American History

From Pre-Columbian to the New Millennium

The word history comes from the Greek word historía which means "to learn or know by inquiry." In the pieces that follow, we encourage you to probe, dispute, dig deeper — inquire. History is not static. It's fluid. It changes and grows and becomes richer and more complex when any individual interacts with it.

Knowledge of history is empowering. An event is but the furthest ripple of an ever-expanding wave that may have started eddying outward hundreds of years ago. One who "sees" history is able to harness the power of that wave's entire journey.

Finally, the best history has at its foundation a story. A printer challenges a King and so is laid the foundation of the first amendment; a New Jersey miner finds gold in California and sets off a torrent of movement westward; a woman going home from work does not relinquish her seat and a Civil Rights movement explodes.

These stories all help to ask the question, "What is an American?" You'll help to answer that question.

  1. Native American Society on the Eve of British Colonization
    1. Diversity of Native American Groups
    2. The Anasazi
    3. The Algonkian Tribes
    4. The Iroquois Tribes
  2. Britain in the New World
    1. Early Ventures Fail
    2. Joint-Stock Companies
    3. Jamestown Settlement and the "Starving Time"
    4. The Growth of the Tobacco Trade
    5. War and Peace with Powhatan's People
    6. The House of Burgesses
  3. The New England Colonies
    1. The Mayflower and Plymouth Colony
    2. William Bradford and the First Thanksgiving
    3. Massachusetts Bay — "The City Upon a Hill"
    4. Puritan Life
    5. Dissent in Massachusetts Bay
    6. Reaching to Connecticut
    7. Witchcraft in Salem
  4. The Middle Colonies
    1. New Netherland to New York
    2. Quakers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey
    3. City of Brotherly Love — Philadelphia
    4. The Ideas of Benjamin Franklin
  5. The Southern Colonies
    1. Maryland — The Catholic Experiment
    2. Indentured Servants
    3. Creating the Carolinas
    4. Debtors in Georgia
    5. Life in the Plantation South
  6. African Americans in the British New World
    1. West African Society at the Point of European Contact
    2. "The Middle Passage"
    3. The Growth of Slavery
    4. Slave Life on the Farm and in the Town
    5. Free African Americans in the Colonial Era
    6. "Slave Codes"
    7. A New African-American Culture
  7. The Beginnings of Revolutionary Thinking
    1. The Impact of Enlightenment in Europe
    2. The Great Awakening
    3. The Trial of John Peter Zenger
    4. Smuggling
    5. A Tradition of Rebellion
    6. "What Is the American?"
  8. America's Place in the Global Struggle
    1. New France
    2. The French and Indian War
    3. George Washington's Background and Experience
    4. The Treaty of Paris (1763) and Its Impact
  9. The Events Leading to Independence
    1. The Royal Proclamation of 1763
    2. The Stamp Act Controversy
    3. The Boston Patriots
    4. The Townshend Acts
    5. The Boston Massacre
    6. The Tea Act and Tea Parties
    7. The Intolerable Acts
  10. E Pluribus Unum
    1. Stamp Act Congress
    2. Sons and Daughters of Liberty
    3. Committees of Correspondence
    4. First Continental Congress
    5. Second Continental Congress
    6. Thomas Paine's Common Sense
    7. The Declaration of Independence
  11. The American Revolution
    1. American and British Strengths and Weaknesses
    2. Loyalists, Fence-sitters, and Patriots
    3. Lexington and Concord
    4. Bunker Hill
    5. The Revolution on the Home Front
    6. Washington at Valley Forge
    7. The Battle of Saratoga
    8. The French Alliance
    9. Yorktown and the Treaty of Paris
  12. Societal Impacts of the American Revolution
    1. The Impact of Slavery
