Period 1: 1491 - 1607
01 Introduction to Ap united states history
Before we begin studying United States History, it’s important to know a.) some classroom procedures, and b.) some tools necessary for making sure we all play by the same rules. So for our first lesson, we’ll discuss the best way for you to navigate the course. But also equip you with some tools that will help you dive into the material in a meaningful way. Finally, we’ll discuss a question central to this course: “What does it mean to be an American?”
02 the first americans
When you hear the words The First Americans, images of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson or John Adams might come to mind. If you are really clever, maybe images of the Pilgrims stepping off the Mayflower or John Smith building Jamestown. But not only were they not the first Americans, they weren’t even the first Europeans. And they certainly weren’t the first people. The First Americans colonized the New World around 13,000 years ago from Asia. They quickly divided into subgroups that covered both American continents and numbered into the tens of millions. Some of them even built sprawling empires.
03 the first europeans
Desperate to keep trades routes open, Europeans went looking for daring and dangerous new routes to Asia in the 15th Century. Some sailed around Africa. Others brokered deals with the Muslims. But one very lucky Italian is going to do the thing no one else would be crazy (or stupid) enough to do. He’s going to sail west with the knowledge that the Earth is round, and the belief that Asia could be approached from the other side. What he found when he got there would change the world forever.
04 native empires
Contrary to popular media, Native Americans were as diverse a people as any in the world. And in that diversity grew Empires that would have rivaled the likes of Rome. Some of these sprang up and flourished, then disappeared suddenly. Others were among the first to interact with exploring Europeans, who mostly looked to exploit the land of gold and silver. Their interactions were mostly violent, and the beginning of a long tragic story Americans are still trying to live with and understand.
Period 2: 1607 - 1754
05 early colonization
Adventure, wealth, persecution and sometimes folly were only a small fraction of the reasons Europeans sought a new life in the new world. At first, most Europeans struggled to even to eat in America. But they did eventually lay the groundwork necessary for the survival of the colonies that came after them. Colonists had to decide what their interactions with Native Americans are going to look like. Some of them were peaceful and cooperative. Most of them weren’t. But their interactions beg a question that goes to the heart of the American identity, can you colonize land on which people already live?
06 the british colonies
England was embarrassingly late to the game in terms of colonizing the new world. By the time their first successful colony learned to feed itself, Spain had been there for a hundred years and stretched from South America to Mexico. France had claimed everything from Canada to Oregon, back down to Louisiana. Yet, 13 colonies on the eastern coastline will begin to swell into millions of people. And these descendants of the English will begin to question whether or not a King or parliament that lives thousands of miles away has any right to tell them how to conduct themselves.
Period 3: 1754 - 1800
07 the french and indian war
As the Seven Years War rages on, the colonies of France and Britain are drawn into the conflict all over the world. The North American front of this war was soon called by the locals The French and Indian War. As the French and English killed each other for a claim to land, Indians found themselves caught between two foreign invaders. The Seven Years War demonstrated how small the world had become. But even as the world grew closer together, the English and American governments began growing further and further apart. The French and Indian War laid the groundwork for one of the most daring rebellions in history.
08 the american revolution
Veterans of the French and Indian War soon after found themselves embroiled in a conflict with their mother country. A country none of them recognized anymore. With no representation in parliament, and Mad King George on the throne, the patriots of the American Revolution took the first steps toward a grand experiment: the audacity of equality, and the right of the people to rule themselves.
09 a new government
Everyone wants a revolution. But no one stops to ask the most important question of any revolution. When the smoke settles and the tyrants are gone, what do we do now? The Americans quickly realized that winning the war was the easy part. Who is equal in our equal society? How free is too free? What are the rules? Do we even want rules? Are presidents just kings that we choose for ourselves? In the following decades, with the world watching, the United States would lay the groundwork for what would become known as Republican-Democracy.
Period 4: 1800 - 1848
10 the revolution of 1800
During the election of 1800, after 12 years of Federalist control, the ignored and marginalized Thomas Jefferson finally got a chance to mold America in his vision. A vision that was more rural, more democratic and arguably more free. But the complicated Jefferson that wrote “all men are created equal” while owning slaves, will bring the same duality to his presidency. A man defined by his principles, yet compromised by his pragmatism.
