three things everyone should know about american history

For each unit, you will choose one event, historical figure, idea, or movement, etc., that you think is vital for anyone who wants to understand American History from the arrival of humans on the continent to 1877. This will require you to do some research and a lot of thinking about why we learn what we learn about American history–and how what we learn can shape our worldview (see: Editorial Assignment). For each of the “Three Things,” you will need to write a 1.5- to 2-page description of the “thing,” which includes an explanation as to why “everyone should know” it. What importance does the “thing” have to our present? How can it open someone’s eyes to new understandings of our past, and how can it shift their perspective on contemporary events? I want this assignment to help you learn more about how you have learned history before this class, and how to articulate the significance of history to the present.

Choose one “thing” from each unit (prehistory to 1754; 1754-1848; and 1820-1877). Identify two to four appropriate, relevant primary and secondary sources to deepen your understanding of your topic. Write a description of your chosen subject and then argue for its importance in understanding American history. You should cite any secondary sources when drawing ideas directly from them, and you should integrate any primary sources into your analysis to give it greater historical grounding.

I recommend at least beginning this process at the close of each unit, when you have a sense of the whole and what interested you most in it. You will have to do this at least once by the latter half of the semester to complete the “Editorial” assignment. My intention is for you to work on this during the semester so that completing the final during the last week will not be too onerous.

You should also write a half- to one-page introduction and a conclusion of a similar length to tie the three things into a coherent argument about American history and how we understand it. Thus, your final should range between 5.5 and 8 pages in length (double-spaced, 12-point font, one-inch margins) and should include some direct citations.

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