    2. A Revolution in Social Law
    3. Political Experience
    4. "Republican Motherhood"
  13. When Does the Revolution End?
    1. The Declaration of Independence and Its Legacy
    2. The War Experience: Soldiers, Officers, and Civilians
    3. The Loyalists
    4. Revolutionary Changes and Limitations: Slavery
    5. Revolutionary Changes and Limitations: Women
    6. Revolutionary Limits: Native Americans
    7. Revolutionary Achievement: Yeomen and Artisans
    8. The Age of Atlantic Revolutions
  14. Making Rules
    1. State Constitutions
    2. Articles of Confederation
    3. Evaluating the Congress
    4. The Economic Crisis of the 1780s
  15. Drafting the Constitution
    1. Shays' Rebellion
    2. A Cast of National Superstars
    3. The Tough Issues
    4. Constitution Through Compromise
  16. Ratifying the Constitution
    1. Federalists
    2. Antifederalists
    3. The Ratification Process: State by State
    4. After the Fact: Virginia, New York, and "The Federalist Papers"
    5. The Antifederalists' Victory in Defeat
  17. George Washington
    1. Growing up in Colonial Virginia
    2. The Force of Personality and Military Command
    3. The First Administration
    4. Farewell Address
    5. Mount Vernon and the Dilemma of a Revolutionary Slave Holder
  18. Unsettled Domestic Issues
    1. The Bill of Rights
    2. Hamilton's Financial Plan
    3. Growing Opposition
    4. U.S. Military Defeat; Indian Victory in the West
    5. Native American Resilience and Violence in the West
  19. Politics in Transition: Public Conflict in the 1790s
    1. Trans-Atlantic Crisis: The French Revolution
    2. Negotiating with the Superpowers
    3. Two Parties Emerge
    4. The Adams Presidency
    5. The Alien and Sedition Acts
    6. The Life and Times of John Adams
  20. Jeffersonian America: A Second Revolution?
    1. The Election of 1800
    2. Jeffersonian Ideology
    3. Westward Expansion: The Louisiana Purchase
    4. A New National Capital: Washington, D.C.
    5. A Federalist Stronghold: John Marshall's Supreme Court
    6. Gabriel's Rebellion: Another View of Virginia in 1800
  21. The Expanding Republic and the War of 1812
    1. The Importance of the West
    2. Exploration: Lewis and Clark
    3. Diplomatic Challenges in an Age of European War
    4. Native American Resistance in the Trans-Appalachian West
    5. The Second War for American Independence
    6. Claiming Victory from Defeat
  22. Social Change and National Development
    1. Economic Growth and the Early Industrial Revolution
    2. Cotton and African-American Life
    3. Religious Transformation and the Second Great Awakening
    4. Institutionalizing Religious Belief: The Benevolent Empire
    5. New Roles for White Women
    6. Early National Arts and Cultural Independence
  23. Politics and the New Nation
    1. The Era of Good Feelings and the Two-Party System
    2. The Expansion of the Vote: A White Man's Democracy
    3. The Missouri Compromise
    4. The 1824 Election and the "Corrupt Bargain"
    5. John Quincy Adams
    6. Jacksonian Democracy and Modern America
  24. The Age of Jackson
    1. The Rise of the Common Man
    2. A Strong Presidency
    3. The South Carolina Nullification Controversy
    4. The War Against the Bank
    5. Jackson vs. Clay and Calhoun
    6. The Trail of Tears — The Indian Removals
  25. The Rise of American Industry
    1. The Canal Era
    2. Early American Railroads
    3. Inventors and Inventions
    4. The First American Factories
    5. The Emergence of "Women's Sphere"
    6. Irish and German Immigration
  26. An Explosion of New Thought
    1. Religious Revival
    2. Experiments with Utopia
    3. Women's Rights
    4. Prison and Asylum Reform
    5. Hudson River School Artists
    6. Transcendentalism, An American Philosophy
  27. The Peculiar Institution