11 the war of 1812
Henry Clay described the War of 1812 as, “the only war Americans had to be talked into.” The causes of the war are complicated, and its outcome even more so. But the War of 1812 will cement the United States of America as a sovereign nation, as well as help shape our identity. If the American Revolution was the fight to attain freedom, the War of 1812 was the fight to keep it.
12 the age of jackson
A veteran of the War of 1812, Andrew Jackson in many ways embodies both the greatest and lowest of our American values. An intense racist that showed unbelievable compassion to his slaves. A man of the people a little too wealthy for that title. A powerful autocrat that oversaw the second largest expansion of voting rights in our history. A man of uncompromising integrity with a scandal plagued administration. Jackson laid the groundwork for massive expansions of freedom. He also laid the groundwork for one of the most infamous crimes in American history.
13 Manifest destiny pt. 1
The shape and status of the United States is largely undisputed today, but has this always been the case? How did 13 colonies create a country that literally stretched from coastline to coastline? The Atlantic to the Pacific. The drive to occupy this land is complicated, fed by racist bigotries, religious zeal, economic need and even struggling families simply looking for a better a life. The destiny of America is controversially tied to Manifest Destiny, whether we accept it or not.
14 the mexican - american war
As the United States attempts to fulfill its “Manifest Destiny”, they were bound to run into parties opposed to the idea. To say that the United States had a complicated relationship with Mexico is a major understatement. Their ensuing conflict would shape the paths of both countries, including the object of their tension, the independent state of Texas.
Period 5: 1848 - 1877
15 free or slave
Perhaps more than 11 million Africans were brought to the new world, not in search of wealth or freedom, nor a new life escaping tyranny. But against their will, and as slaves. For nearly a century, the nation that set itself up as a “city on a hill” for democracy and role model of freedom would participate in one of the single most grotesque suspensions of freedom in all of history. Slavery is a blight on American history. A stain that continues to haunt the integrity of our greatest proclamation, that “all men are created equal.”
16 the civil war
A war 100 years in the making, slavery was a cancer. A cancer, that if left to its own would have killed the nation. For a nation trying to live up to its own ideals, it’s to that nation’s credit so many fought, including nearly 200,000 former slaves themselves, to bring our reality a little closer to our ideals. Perhaps the conflict can be summed up in the words of the nation’s president at the time, “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free… It will become all one thing, or all the other.”
The war to save the Union was now over. But the war for America’s soul was only beginning. Southern cities were destroyed, American lives had been sacrificed and a lot of bad blood still existed between the halves of a nation. The only way forward was to heal the physical and social wounds created by the war. Not to mention deal a death blow to the institution that started it: slavery.
Period 6: 1865 - 1898
18 manifest destiny pt. 2
With the doctrine of Manifest Destiny grabbing hold of the American identity, major pushes into the west are going to start to take place. This leads to confrontation with Native American groups and Mexico. But the ultimate consequence is the fulfillment of Manifest Destiny. The country finally stretches from ocean to ocean. The United States finally begins to take the shape that we currently see in the modern era. For better or worse.
19 the gilded age
From its conception, the United States had always been a nation of “hands-off” economic policy. This created a culture of innovation and industry. But in the late 1800s, the United States discovered a dark side to this unfettered and unregulated capitalism. This was the age of crony capitalism and robber barons. Wealthy businessmen moved the United States into a state of unprecedented technological achievement. While practicing a form of capitalism that quickly monopolized markets and became increasingly corrupt.
Period 7: 1890 - 1945
20 Teddy and imperialism
Imperialism is largely associated with Europe, but the United States had its own imperialist streak. Especially when it comes to Latin America. Whether it be to spread democracy, expand economic markets, or depose governments hostile to American interests, the United States has done some foreign meddling of its own, and the consequences have been somewhat of a mixed bag.
21 the progressive era
By the late 1800s, socialist movements began sweeping across the western world. They came in many flavors and denominations, but a moderate wing of the movement, known as progressives, began making progress in the United States, especially in the wake of crony capitalism. Minimum wages, weekend holidays, child labor laws and various other things modern workers take for granted came to pass during the progressive movement at the turn of the 19th century.
