueblos
of the Southwest.
I use a couple of movies each term and this year will be integrating
some of the video lectures (twenty-four minutes each) from Biography
of America, a telecourse of American history produced by WGBH
in Boston. As for maps, I've experimented—bringing paper maps,
bringing transparencies—but in the end, I've come to rely
on the act of drawing very schematic maps on the blackboard. I treat
the map drawing as an inside joke between me and the whole class—a
statement that says, "Look, if I can get you to imagine the shape
of the nation, the rivers and lakes, the battles or events, with
a picture this childlike, you'll get a kick out of it and maybe
look for a better map when you've got more time."
JACOBY: For the past three
years I have taught the first half of the survey, which typically
enrolls 100–150 students. The course currently features two
lectures a week; then, on Thursdays and Fridays, the class is broken
up into groups of 20 or so for discussion sections, led by me and
two or three TAs. In theory, this format allows students both to
get a basic overview and to debate the readings and lectures in
an intimate setting. It is a constant struggle to keep section size
down to an appropriate number. And once the lecture classes balloon
to more than 50 people, it can become difficult to sustain the question-and-answer
interplay that I like to employ during lectures.
For me, the paramount issue involved in selecting the weekly reading
is how well the book or article can stimulate a lively and thought-provoking
discussion section. Even though the sections take place only once
a week, I consider them the heart of the class, since it is here
that students learn to form their own interpretations of past events
and to test them against those advanced by other students. Most
weeks, this means that I assign primary sources. Like others, I
use Frederick Douglass's Narrative; I also assign Mary Rowlandson's
The Sovereignty and Goodness of God, Harriet Beecher Stowe's
Uncle Tom's Cabin, Thomas Jefferson's Notes on the State
of Virginia, and excerpts from the WPA slave narratives, the
Lowell Offering, and the Cherokee Phoenix.14
If I do a good job contextualizing those materials during my weekly
lectures, we can have stimulating discussion sections. In contrast,
when I assign secondary sources, the students often lack the historical
knowledge to step outside the author's narrative, and so we are
confined to narrower discussions about the author's thesis, use
of evidence, and so on. Those are important discussions to have,
but I find that having such discussions week after week can lead
to diminishing returns.
Cost and readability enter into my calculus. Since many sources
from the pre-1877 era are in the public domain, they tend to be
available in cheap paperback editions. By keeping the cost of the
books low, I hope to make it possible for more students to buy the
books and thus to read them at their leisure and with greater care.
Moreover, since many of the books I assign are foundational works
of American history and literature, I would like to think that I
am helping my students build useful personal libraries that they
can turn to after leaving college.
I do assign a textbook, but we rarely discuss it in section. Instead,
it functions as a fallback for students who want to check a name
or date that they missed in lecture. I also rely on it to give the
details of certain topics that I do not have the time to cover in
depth in lecture, and I am very explicit about directing the students
to it for this purpose during lectures. Between the textbook and
the primary sources, I probably ask students to read in the vicinity
of 200 pages a week (I have the luxury of teaching at a school where
most students do not have full-time jobs in addition to full course
Today's college students are intensely visual, and as a result
I have made the reluctant decision to use slides every class. This
has made preparing for lectures much more involved, but student
feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Although I worry about
turning the survey into little more than highbrow entertainment
and students into passive consumers, having slides has in fact created
new opportunities for student exchange. Often I will show a slide
and ask students to describe what they see as significant about
the image. Students who seem tentative when discussing written documents
frequently have far more to say when talking about a painting or
an early political cartoon.
