Teaching the American History Survey at the Opening of the Twenty-First Century: A Round Table Discussion
Gary Kornblith and Carol Lasser
Contributing Editors, Textbooks and Teaching
In our inaugural foray as editors of the "Textbooks and Teaching" section, we focus on the teaching of the American history survey, the task that probably has the broadest impact of any professional service regularly performed by readers of this journal. Last summer we hosted a "virtual round table" using e-mail and an electronic listserv as our modes of communication. Over the course of five weeks, eleven participants exchanged views on the means and ends of teaching the survey. What follows is a condensed and consolidated version of this provocative on-line conversation.
The participants included junior and senior scholars who teach at a variety of colleges and universities spread across the country:
Charles W. Eagles is professor of history at the University of Mississippi at Oxford, where he has taught since 1983. A historian of southern race relations and the civil rights movement, he earned his Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina. His latest book is Outside Agitator: Jon Daniels and the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama.1
Douglas R. Egerton is professor of history at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York. He did his graduate work at Georgetown University, and he writes mainly on African American history. He is the author, most recently, of He Shall Go Out Free: The Lives of Denmark Vesey.2
Karl Jacoby is an assistant professor at Brown University. An environmental historian who received his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1997, he has just published his first book, Crimes against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation.3
Pauline Maier is William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She earned her Ph.D. at Harvard University in 1968 and has written widely on the causes and consequences of the American Revolution. Her most recent book is American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence.4
Elisabeth Israels Perry originally trained at the University of California at Los Angeles as a European historian but now specializes in American women's lives and politics in the Progressive Era. She is the author of, among other works, Belle Moskowitz: Feminine Politics and the Exercise of Power in the Age of Alfred E. Smith.5 She and Lewis Perry together hold the John Francis Bannon Chair at St. Louis University.
Lewis Perry received his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1967, and he taught at the State University of New York at Buffalo, Indiana University, Bloomington, and Vanderbilt University before joining the St. Louis University faculty in 1999. His most recent book is Boats against the Current: American Culture between Revolution and Modernity.6
Joshua A. Piker also did his graduate work at Cornell, earning his Ph.D. in 1998. He is an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma and a specialist in Native American history. His research focuses on the Creek town of Oakfuskee, located in what is now Alabama, during the eighteenth century.
Douglas C. Sackman is an assistant professor at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Irvine in 1997, and from 1998 through 2000 he taught at Oberlin College. He is writing a cultural and environmental history of California from the 1860s through the 1930s, centered on the citrus industry.
Virginia Scharff earned her Ph.D. at the University of Arizona in 1987 and has taught for the last ten years at the University of New Mexico. She writes fiction as well as history and last year published her first novel, Brown-Eyed Girl, under the pen name Virginia Swift. Her next scholarly book will be Twenty Thousand Roads: Women's Movements and the West.7
William B. Scott is professor of history at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. He received his Ph.D. in 1973 from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where he trained as an intellectual and cultural historian. His books include, most recently, New York Modern: The Arts and the City, coauthored with Peter M. Rutkoff.8
Maris A. Vinovskis has taught at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor since 1974. He did his graduate work at Harvard University and has written numerous studies on colonial and nineteenth-century America. His latest book is History and Educational Policymaking.9
The round table begins with an exploration of the participants' main goals in teaching the American history survey to today's undergraduates. While the participants acknowledge that comprehensive coverage is impossible, their comments reveal important differences in priorities, which range from teaching reading and writing skills and conveying essential content to introducing students to the problems of historical interpretation and instilling a passion for the discipline.
The second part of the discussion focuses on the structure and organization of the survey. The participants debate the centrality of politics as an organizing theme. Several advocate widening the definition of politics to encompass the struggles of groups long excluded from citizenship and governmental power. Although many express reluctance to advertise their approach as multicultural for fear of alienating their audience, all of the participants embrace an inclusive notion of who constituted the American people over time.
In the third and final part of the round table, the participants discuss pedagogical strategies. Many identify informal constraints on how they teach the survey, including student resistance to heavy reading assignments and competing pressures on students' time. Not surprisingly, class size proves to be a major factor in determining the mode of instruction, especially in influencing participants' reliance on stand-up lectures and student discussions. The utility of educational technology emerges as a point of controversy. Yet despite noteworthy differences everyone agrees that teaching the survey remains a critical mission for professional historians dedicated to educating the rising generation of college students.
Goals of the Survey
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 world.
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 formal way.
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 on America.
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 past.
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 easy.
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 sections).
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.
Structure of the Survey
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 today.
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 the story.
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 blackboard?).
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.
Pedagogy of the Survey
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 leaders.
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 Federalism.
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 sterile exercise.
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 Piker's.
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 loads).
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 class work.
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 background information).
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 10–15 students.
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 others.)
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 shifted.
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 direction yet.
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 students out.
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."
1 Charles W. Eagles, Outside Agitator: Jon Daniels and the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama (Chapel Hill, 1993).
2 Douglas R. Egerton, He Shall Go Out Free: The Lives of Denmark Vesey (Madison, 1999).
3 Karl Jacoby, Crimes against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation (Berkeley, 2001).
4 Pauline Maier, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence (New York, 1997).
5 Elisabeth Israels Perry, Belle Moskowitz: Feminine Politics and the Exercise of Power in the Age of Alfred E. Smith (New York, 1987).
6 Lewis Perry, Boats against the Current: American Culture between Revolution and Modernity (New York, 1993).
7 Virginia Swift, Brown-Eyed Girl (New York, 2000); Virginia Scharff, Twenty Thousand Roads: Women's Movements and the West (forthcoming, 2002).
8 William B. Scott and Peter M. Rutkoff, New York Modern: The Arts and the City (Baltimore, 1999).
9 Maris A. Vinovskis, History and Educational Policymaking (New Haven, 1999).
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, 1980).
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, 1845).
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).
19 Black Robe, 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 Pictures, 1969).
20 John M. Murrin et al., Liberty, Equality, Power: A History of the American People, 2nd ed. (Fort Worth, 1999).
21 George Washington: 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).