Chapter Essay Questions
Chapter 1 : New World Beginnings, 33, 000 BC – 1769 AD
What were the common characteristics of all Indian cultures in the New World, and what were the important differences among them?
What fundamental factors drew Europeans to the exploration, conquest and settlement of the New World?
What was the impact on the Indians, Europeans and Africans when each of their previously separate worlds ‘collided’ with one another ?
Should the European encounter with the Indian peoples of the Americas be understood primarily as a story of conquest and exploitation, or as one of the mutual cultural encounter that brought beneficial as well as tragic results for both?
Chapter 2 – The Planting of English America, 1500 – 1733
Compare and contrast the early colonial empires of Portugal, Spain and England in terms of motives, economic foundations, and relations with Africans and Indians. What factors explain the similarities and differences in two ventures?
Which was the most important factor shaping the development of England’s southern colonies in the 17th Century : Indian relations, the one-crop plantation economy, or slavery? Explain and support your answer.
How did the interaction and conflict between English settlers and Indians affect both parties, and contribute to developments that neither group sought?
What were the diverse purposes of England’s American colonies and how were those purposes altered in the early years of settlement?
Chapter 3 – Settling the Northern Colonies, 1619 – 1700
Compare and contrast the New England and middle colonies in terms of motives for founding, religious and social composition, and political development.
Describe and analyze the English government’s relationship with the New England and middle colonies during the course of the 17th Century. Is the term ‘benign neglect’ an accurate description of English colonial policy?
Discuss the development of religious and political freedom in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and Pennsylvania. How did the greater degree of such freedoms enjoyed by Rhode Island and Pennsylvania affect life in those colonies?
Chapter 4 – American Life in the 17th Century, 1607 – 1692
How did factors of population, economics, disease and climate shape the basic social conditions and ways of life of early Americans in both the South and New England?
What was the underlying cause of the expansion of African slavery in English North America?
How did the numbers and condition of women affect family life and society in New England, among southern whites and among African American slaves? Compare and contrast the typical family conditions and ways of life among various members of these three groups.
Compare the conditions of 17th social, economic and religious life in New England and Chesapeake region.
Chapter 5 – Colonial Society on the Eve of Revolution, 1700 – 1775
What features of colonial politics contributed to the development of popular democracy, and what kept political life from being more truly democratic?
What were the causes and consequences of the Great Awakening?
Describe the structure of colonial society in the 18th Century. What developments tended to make society less equal and more hierarchical?
Chapter 6 – The Dual for North America, 1608-1763
Why did the British and their American colonial subjects win the contest with the French for control of North America?
Explain why Britain’s success in defeating the French empire led to the failures in dealing with its colonial subjects.
How did the events in France, Britain and elsewhere in Europe affect the history of North America in this period?
Chapter 7 – The Road to Revolution, 1763-1775
Why did the American colonies move from loyalty to protest to rebellion in the twelve years following the end of the French and Indian War?
Was the American Revolution inevitable? Or could the thirteen colonies have remained attached to Britain for many years and then peacefully achieved their independence as the British colonies of Canada and Australia later did? How would the ‘meaning of America’ have been different without this violent revolt from the mother country?
Is it correct to argue that the British possessed an overwhelming military advantage at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, but that the Americans possessed the political advantage in ideology and leadership?
Chapter 8 – America Secedes from the Empire, 1775-1783
What were the causes and consequences of the American Declaration of Independence in 1776?
Describe the different courses of the Revolutionary War in New England, the middle Atlantic states and the South. What role did the battles in each region play in the eventual American victory?
How did economic and social self-interest compete with revolutionary idealism during the course of the Revolution? In what ways was the conflict about economic self-interest and social class as well as the principles of liberty and equality?
In what ways was the Revolution a civil war among Americans as well as a fight between Britain and those Americans seeking independence? Why have the Loyalists generally been ‘forgotten’ in the story of America’s beginnings?
Chapter 9 – The Confederation and the Constitution, 1776-1790
How did the revolutionary American ideas of natural human rights, equality, and freedom from the governmental tyranny affect developments in the immediate post-Revolutionary period (1783-1789)?
How were women and African Americans affected by the ideas of the American Revolution? Why was slavery abolished in the North but not in the entire nation?
What were the basic features of the new Constitution, and how did they differ from the government under the articles of Confederation?