I have not done much with the Web other than including a few significant
Web sites in my syllabus. I have yet to be persuaded that the research
materials available on the Web are that much better than the primary
sources already available in book or article form. There is also
the question of whether I can reasonably expect students to have
regular access to a Web-connected computer on which to do their
MAIER: I choose a text that
seems to offer reasonable, intelligent coverage. This year I'm using
the concise version of James West Davidson et al., Nation of
Nations, though I have to say I'm not sure concise histories
do what I need. I always assign something on the origins of slavery—I
used to use Peter Wood's Black Majority, which also introduced
students to a Restoration colony, but I am substituting parts of
Ira Berlin's Many Thousands Gone this year. Of course, I
assign the Declaration of Independence (with Congress's editings—which
opens everything up), the Constitution, and some ratification debates;
I assign some William Lloyd Garrison, George Fitzhugh, Uncle
Tom's Cabin (it's long but they love it), and a selection of
Abraham Lincoln's letters and speeches. I explore some themes that
aren't standard, assigning Pat Malone's Skulking Way of War,
a short book that examines firearms technology and Indian-white
relationships during the seventeenth century in a very memorable
and useful way. I also assign Oscar Handlin's Boston's Immigrants,
now sixty years in print and out of sync with modern interpretations,
but it gives me a chance to explore the different ways concrete
information can be "read."15
Many books are overlong for the survey. I could not assign all
of the Ira Berlin book, for example; I assign parts of it for two
weeks. And price does make a difference. I am delighted with
the Dover Thrift editions of primary sources, which sell for a dollar
or two (though they lack introductions, so I need to supply necessary
EAGLES: No restrictions on
teaching exist at the University of Mississippi, but the pressures
of the students do have an impact. Long ago I realized that if I
taught the course the way I thought it should be taught, the result
would be very small classes. To maintain credible enrollments, I
adjusted my expectations and demands, but that was a bargain I could
easily accept. Survey class size is further constrained by an 8:00
A.M. starting time, which does not bother me. As a result, my survey
classes are never more than 35–40, and often only in the twenties
(therefore usually no graduate assistant, but I never use one for
grading or teaching anyway). Though my reading and writing assignments
cause many to drop after the first class, most students know about
the course before they enroll. Student tolerance for academic work
here has improved significantly in the last decade, but the overall
climate still is not as supportive of the academic process as it
is at more selective institutions.
For every class session, I am prepared to lecture for the entire
period; my hope, however, is that discussions will emerge from the
material presented and from the readings. I try to promote interaction
by asking questions, some rhetorical and some directed at individual
students, and the results vary from class to class. Seldom do I
talk for the entire time, so I wind up cutting and compressing the
material (which is far easier with the posthole method than with
the ball-of-string narrative approach). I would like to be able
to assign more readings, to depend on students to read them, and
maybe even to think a little about them before class. When key participants
are unprepared, discussions are tough.
Several factors influence my selection of reading assignments:
length, cost, topic, approach, etc. My paramount concern is that
students read history books, that is, books written by historians,
and there are plenty of good ones. How can we expect to reach a
reading public if we do not introduce them to real scholarly work
in our classes? I try to combine different types of history and
disparate subjects. For example, a biography of a labor leader might
be combined with a book on an urban race riot and another on the
Vietnam War, but not three biographies or three on labor or three
on foreign policy. Instead of three monographs, which is about the
top limit here for freshman classes, the last couple of times I
have assigned two collections of essays, James West Davidson and
Mark Hamilton Lytle's After the Fact and William Graebner's
True Stories from the American Past. The textbook is America:
A Narrative History by George Brown Tindall and David E. Shi.16
And, yes, cost is a major factor because many of the students cannot
spend zillions each semester on books. The problem grows worse every
semester, with some textbooks costing more than $50 in paperback.
I may be the only person who does not use documents and primary
sources. My goal is not to teach freshmen to be historians or necessarily
to appreciate how historians do their work (I would not expect them
to write poetry in a literature class). I want them to learn to
enjoy reading history and grappling with arguments. Frankly, I find
analyzing a couple of documents not a real example of how historians
actually work, at least not twentieth-century historians who confront
mounds of material. As for slides, maps, etc., even the most basic
textbook has plenty of illustrations and maps, and the more elaborate
ones have a surfeit. The latest in technology appeals to me very
little. I am dedicated to the written word in a form that can be
easily read anywhere: under a tree, in bed, in a hall waiting for
class, over lunch. Students attracted to the latest technology may
not find my courses enticing, but so far a sufficient number do,
and I see no need to offer more of what they are already getting
plenty of everywhere else in our culture.