    1. The Crowning of King Cotton
    2. Slave Life and Slave Codes
    3. The Plantation & Chivalry
    4. Free(?) African-Americans
    5. Rebellions on and off the Plantation
    6. The Southern Argument for Slavery
  28. Abolitionist Sentiment Grows
    1. William Lloyd Garrison and The Liberator
    2. African-American Abolitionists
    3. The Underground Railroad
    4. Harriet Beecher Stowe — Uncle Tom's Cabin
  29. Manifest Destiny
    1. The Lone Star Republic
    2. 54° 40' or Fight
    3. "American Blood on American Soil"
    4. The Mexican-American War
    5. Gold in California
  30. An Uneasy Peace
    1. Wilmot's Proviso
    2. Popular Sovereignty
    3. Three Senatorial Giants: Clay, Calhoun and Webster
    4. The Compromise of 1850
  31. "Bloody Kansas"
    1. The Kansas-Nebraska Act
    2. Border Ruffians
    3. The Sack of Lawrence
    4. The Pottawatomie Creek Massacre
    5. Canefight! Preston Brooks and Charles Sumner
  32. From Uneasy Peace to Bitter Conflict
    1. The Dred Scott Decision
    2. The Lincoln-Douglas Debates
    3. John Brown's Raid
    4. The Election of 1860
    5. The South Secedes
  33. A House Divided
    1. Fort Sumter
    2. Strengths and Weaknesses: North vs. South
    3. First Blood and Its Aftermath
    4. Sacred Beliefs
    5. Bloody Antietam
    6. Of Generals and Soldiers
    7. Gettysburg: High Watermark of the Confederacy
    8. Northern Plans to End the War
    9. The Road to Appomattox
  34. The War Behind the Lines
    1. The Emancipation Proclamation
    2. Wartime Diplomacy
    3. The Northern Homefront
    4. The Southern Homefront
    5. The Election of 1864
    6. The Assassination of the President
  35. Reconstruction
    1. Presidential Reconstruction
    2. Radical Reconstruction
    3. A President Impeached
    4. Rebuilding the Old Order
  36. The Gilded Age
    1. Binding the Nation by Rail
    2. The New Tycoons: John D. Rockefeller
    3. The New Tycoons: Andrew Carnegie
    4. The New Tycoons: J. Pierpont Morgan
    5. New Attitudes Toward Wealth
    6. Politics of the Gilded Age
  37. Organized Labor
    1. The Great Upheaval
    2. Labor vs. Management
    3. Early National Organizations
    4. American Federation of Labor
    5. Eugene V. Debs and American Socialism
  38. From the Countryside to the City
    1. The Glamour of American Cities
    2. The Underside of Urban Life
    3. The Rush of Immigrants
    4. Corruption Runs Wild
    5. Religious Revival: The "Social Gospel"
    6. Artistic and Literary Trends
  39. New Dimensions in Everyday Life
    1. Education
    2. Sports and Leisure
    3. Women in the Gilded Age
    4. Victorian Values in a New Age
    5. The Print Revolution
  40. Closing the Frontier
    1. The Massacre at Sand Creek
    2. Custer's Last Stand
    3. The End of Resistance
    4. Life on the Reservations
    5. The Wounded Knee Massacre
  41. Western Folkways
    1. The Mining Boom
    2. The Ways of the Cowboy
    3. Life on the Farm
    4. The Growth of Populism
    5. The Election of 1896
  42. Progressivism Sweeps the Nation
    1. Roots of the Movement
    2. Muckrakers
    3. Women's Suffrage at Last
    4. Booker T. Washington
    5. W. E. B. DuBois
  43. Progressives in the White House
    1. Teddy Roosevelt: The Rough Rider in the White House
    2. The Trust Buster
    3. A Helping Hand for Labor
    4. Preserving the Wilderness
    5. Passing the Torch
    6. The Election of 1912
    7. Woodrow Wilson's New Freedom
  44. Seeking Empire
    1. Early Stirrings
    2. Hawaiian Annexation
    3. "Remember the Maine!"
    4. The Spanish-American War and Its Consequences
    5. The Roosevelt Corollary and Latin America
    6. Reaching to Asia
    7. The Panama Canal
  45. America in the First World War
    1. Farewell to Isolation
    2. Over There
    3. Over Here