Should the Constitution be seen as a conservative reaction to the Revolution, an enshrinement of revolutionary principles, or both? What was the most truly original about the Constitution?
Chapter 10 – Launching the New Ship of State, 1789-1800
What were the most important issues facing the new federal government, and how did the Washington administration address them?
What were the philosophical and political disagreements between Hamilton and Jefferson that led to the creation of the first American political parties?
In foreign policy, the Federalists believed the United States needed to build a strong national state to pursue American interests in Europe and elsewhere, while the Republicans believed the country should turn inward, away from Europe and the West. Which was the wiser policy in 1800? Which view generally prevailed in the 19th Century, and why?
Chapter 11 – The Triumphs and Travails of the Jeffersonian Republic, 1800-1812
What was the significance of the Jeffersonian “Revolution of 1800” in relation to the new republican experiment and the fierce battles of the 1790’s?
What were the political and economic consequences of the Louisiana Purchase?
What were the real causes of the War of 1812? Was the declaration of war a ‘mistake’?, or the result of President Madison’s genuine fear that the American republican experiment could fail?
How could the key events of this period – the spread of Jeffersonian democracy, the Louisiana Purchase, and the new war with Britain – look in the eyes of the an American Indian leader like Tecumseh?
Thomas Jefferson prided himself on the principles of democracy, local self-rule, and limited government. How effectively did he and his friend and successor Madison transform those principles into policy? Could it be argued that Jefferson ironically laid the foundations for an imperial United States and a powerful federal government?
Chapter 12 – The Second War of Independence and the Upsurge of Nationalism, 1812-1824
What were the broad consequences of the War of 1812?
How did the forces of nationalism compete with sectional interests in the economic and judicial struggles of the period?
Was the Monroe Doctrine fundamentally consistent with the isolationist principles established by George Washington in his Neutrality Proclamation and Farewell Address? Or did it foreshadow America’s growing willingness to assert its national power, even at the risk of conflict with European powers?
Discuss the role of Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun and Daniel Webster in the events and issues of the period 1815-1824. Is it valid to see Clay as spokesman for the West, Webster for the North, and Calhoun for the South?
Chapter 13 – The Rise of Mass Democracy, 1824-1840
Discuss the attitudes, policies and events that led to the “Trail of Tears’ Indian removal in 1837.
Why was Andrew Jackson such a personally powerful embodiment of the new mass democracy in the 1820’s and 1830’s? Would mass democracy have developed without a popular hero like Jackson?
Argue for or against : the “Texas Revolution” against Mexico was more about the expansion of American slavery into the West than it was about the rights of settlers in Mexico.
Compare the two-party political system of the 1830’s “New Democracy” with the first two-party system of the early Republic. In what ways were the two systems similar, and in what ways were they different? Were both parties of the 1830s correct in seeing themselves as heirs of the Jeffersonian Republican tradition rather than the Hamilton Federalist tradition?
Chapter 14 – Forging the National Economy, 1790-1860
In America, early industrialization, westward expansion, and growing sectional tension all occurred at the same time. How was the development of the economy before the Civil War related to both the westward movement and increasing sectional conflict?
What was the impact of the new economic developments on the role of women in society?
Chapter 15 – The Ferment of Reform and Culture, 1790 – 1860
What major changes in American religion occurred in the early 19th Century, and how did they reflect the spirit of American democracy and liberty?
How did the first American feminists propose altering the condition of women, and what success did they have?
In what ways were the movements of American religion, reform and culture an outgrowth of the American Revolution and American independence, and in what ways did they reflect qualities of American life reaching back to the Puritans?
What were the successes and failures of the many American reform movements of the early 19th century? Was the failure of some of them (eg. Peace reforms) due to entrenched social conservatism, or to weaknesses in the movements themselves?
Chapter 16 – The South and the Slavery Controversy, 1793-1860
Describe the complex structure of southern society. What role did plantation owners, small slaveholders, independent white farmers, poor whites, free blacks and black slaves each have in the southern social order.
How did the reliance on cotton production and slavery affect the South economically, socially and morally, how did this reliance affect its relations with the North?
If you were an ordinary northern citizen in the 1830s or 1840s, what would you have proposed to do about the central American problem of slavery, and why? Would either William Lloyd Garrison’s radical abolitionism or Frederick Douglass’s political abolitionism have appealed to you? Were any other ‘solutions’ attractive or plausible?