SCOTT: My survey is a two-semester
course. I limit the course to 70 students and do not have any graduate
or teaching assistants. It meets three times a week and I usually
lecture two of those days and engage in "discussion" the third day.
In a class of 70 students, discussion cannot include everyone and
is somewhat contrived since I assign the material and ask the questions.
It is more like an orchestrated, participatory lecture.
During the semester, I require about 1,600 pages (eight books)
of supplementary reading that includes primary works and historical
monographs. I use Paul S. Boyer et al.'s Enduring Vision
as the text.17 I expect
students to read 150 to 200 pages a week. Text and supplemental
readings come to about $125 a semester. I use many of the same books
each year and rarely change the text. On the used book market the
required books can be obtained for about $50 a semester. I choose
material, not just for its content, but also for its interest. If
students are fascinated by a book, I use it again. If they found
it boring, I don't use it again. This is true of primary sources
as well as historical monographs. Once students realize that reading
is a treat and not a punishment, they are willing to do it.
Students are not just more visual than ever, visual media are rich
and valuable historical materials. When appropriate, I use music,
art slides, architecture, news photographs, film clips, films, and
maps. These are especially valuable to stimulate discussion since
students do not have to read their assignments to participate in
an informed way. It also makes them aware of the enormous variety
of cultural stimuli that have formed our historical memories. The
Web offers rich and rapidly growing resources for this, especially
the American Memory Web site sponsored by the Library of Congress.18
Unfortunately, I do not take full advantage of this, probably because
of my age. It's not comfortable for me to use in class.
I do, however, use e-mail a great deal. E-mail has immensely improved
my communication with students. They ask questions about lectures
or readings, set appointments, and explain why they missed class
(a serious infraction). I find that with e-mail, I can effectively
reach my entire class, nudging them, encouraging them, or inquiring
about problems. I can also make course announcements through my
class lists. Still, on the whole, my course is low-tech: lectures,
discussion, maps, slides, CDs, and videos with a few out-of-class
films such as Black Robe, The Last of the Mohicans, Amistad,
Glory, The Birth of a Nation, On the Waterfront, Eyes on the Prize,
Rebel without a Cause, and Medium Cool.19
EGERTON: There are no formal
constraints on how I teach the survey. I suspect that many of us
wandered into this profession in part because we couldn't imagine
being part of a culture where we had to take and give too many orders.
But informal constraints include the refusal on the part of my survey
students—most of whom are sophomores—to read monographs
longer than 300 pages.
It appears, however, that among the participants in the round table
I have the smallest survey courses—about 30 students per section
(I teach two fifty-minute sections, back to back). As a result,
my course is about 80 percent lecture and 20 percent discussion
on any given day. I devote entire class periods to discussions of
the four monographs I assign. I use a text—John M. Murrin
et al.'s Liberty, Equality, Power—not only as background
to my lectures, but a source of data that I expect my students to
know and be ready to discuss when they walk in the door.20
Cost is a factor, and I never assign a monograph that runs more
than $20 new. The combined, hardcover textbook is $83 new, but my
students use it for both semesters, and it costs less than two paperback
splits. A majority of my students plan to teach high school, so
I encourage them to keep the text rather than to sell it back for
a few dollars in May.
I never give a lecture without an overhead map behind me. My students'
geography is shaky enough, and it would be impossible to explain
Robert E. Lee's second invasion of the North or the Missouri Compromise
without a proper map.