22 world war i
Clinging tightly to the Monroe Doctrine (isolationism), the United States was able to avoid most of the “The Great War”. But globalization, Geneva conventions, and general warmongering, eventually drew the United States into the conflict. We entered the geopolitical arena, and the country was never the same again.
23 the roaring twenties
The post World War I economy for the United States was one of unprecedented prosperity. The middle class emerged with the ability to buy luxuries, like automobiles, that had previously been reserved for the rich. Technology makes goods cheaper. Prohibition made alcohol taste sweeter. Markets made people richer. Amendments made women freer. And it felt like the party would never end.
24 the great depression
Still, the worst economic depression in our nation’s history, the Great Depression saw the collapse of the strongest economy in the world. How did this happen? It’s still difficult to say anything not controversial, but understanding the collapse is essential in discussing ways to prevent this level of widespread poverty from happening again.
25 world war II
World War II is hardly its own war. It’s merely the second part of the war that started in 1914. And the United States again finds itself a reluctant participant. At the start of the war, global players were a dime a dozen. But by the end of World War II, the United States finds itself thrust into history as it emerges as one of only two remaining superpowers.
Period 8: 1945 - 1980
26 cold war america
Nuclear weapons changed everything. For the first time in humanity’s history, complete and thorough self-annihilation was one bad decision away. The United States emerges from World War II as one of two superpowers. The United States must quickly decide what its role in this new world will be. Will the world be shaped in the image of America or the Soviet Union?
27 the civil rights movement
As the baby boomers grew up, deep wounds caused by racism, sexism and general oppression on minority groups began to fester. Some clung to the old world, and the old way of doing things. Some reacted with radical rhetoric and violence. But many stood against the injustices of the American legal system, while also showing the country a path forward. For the first time in American history, traditionally marginalized communities had a voice. And many used it.
Vietnam started as a small attempt to fulfill the Truman Doctrine, an attempt to contain communism. But we only later realized that the Vietnamese saw this not as a fight against communism, but a civil war. As a result, the United States had no clear exit strategy, and the war becomes a flash-point for radical social change back home. The war is still controversial to this day, as well as being remembered more for what it did to soldiers than what it did or did not accomplished.
Lance Morrow once said that, “1968 was one damn thing after another.” The collapse of our effort in Vietnam, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr, the race riots of the summer, the assassination of Robert Kennedy, the chaotic Democratic National Convention, and the election of Richard Nixon’s doomed administration. 1968 was a year that tested the values and resolve of the United States.
“When did the American public become so cynical?” is the frequent lament of many a media outlets. The short answer is the Nixon Administration. Nixon actually accomplished a great deal, including the historical opening of China and the creation of the EPA. But Nixon is hardly remembered for those things.
Period 9: 1980 - present
With the economy in its worst slump since the Great Depression, Carter was out, and Reagan was in. Love him or hate him, Ronald Reagan kicked off the modern love affair between the Christian Evangelicals and the political right, oversaw another economic boom, and weathered a scandal or two himself. His economic legacy is a complicated and controversial one, but he is still widely beloved by most in the Republican Party.
32 the 90's
After a decade out of power, the Democrats desperately needed a win, which they found in Bill Clinton of Arkansas. But the world and culture that Clinton finds when he gets to office is rapidly changing. Globalization, shock media, and terrorism are all powerful forces being fed by the emerging tech industry and a new fad: the internet.
33 the terror of 9/11
Bright-eyed and optimistic, the turn of the millennia brought with it a Republican Administration, a booming economy, and a new lease on life. America seemed invincible. Until four hijacked planes darkened the skies over New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, and challenged the United States in a way it had never been tested before.
34 a post racial society
00 years of America’s complicated relationship with the issue of race came to a surprising climax at the end of the new millennium's first decade. Forty-five years after Martin Luther King, Jr. declared he had a dream, “that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” the United States elected its first black president in Barack Obama. The United States had washed itself of its greatest sin: slavery. The United States could finally be a “post racial society”. Or, were we declaring victory too early?
35 trump's america
A biting indictment of the political elite, Donald Trump’s election was a surprise and enigma to all of the talking heads in the media. It was a grassroots and conservative movement that elected a Washington outsider who was going to “drain the swamp”. But critics say he is just a con man, and maybe a dangerous one at that. Will Trump shake Washington out of its apathy and corruption? Or is America playing chicken with history, with no one in the other car?