Chapter 17 – Manifest Destiny and Its Legacy, 1841-1848
What led to the rise of the spirit of “Manifest Destiny” in the 1840s, and how did that spirit show itself in the American expansionism of the decade?
What were the causes and consequences of the Mexican War?
Chapter 18 – Renewing the Sectional Struggle, 1848-1854
What urgent issues created the crisis leading up to the Compromise of 1850?
What fundamentally motivated the new American engagement with China and Japan in the 1840s and 1850s? Were the treaties negotiated by Caleb Cushing and Matthew Perry expressions of the expansionist spirit of “manifest destiny” and general Western imperialism, or were Americans genuinely interested in economic and cultural exchange with East Asia?
What were the causes and consequences of the Kansas – Nebraska Act?
How similar was the compromise of 1850 to the Missouri Compromise of 1820? How did each sectional compromise affect the balance of power between North and South? Why could sectional issues be compromised in 1820 and 1850, but not in 1854?
Chapter 19 – Drifting Toward Disunion, 1854 – 1861
How did each of the crisis events of the 1850s help lead toward the Civil War?
How did the North and South each view the various events of the 1850’s? Why were the views so different?
Explain the crucial role of Stephen A. Douglas in the political events of the 1850s. Why did Douglas’s attempts to push the conflict over slavery out of sight fail? What role did Douglas play in the election of 1860?
Chapter 20 – Girding for War : The North and the South, 1861-1865
How did the Civil War change from a limited war to preserve the Union into a ‘total war’ to abolish slavery?
Some historians have called the Civil War ‘the Second American Revolution’. What was ‘revolutionary’ about the political, social and economic conduct of the war?
Some historians have argued that the North’s inherent superiority in manpower and industrial strength made its victory in the Civil War inevitable from the beginning. Would you agree or disagree? Why?
Chapter 21 – The Furnace of Civil War, 1861-1865
What were the primary military strategies of each side, and how did each side attempt to carry them out?
What were the key military and political turning points of the war? Why did the South hold onto hopes of winning its goals as late as 1864 and even early 1865?
Did the South’s best chances for victory lie on the battlefield, or in the hopes of political disillusionment in the North? Was there any chance that Confederate independence could have been won as late as the fall of 1864?
Were the costs of the Civil War worth the results to the nation as a whole? What issues were settled by the war, and what new problems were created?
Chapter 22 – The Ordeal of Reconstruction, 1865-1877
What were the major problems facing the South and the nation after the Civil War? How did Reconstruction address them, or fail to do so?
What did the attempt at black political empowerment achieve? Why did it finally fail? Could it have succeeded with a stronger Northern political will behind it?
Why did Reconstruction apparently fail so badly? Was the failure primarily one of immediate political circumstances, or was it more deeply rooted in the history of American sectional and race relations?
What was the success of Reconstruction? Would you agree with historians who argue that even if Reconstruction failed at the time, it laid the foundations for the later successes of the civil rights movement?
Chapter 23 – Political Paralysis in the Gilded Age, 1869-1896
What caused the end of Reconstruction? What did the North and South each gain from the Compromise of 1877?
What were the causes and political results of the rise of agrarian protest in the 1880s and 1890s? Why were the Populists’ attempts to form a coalition of white and black farmers and industrial workers ultimately unsuccessful?
What made politics in the Gilded Age extremely popular – with over 80 percent voter participation – yet so often corrupt and unconcerned with issues?
Was the apparent failure of the American political system to address the industrial conflicts of the Gilded Age a result of the two parties’ poor leadership and narrow self-interest, or was it simply the natural inability of a previously agrarian, local, democratic nation to face up to a modern, national industrial economy?
Chapter 24 – Industry Comes of Age, 1865-1900
What was the impact of the transcontinental rail system on the American economy and society in the late 19th Century?
How did the huge industrial trusts develop in industries such as steel and oil, and what was their effect on the economy?
What was the effect of the new industrial revolution on American laborers, and how did various labor organizations attempt to respond to the new conditions?
Compare and contrast the new industrialization on the North and the South. Why was the “New South” more a slogan than a reality?
Chapter 25 – America Moves to the City, 1865-1900
What new social problems did urbanization create? How did Americans respond to these problems?
How was American religion affected by the urban transformation, the New Immigration, and cultural and intellectual changes?