Luddite that I am, I do not use Web sites or other on-line sources,
in part because I'm not up on them, but also because I'm old-fashioned
enough to believe that there is no substitute for a thick book and
an overstuffed chair. Many of my sophomores cannot distinguish between
a legitimate Web site that has legitimate primary documents or reprinted
(refereed) articles and pop history sites or chat rooms where the
wildest conspiracies are transformed into reality.
I do use videos in the classroom. As Karl Jacoby noted, our students
are intensely visual, and so I use brief clips from videos to illustrate
points I'm trying to make in my lectures. I rarely show more than
a five-minute clip, but it helps my students to personalize abstract
debates. Examples include a wonderfully concise debate between Alexander
Hamilton and James Madison on funding and assumption from the otherwise
ahistorical Washington miniseries (George Washington: The Forging
of a Nation), Denmark Vesey speaking in Charleston's African
Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, or bits of The Birth of a Nation
when I talk about Woodrow Wilson and civil rights.21
VINOVSKIS: Basically, the
survey at the University of Michigan is divided into two parts—I
teach the first half, which has about 175 students; the second half
has about 350 students (this is each semester—both halves
of the survey are given in both the fall and winter semesters).
The first half of the survey could be larger, but we cap it at 175
to reflect the number of TAs we have for the sections. Our lectures
are given twice a week (fifty minutes), and the sections meet twice
a week (one hour for each section discussion—about 25 students
per section). I always teach the honors section, which has about
We have a lot of autonomy in how we teach the survey, but over
time a basic format has been used by all of us. What we teach and
how we handle it can be altered to suit the interests of the faculty
member teaching it. (We try to rotate the teaching of the survey,
but some individuals are more willing to volunteer to teach it than
Having taught the survey for many years, I discovered that it is
useful to revise the course just after I have finished teaching
it—while it is still fresh in my mind. I always ask the students
to evaluate the individual readings at the end of the course. Students
are asked: Given the orientation of the course, would you recommend
that the particular book being evaluated should be retained or dropped
(using a five-point scale)? They are also asked for their favorite
and their least favorite book in the course as well as any other
comments or suggestions about the books or other aspects of the
course. In addition, I ask some personal data (gender, grade in
school, etc.) and cross-tab the results to see how the readings
worked with different subgroups of the students.
Based upon those replies, the feedback from the TAs, and my own
observations, I tentatively revise the course. Thus, I continue
to use the Norton et al. textbook as it is the second most popular
book, as well the Frederick Douglass volume (the most popular work).
But I find a substitute for a book that I liked but that proved
to be too hard and/or unpopular—unless there are compelling
pedagogical reasons for keeping it. After completing the revision,
I show it to my TAs and sometimes discuss it with a few colleagues;
then during the early summer I review the revised list to make any
final changes. In general, the textbook has remained the same, but
the supplementary monographs and primary readings are frequently
While I use maps as overheads, most of the lectures are not illustrated,
nor do I use PowerPoint or other devices. I think these might be
very effective, but I simply have not had the time to go in that
LEWIS PERRY: As it happens,
I have never taught in a department where I was told what to teach.
I have taught fairly huge sections (about 400 students), with graders
but no discussion sections, at two state universities. I have also
taught more comfortable sections of 50–90 students at one
of those universities. Of course, I lectured more than anything
else, but like Virginia Scharff, I found some ways of leading discussions
(without requiring everybody's participation).
I am now planning a class limited to 19 freshmen at St. Louis University
on the first half of the survey. I did something similar at Vanderbilt
a couple of years ago. I will not give any lectures, though I will
present information and viewpoints, planned and unplanned. I will
take the class to Cahokia Mounds at the start of the term and look
for another field trip later. I like to play music (even though
there are no recordings from the period, and there are issues of
interpretation to discuss). I have used "Peg and Awl" from the Harry
Smith Folkways Collection, for example, and recordings of the Sea
Island Singers and of songs by the Hutchinson Family.22
I will most likely use films and slides, too, but I will avoid having
students sit too long without exercise. There will be considerable
discussion of documents, considerable writing, and an emphasis on
active inquiry on the student's part.