    4. The Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations
  46. The Decade That Roared
    1. The Age of the Automobile
    2. The Fight Against "Demon Rum"
    3. The Invention of the Teenager
    4. Flappers
    5. The Harlem Renaissance
    6. A Consumer Economy
    7. Radio Fever
    8. Fads and Heroes
  47. Old Values vs. New Values
    1. The Red Scare
    2. The Monkey Trial
    3. Intolerance
    4. Books and Movies
    5. Domestic and International Politics
  48. The Great Depression
    1. The Market Crashes
    2. Sinking Deeper and Deeper: 1929-33
    3. The Bonus March
    4. Hoover's Last Stand
    5. Social and Cultural Effects of the Depression
  49. The New Deal
    1. A Bank Holiday
    2. Putting People Back to Work
    3. The Farming Problem
    4. Social Security
    5. FDR's Alphabet Soup
    6. Roosevelt's Critics
    7. An Evaluation of the New Deal
  50. The Road to Pearl Harbor
    1. 1930s Isolationism
    2. Reactions to a Troubled World
    3. War Breaks Out
    4. The Arsenal of Democracy
    5. Pearl Harbor
  51. America in the Second World War
    1. Wartime Strategy
    2. The American Homefront
    3. D-Day and the German Surrender
    4. War in the Pacific
    5. Japanese-American Internment
    6. The Manhattan Project
    7. The Decision to Drop the Bomb
  52. Postwar Challenges
    1. The Cold War Erupts
    2. The United Nations
    3. Containment and the Marshall Plan
    4. The Berlin Airlift and NATO
    5. The Korean War
    6. Domestic Challenges
  53. The 1950s: Happy Days
    1. McCarthyism
    2. Suburban Growth
    3. Land of Television
    4. America Rocks and Rolls
    5. The Cold War Continues
    6. Voices against Conformity
  54. A New Civil Rights Movement
    1. Separate No Longer?
    2. Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott
    3. Showdown in Little Rock
    4. The Sit-In Movement
    5. Gains and Pains
    6. Martin Luther King Jr.
    7. The Long, Hot Summers
    8. Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam
    9. Black Power
  55. The Vietnam War
    1. Early Involvement
    2. Years of Escalation: 1965-68
    3. The Tet Offensive
    4. The Antiwar Movement
    5. Years of Withdrawal
  56. Politics from Camelot to Watergate
    1. The Election of 1960
    2. Kennedy's New Frontier
    3. Kennedy's Global Challenges
    4. Kennedy Assassination
    5. Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society"
    6. 1968: Year of Unraveling
    7. Triangular Diplomacy: U.S., USSR, and China
  57. Shaping a New America
    1. Modern Feminism
    2. The Fight for Reproductive Rights
    3. The Equal Rights Amendment
    4. Roe v. Wade and Its Impact
    5. Environmental Reform
    6. Others Demand Equality
    7. Student Activism
    8. Flower Power
  58. A Time of Malaise
    1. Undoing a President
    2. The Sickened Economy
    3. Foreign Woes
    4. Finding Oneself
    5. The New Right
  59. The Reagan Years
    1. "Morning in America"
    2. Reaganomics
    3. Foreign and Domestic Entanglements
    4. Life in the 1980s
    5. The End of the Cold War
  60. Toward a New Millennium
    1. Operation Desert Storm
    2. A Baby Boomer in the White House
    3. Republicans vs. Democrats
    4. Living in the Information Age
    5. The End of the American Century
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Meet the Historians

These renowned historians and experts chatted with students online. Read the transcripts.

Carol Berkin
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Ira Berlin
Joseph Ellis
Thomas Jefferson
James Loewen
Debunking History
Jon Nese
The weather
Robert Regan
Edgar Allan Poe
Robert Remini
The Jacksonian Era
Brooks Simpson
U.S. Grant and Reconstruction
David Traxel
Errol Uys
Riding the Rails
Cheryl Walker
Native American Lit
Mike Wilson
Jack London
Gordon Wood
American Revolution