How did American social criticism, imaginative writing, and art all relate to the urban industrial changes of the late 19th Century?
How and why did women assume a larger place in American society at this time? How were changes in their condition related to changes in both the family and the larger social order?
Chapter 26 – The Great West and the Agricultural Revolution, 1865-1896
The settlement of the ‘Great West’ and the farmers’ revolt occurred at the same time as the rise of industrialism and the growth of American cities. To what extent were the defeat of the Indians, the destruction and exploitation of western resources, and the populist revolt of the farmers caused by the Gilded Age forces of industrialization and urbanization?
What were the major issues in the crucial campaign of 1896? Why did McKinley win, and what were the long-term effects of his victory?
Chapter 27 – Empire and Expansion, 1890-1909
What were the key arguments for and against US imperialism?
What were the essential principles of Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policy, and how did he apply them to specific situations?
Discuss US imperialism in East Asia.
Chapter 28 – Progressivism and the Republican Roosevelt, 1901-1912
What caused the progressive movement, and what did it accomplish at the local, state and national levels?
What made women such central forces in the progressive crusade? What specific backgrounds and ideologies did they bring to the public arena? What were the strengths and limitations of the progressive emphasis on providing special protection to children and women?
If it is true that progressivism was largely a movement of the middle classes, was that a source of strength or weakness for its ideology and social policies?
Chapter 29 – Wilsonian Progressivism at Home and Abroad, 1912-1916
What were the essential qualities of Wilson’s presidential leadership, and how did he display them in 1913-14?
What were the causes and consequences of US entanglement with Mexico in the wake of the Mexican Revolution? Could the US have avoided involvement in Mexican affairs?
How did Wilson’s foreign policy differ from that of the other great progressive president, Roosevelt? Which president was more effective in foreign policy…and why?
Why was America so determined to stay out of World War I during the early years of the conflict? What were the factors that gradually turned the government and the majority of Americans against Germany?
Chapter 30 – The War to End War, 1917-1918
What was America’s military and ideological contribution to the Allied victory?
How was Wilson forced to compromise during the peace negotiations, and why did America in the end refuse to ratify the treaty and join the League of Nations?
Do you agree that the primary responsibility for the failure of America to join the League of Nations lies with Wilson rather than his opponents?
Chapter 31 – American Life in the ‘Roaring Twenties’, 1919-1929
How and why did America turn to toward domestic isolation and social conservatism in the 1920’s?
Why was immigration, which had existed for many generations, seen as such a great threat to American identity and culture in the 1920’s?
How did some of the events of the 1920s reflect national conflicts over social, cultural and religious values?
Chapter 32 – The Politics of Boom and Bust, 1920-1932
What basic economic and political policies were pursued by the conservative Republican administrations of the 1920s?
What weakness existed beneath the surface of the general 1920s prosperity, and how did they weaknesses help cause the Great Depression?
Why were liberal or ‘progressive’ politics so weak in the 1920s? Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of La Follette and Smith as challengers to the Republicans in 1924 and 1928.
What were the effects of the Great Depression on the American people, and how did President Hoover attempt to balance his belief in ‘rugged individualism’ with the economic necessities of the time? Why do historians today tend to see Hoover as a more tragic figure than people of the time, who bitterly denounced him?
Chapter 33 – The Great Depression and the New Deal, 1933-1939
What qualities did FDR bring to the presidency, and how did he display them during the New Deal years? What particular role did Eleanor Roosevelt play in FDR’s political success?
Was the New Deal essentially a conservative attempt to save American capitalism from collapse, a radical change in traditional American anti-government beliefs, or a moderate liberal response to a unique crisis?
Critics of the New Deal have often pointed out that it did not really solve the great Depression problem of unemployment; only World War II did that. Did the New Deal’s other positive effects – eg, in Social Security, labor rights, and regulation of the stock market – counter balance it’s inability to overcome the central problem of unemployment?
Chapter 34 – Franklin D Roosevelt and the Shadow of War, 1933-1941
How and why did the US attempt to isolate itself from foreign troubles in the early and mid 1930’s?
Was American entry into World War II with both Germany and Japan inevitable? Is it possible the US might have been able to fight either Germany or Japan, while avoiding armed conflict with another?
How did the process of American entry into World War II compare with the way the country got into WW I? How were the Neutrality Acts aimed at the conditions of 1914-17, and why did they prove ineffective under the conditions of the 1930’s?