There are a number of very good textbooks, but it is hard to find
a collection of primary sources fitting the themes I want to develop.
I was very unhappy with the one I chose last time (and I chose it
out of unhappiness with others). I am sorry that Sources of the
American Republic, edited by Marvin Meyers, Alexander Kern,
and John G. Cawelti, is out of print. I began with it when I was
a graduate teaching assistant and still like its well-chosen documents,
which are more than just snippets and do not simply lead to one
conclusion. I have David Brion Davis and Steven Mintz's new Boisterous
Sea of Liberty on my desk as something to think about. I may
also build my own document collection from the Houghton-Mifflin
"BiblioBase." But I like the intelligent introductions of the two
collections I've mentioned. I would also like to assign at least
one work in its entirety—last time, at Vanderbilt, it was
David Walker's Appeal.23
ELISABETH PERRY: When teaching
classes of 30–40, I alternate between lecture and discussion.
For the latter, I often put students into groups of five or six
to work on specific issues or use something I call the "double circle."
I ask them to count off "1, 2" and ask all with one number to form
a circle in the center; those who got the other number encircle
the inner group. The students "inside" do not have to raise their
hands to speak; those on the outside do. I sit in the inner circle
and moderate. After about twenty minutes, the groups switch. Between
that and small groups I get a very high percentage of participation.
We don't always get "through" all the topics I want to talk about,
but everyone has a good time and, since I never know how a particular
discussion is going to come out, I don't worry about going stale.
The Internet can be a wonderful resource, but I find that students
do not use it wisely. They accept a great deal of what they see
uncritically (the "As seen on TV" approach). And when they can't
find something on the Web, they often decide that it doesn't exist
and give up. Moreover, if they aren't wired in from their rooms,
they tend not to use Web-based resources. I use e-mail to communicate
back and forth with students but, again, since some are not wired
in, I can't rely on such forms of communication without leaving
SACKMAN: Much of what Charles
Eagles says on using history books I find persuasive, but I think
it can also be valuable to have students grapple with primary materials.
Consequently, I have come up with a grab bag collection of texts:
a textbook, primary sources, and a set of monographs that are meant
to complement one another as well as meet needs for coverage. For
this fall, my first time teaching the first half of the survey,
the monographs I ended up with are Colin G. Calloway, New Worlds
for All; Elizabeth Reis, Damned Women; Jon Butler, Becoming
America; and Stephen Aron, How the West Was Lost.24
After I developed the week-by-week organization of the course,
I found that John Mack Faragher's Out of Many melded closely
with what I wanted to do, so I went with it. I decided to use the
brief edition mainly because of price.25
Last year, I used the document set that has been prepared for Out
of Many, which includes ten short documents for each chapter.
Some weeks, discussion sections were done only on the documents
for a particular chapter. This was a way of varying the amount and
type of reading (I share Karl Jacoby's views on the limits of discussing
monographs every time). My course (excluding the textbook)
averaged about 100 pages a week, but some weeks had 20–30
pages of reading while others had about 200.
The silver lining to cutting out longer works on important topics
is the discovery that there is more than one way to skin a fact.
Two years ago, I had planned to use The Grapes of Wrath but
finally decided it was just too long.26
I was left with a gaping hole on the Great Depression. To address
this, I had students do a "document-gathering assignment" for that
week. I gave them two options: collect a magazine article or advertisement
from the 1930s out of a mass-circulation magazine (I was fortunate
that we had many of these available in the stacks) or collect a
document specifically concerning the Dust Bowl and Dust Bowl migration
from one of several Web sites that I identified. We started the
discussion with a round of show-and-tell and then built from that.
Initially skeptical of the assignment, students tended to appreciate
the license they were given to explore the material culture of the
past in such an open way.
