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[Ebook PDF] Major Problems in American History, Volume I, 004 Edition
Designed to encourage critical thinking about history, the MAJOR PROBLEMS IN AMERICAN HISTORY series introduces students to both primary sources and analytical essays on important topics in U.S. history. This collection serves as the primary anthology for the introductory survey course, covering the subject’s entire chronological span. Comprehensive topical coverage includes politics, economics, labor, gender, culture, and social trends. The fourth edition has been revised to reflect two new historiographical trends: the emergence of the history of religion as an exceptionally lively field and the internationalization of American history. Several chapters include images, songs, and poems to give students a better “feel” for the time period and events under discussion. Key pedagogical elements of the Major Problems format have been retained: 15 to 16 chapters per volume, chapter introductions, headnotes, and suggested readings.
History is a matter of interpretation. Individual scholars rescue particular stories from the hubbub of human experience, analyze patterns, and offer arguments about how these events reflected or reshaped human society at a given moment.
This means that other historians might select different stories, perceive different patterns, and arrive at contrasting interpretations of the same time period or even the same event. All scholars use evidence, but the choice and interpretation of evidence is to some extent an expression of professional judgment. History is not separate from historians.
The goal of Major Problems in American History is to place meat on this bare bones description of how the study of the past “works.” Like most instructors, we want students to learn and remember important facts, yet we also want to make clear that historians sometimes disagree on what is important. And, even when historians agree on which facts are noteworthy, they often disagree on what a certain piece of evidence signifies. For example, scholars agree fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, but they debate why these colonists felt compelled to take that dramatic step—and others did not.
The two volumes that comprise this book bring together primary documents and secondary sources on the major debates in American history. The primary sources give students evidence to work with. They represent a mix of the familiar and unfamiliar. Certain documents are a must in any compilation for a survey course because they had a powerful, widely noted impact on American history, such as Tom Paine’s Common Sense (1776) or President Roosevelt’s first inaugural address (1933). We have also selected pieces that evoke the personal experiences of individuals, such as letters, sermons, speeches, political cartoons, poems, and memoirs. There are accounts from European explorers, pioneer women on the frontier, immigrant workers, soldiers, eyewitnesses to the terrors of World War I, and children in rebellion against their parents during the 1960s.
These documents often show conflicting points of view, from the “bottom up,” the “top down,” and various layers in the middle. The secondary sources in these volumes fulfill a different goal. They expose.
students to basic historical debates about each broad period. Sometimes we focus on classic debates, combining very recent essays with seasoned pieces by eminent historians who set the terms of discussion for an entire generation or more.
Other times we have selected essays that do not disagree openly—but show that young scholars are sometimes of different minds about the most revealing “way in” to a subject. Our purpose is to make contrasts as clear as possible for students who are just learning to distinguish interpretation from fact and discern argument within description. In addition, the essays often make direct reference to the primary documents. This allows students to examine how the historian uses primary documents—fairly, or not. The students, therefore, can debate the use of sources and the differing historical conclusions to which they lead.
Volume I, prepared by Edward J. Blum in collaboration with Elizabeth Cobbs, begins with the collision of cultures in the late fifteenth century and ends in the Reconstruction of the United States. This volume examines how new worlds were made when Europeans, western Africans, and Native Americans interacted. It proceeds to the birth of the United States, its growth and development, and ultimately its fracture during the Civil War. Some of the main themes include: the making and unmaking of a society based on slavery; commercial development that included the emergence of cities, interlocking networks of trade, and early industrialization; the push for rights and inclusion from groups that achieved them and from groups that did not.
This book follows the same general format as other volumes in the Major Problems in American History series. Each chapter begins with a short introduction that orients the student. Following this, we include a section called “Questions to Think About” to help students focus their reading of the subsequent material.
Next come eight to ten primary documents, followed by two essays that highlight contrasting interpretations. Headnotes at the start of the document and essay sections help readers identify key themes and debates. These headnotes also show how documents relate to each other, and how the essays differ in perspective. Each chapter concludes with a brief “Further Reading” section to tempt readers into further research. In addition, at the start of the volume, we give suggestions on how to read sources and critically analyze their content, points of view, and implications. This introduction encourages students to draw their own conclusions and use evidence to back up their reasoning.