Chapter 35 – America in World War II, 1941-1945
What effects did World War II have on the American economy? What role did American industry and agriculture play in the war?
How did the US and its allies develop and carry out their strategy for defeating Italy, Germany and Japan?
Discuss the effects of WW II on women and on racial and ethnic minorities. Is it accurate to see the war as a key turning point in the movement toward equality for some or all of these groups?
Compare America’s role in World War I – domestically, militarily, and diplomatically – with its role in World War II. What accounts for the differences in America’s participation in the two wars?
Chapter 36 – The Cold War Begins, 1945-1952
How and why did the American economy soar from 1950 to 1970?
What were the immediate conflicts and deeper causes that led the US and the USSR to go from being allies to bitter Cold War rivals?
Explain the steps that led to the long-term involvement of the United States in major overseas military commitments, including NATO and the Korean War. How did expanding military power and the Cold War affect American society and ideas?
Was the early Cold War primarily an ideological crusade of democracy against ‘international communism’ and its totalitarian ideas, or was it essentially an American defense of its national security and economic interests against the direct threat of the Soviet Union? Support your answer by considering some of the key events of the early Cold War, including the Korean War.
Chapter 37, 1952-1960
In what ways was the Eisenhower era a time of caution and conservatism, and in what ways was it a time of dynamic economic, social and cultural change?
What were the dynamics of the Cold War with the USSR in the 1950s, and how did Eisenhower and Khrushchev combine confrontation and conversation in their relationship?
Argue for or against : American politics, society and culture in the 1950s were all stagnant and narrow, and did not address the real social problems facing the country.
Chapter 38, The Stormy Sixties, 1960-1968
What were Johnson’s major domestic achievements, and why did they come to be overshadowed?
Why did the Vietnam War, and the domestic opposition to it, come to dominate American politics in the 1960s?
What led the US to become so deeply involved in the Vietnam War?
Chapter 39 – The Stalemated Seventies, 1968-1980
Was the Nixon- Kissinger foreign policy of détente with the USSR and engagement with Communist China fundamentally a great success? How does the failed end of the Vietnam War color the assessment of Nixon’s overall diplomatic achievements?
In what ways did Nixon’s domestic policies appeal to Americans’ racial and economic fears, and in what ways did he positively address problems like inflation, discrimination and pollution?
Why can the 1970s be characterized as a ‘decade of stalemate’? What caused the apparent inability of the federal government to cope with the new problems of the time?
In what ways were the foreign policy and economic issues of the 1970s similar to those of the whole post-WW II era, and in what ways were they different?
Chapter 40 – The Resurgence of Conservatism, 1981-1992
What caused the rise of Reagan and the ‘new right’ in the eighties, and how did their conservative movement re-shape American politics?
What led to the revival of the Cold War in the early 1980s, and how did Ronald Regan turn the conflict with the USSR to American advantage?
Describe the major changes affecting US foreign policy from 1980 to 1992 in Central America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Which of these changes occurred as a result of American policy and which occurred primarily as a result of developments within those regions?
Was the first Persian Gulf War fundamentally based on America’s ‘Wilsonian’ foreign policy of promoting democracy, liberty and self-determination for small nations or was it primarily a defense of national self-interest?
Chapter 41 – America Confronts the Post-Cold War Era, 1992-2004
What new foreign policy challenges did the United States face after the end of the Cold War? What were the principal themes of US relations with the world in the Clinton administration?
Argue for or against : The presidential election of 2000, despite its controversies, demonstrated the strength and resiliency of America’s democracy.
Why was their so much anti-government rhetoric, political action, and even violence in the 1990s? To what extent did the Clinton administration attempt to counter this mood, and to what extent did it bend to it?
What caused the increased polarization in American politics in the early 2000s? Is it appropriate to align this polarization with the two political parties and their respective strengths in ‘red states’ and ‘blue states’? Are there significant issues that have not been affected by this political polarization?
Chapter 42 – The American People Face a New Century
What were the consequences of the dramatically changed American economy in the 1990s? What caused the rapidly increasing gap between rich and poor in this period?
How did women’s new economic opportunities affect American society? What barriers to women’s complete economic equality proved most difficult to overcome?
How does the relative ‘uniqueness’ of America’s history and culture affect its relationship to such increasingly international issues as economic development, the environment, immigration and terrorism?