Visuals and film are integral to the course. Especially for the
twentieth century, I don't view them as gimmickry used to entertain
students, since the development of a visual culture is itself an
important component of the last hundred years. I've been lucky to
be able to teach the survey in "smart classrooms"—rooms equipped
with a digital projector to which I can easily connect my laptop
computer. Every lecture I use fifteen to thirty images. Some are
more illustration than anything else, but some are used as primary
sources. I used to make slides, but now I can simply scan images
in and incorporate them into a PowerPoint presentation. This has
many advantages over the use of slides: it's less time-consuming
(though it's not a snap), cheaper, possible to do at the last minute,
and has slightly fewer technical glitches than the slide projector.
A good slide, though, is far superior to the projected images in
terms of resolution. I also like to show a few documentary films
during the term. They can do things that I could never do in a lecture—unless,
perhaps, I could spend a month "producing" each lecture.
But I don't think my approach to the survey is better than someone
else's because I use visual media. I can only say that it is better
than the course I would teach if I could use no visuals.
We have raised some issues concerning the use of information technology,
but I'd like to explore them further, and I'll do so in an alarmist
fashion. With the creative use of Web sites, I think that each of
the various publishers is trying to become the sole source for our
classes. They can offer much that is enticing, helpful, and impressive,
especially as it is our talented colleagues who provide much of
the content for these sites. As these textbook plus Web site packages
become more sophisticated and comprehensive, might they become,
to put it baldly, master rather than tool, eroding that autonomy
most everyone in the discussion feels we enjoy in putting together
their courses? I ask myself if it would be wise to move more toward
the position of Charles Eagles, who sees "no need to offer more
of what [students] are already getting plenty of everywhere else
in our culture." My answer so far has been to wheel in that Trojan
Horse, uncover where it came from, and then analyze its promise
as well as its danger. But, undoubtedly, the belief that we can
simply incorporate it as a tool and keep our critical distance is
in part illusory, and it will, for better and worse, change the
very environment in which we work and in which we become who we
are as teachers.
At the close of the round table, participants were invited to
offer advice to new faculty teaching the survey for the first time.
Several veterans cautioned against trying to cover too much in a
single class. "Think of what you want the students to have in their
heads when they leave the classroom, and structure the class accordingly,"
recommended Pauline Maier. "When I began teaching I was, like so
many new Ph.D.'s, terrified I'd run out of material, and prepared
the most information-packed lectures imaginable. By the second year
I realized that what I had tried to teach in one class was enough
for a full week." Charles Eagles recalled the advice he had received
from a colleague many years before: "You can only tell a class two
or three things in fifty minutes." Likewise Will Scott counseled
"patience," while Elisabeth Perry encouraged novices to "take chances."
Karl Jacoby advised, "Identify for your students what it was that
first attracted you to the subject of history and try to pass this
enthusiasm on to them. Students need to see firsthand the intellectual
excitement that the study of the past can bring." Added Lewis Perry,
"I think young faculty members and graduate students sometimes need
to be assured or reminded that teaching is one of the most worthwhile
things a person can do." In the end, the advice most often proffered
was simple: "Have fun"—coupled with the reminder that, in
Virginia Scharff's words, "You're not in this for the money."
(Footnotes 1-9 are part of the editor's introduction)
10 Graham Russell
Hodges, Root and Branch: African Americans in New York and East
Jersey, 1613–1863 (Chapel Hill, 1999); Catherine Clinton
and Nina Silber, eds., Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War
(New York, 1992); Anthony F. C. Wallace, The Death and Rebirth
of the Seneca (New York, 1969); David P. Szatmary, Shays'
Rebellion: The Making of an Agrarian Insurrection (Amherst,
11 John Dane, "John
Dane's Narrative, 1682," The New England Historical and Genealogical
Register, 8 (Boston, 1854), 147–56.
12 Mary Beth Norton
et al., A People and a Nation: A History of the United States,
5th ed. (Boston, 1998); William Cronon, Changes in the Land:
Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England (New York,
1983); Alan Taylor, William Cooper's Town: Power and Persuasion
on the Frontier of the Early American Republic (New York, 1995);
Noel Ignatiev, How the Irish Became White (New York, 1995).
13 Hugh Nissenson,
The Tree of Life (New York, 2000); Frederick Douglass, Narrative
of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave (Boston,
14 Mary White Rowlandson,
The Sovereignty and Goodness of God, Together with the Faithfulness
of His Promises Displayed: Being a Narrative of the Captivity and
Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson and Related Documents, ed.
Neal Salisbury (Boston, 1997); Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's
Cabin (Boston, 1851); Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State
of Virginia (London, 1787); James Mellon, ed., Bullwhip Days:
The Slaves Remember (New York, 1988).
15 James West Davidson
et al., Nation of Nations: A Concise Narrative of the American
Republic, vol. I: To 1877 (New York, 1996); Peter H.
Wood, Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from
1670 through the Stono Rebellion (New York, 1974); Ira Berlin,
Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North
America (Cambridge, Mass., 1998); Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin;
Patrick Malone, The Skulking Way of War: Technology and Tactics
among the New England Indians (Lanham, 1991); Oscar Handlin,
Boston's Immigrants, 1790–1865: A Study in Acculturation
(Cambridge, Mass., 1941).
16 James West Davidson
and Mark Hamilton Lytle, After the Fact: The Art of Historical
Detection (New York, 1982); William Graebner, ed., True Stories
from the American Past, vol. II: Since 1865, 2nd ed.
(New York, 1997); George Brown Tindall and David E. Shi, America:
A Narrative History, 5th ed. (New York, 1999).
17 Paul S. Boyer
et al., The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People,
4th ed. (Boston, 1999).
dir. Bruce Beresford (Vidmark Entertainment, 1991); Last of the
Mohicans, dir. Michael Mann (Twentieth Century Fox, 1992); Amistad,
dir. Stephen Spielberg (DreamWorks, 1997); Glory, dir. Edward
Zwick (Tri-Star Pictures, 1989); Birth of a Nation, dir.
D. W. Griffith (Republic Pictures, 1915); On the Waterfront,
dir. Elia Kazan (Columbia Pictures, 1954); Eyes on the Prize:
America's Civil Rights Years, prod. Henry Hampton (Blackside,
Inc., 1986); Rebel without a Cause, dir. Nicholas Ray (Warner
Bros. Pictures, 1955); Medium Cool, dir. Haskell Wexler (Paramount
20 John M. Murrin
et al., Liberty, Equality, Power: A History of the American People,
2nd ed. (Fort Worth, 1999).
The Forging of a Nation, dir. William A. Graham (MGM, 1986).
22 Harry Smith,
ed., Peg and Awl, performed by various artists (compact disk;
Smithsonian Folkways, 1997).
23 Marvin Meyers,
Alexander Kern, and John G. Cawelti, Sources of the American
Republic: A Documentary History of Politics, Society, and Thought
(Chicago, 1960); David Brion Davis and Steven Mintz, eds., The
Boisterous Sea of Liberty: A Documentary History of America from
Discovery through the Civil War (New York, 1998); BiblioBase
is an on-line ordering system that permits the user to create a
customized text. For more information, see www.bibliobase.com. David
Walker, Walker's Appeal in Four Articles (Boston, 1829).
24 Colin G. Calloway,
New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early
America (Baltimore, 1997); Elizabeth Reis, Damned Women:
Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England (Ithaca, 1997); Jon
Butler, Becoming America: The Revolution before 1776 (Cambridge,
Mass., 2000); Stephen Aron, How the West Was Lost: The Transformation
of Kentucky from Daniel Boone to Henry Clay (Baltimore, 1996).
25 John Mack Faragher
et al., Out of Many: A History of the American People, 3rd
ed. (Upper Saddle River, 2000).
26 John Steinbeck,
The Grapes of Wrath (New York, 1939).