Choice of Questions



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Choice of Questions

History Standard 3 anticipates that students will understand how a historian’s “choice of questions” may effect his or her conclusions. Below are a series of questions that may be asked of various topics in American history.


Columbus

  • Did Columbus discover America?

  • Why is Leif Ericson not credited with discovering America?

  • Was Columbus one of history’s great heroes?

  • Was Columbus one of history’s worst villains?

  • What impact did Columbus’s “discovery” have on European history?

  • What impact did Columbus have on America’s indigenous population?

  • Did Columbus get lucky?



The Puritans


  • Were Puritans bigots, obsessed with ridding themselves of the “other?”

  • Were the Puritans consensus minded-community builders?




  • Were the Puritans pious idealists concerned mainly with maintaining their special Protestant way of life?

  • Were the Puritans practical-minded pioneers, simply seeking to make their way and establish viable settlements in the New World?




  • Were the Puritans part of a conservative social and religious movement dedicated to stability at all costs?

  • Were the Puritans part of a radical movement that needed the institutional vacuum of the New World to realize its potential for religious and intellectual innovation?




  • Was Puritanism as a cultural movement restricted to its own time in terms of its influence?

  • Did Puritanism give rise to a New England myth and later a national myth of manifest destiny?




  • Was Puritan devotion repressive in its effect on daily life?

  • Was Puritan devotion essentially progressive in its effect on daily life?


Salem Witchcraft

  • Were socioeconomic tensions responsible for the witchcraft hysteria in Salem?

  • Were physical illnesses responsible for the witchcraft hysteria in Salem?

  • Did the Indian Wars have any impact on the Salem witchcraft hysteria?

  • Were there actually witches in Salem?

  • Was the Salem witchcraft hysteria a result of a sham on the part of adolescent girls?

  • Did the criminal justice system in Salem contribute to the spread of the witchcraft hysteria?

  • Was an outbreak of food poisoning a cause of the witch hysteria?

  • Why were most of the individuals charged with witchcraft women?



The Origins of Slavery


  • Why did Europeans enslave Africans?

  • Did Europeans think blacks inferior and therefore deserved slavery?

  • Was slavery initially motivated by the enormous profits to be made from exploitation, and did the brand of inferiority follow?




  • Did the profits from the slave trade create the capital that financed the Industrial Revolution in England?

  • Was the slave trade marginal to the growth of the English economy?




  • Did Africans profit in the slave trade?

  • Were Africans simply victims of European exploration?




  • How many Africans were actually taken into slavery?

  • From which ethnic groups were African slaves taken?

  • Where did African slaves end up? How did this affect their history in the New World?



The American Revolution


  • Was the American Revolution “revolutionary” at home?

  • Was the American Revolution a conservative movement?

  • Was the Revolution limited to gaining independence from an increasingly oppressive British monarchy?




  • Was the Revolution largely a social phenomenon?

  • Was the Revolution largely an ideological phenomenon?




  • Was American society truly democratic during the colonial period?

  • Was American society undemocratic during the colonial era, thus resulting in a dual revolution – a struggle to see who would rule at home as well as a fight for home rule?




  • What was the true nature of the Revolution?

  • Was there a radical ideological change in the ideas that most American held regarding their image of themselves and of their institutions?

  • Did most of the changes take place within the political and social sphere rather than in the world of ideas?

  • Was the “republican synthesis” with its emphasis on republican ideology, a convincing interpretation of the American Revolution?




  • What were the results of the American Revolution for women?




  • Were the men who went off to fight in the Revolutionary War motivated by materialism?

  • Were the men who went off to fight in the Revolutionary War motivated by idealism?



The Constitution


  • Were the proponents of the republican synthesis correct in believing that American shared a basic ideological consensus?

  • Was the idea of a republican synthesis a generalization that failed to describe the diverse people of the new nation?




  • Was the Constitution a fulfillment of the ideals of the Revolution expressed in the Declaration of Independence?

  • Was the Constitution a repudiation of the ideals of the Revolution expressed in the Declaration of Independence?




  • What was the nature of the Constitution?

  • In what ways did the Constitution’s framing reflect the developments in political thought during the 1780s?




  • Were the differences that divided those who favored and those who opposed the Constitution based more on ideology?

  • Were the differences that divided those who favored and those who opposed the Constitution based more on interests?

  • Was the Constitution an undemocratic document - the work of a political and propertied minority who drafted it as an instrument to suit their own purposes?




  • Were the Anti-federalists tradition-minded classical republicans?

  • Were the Anti-federalists enterprising proto-liberals who glimpsed the future of America?



The Expanding Nation


  • At what point in the rapid economic development of the early nation did people’s values shift from communal to individualistic?

  • Were westward migrants pioneers seeking to escape involvement in the market system?

  • Were westward migrants planners seeking ways to involve themselves in the emerging market system?



Antebellum Reform


  • Was the reform movement of the 19th Century a unique event?

  • Was the reform movement of the 19th Century part of a long term trend or pattern?




  • Were the reformists narrow-minded and bigoted zealots seeking to impose their own moral code upon the rest of society?

  • Were the reformists well-intended individuals aiming to help the powerless change their unfortunate conditions?




  • Were the reformists trying to promote social order by keeping people in their place?

  • Were the reformists trying to promote social order by helping people develop characteristics that might admit them to the middle class?




  • Did most reformists embrace the idea that the reforms should be confined to private endeavors?

  • Did most reformists regard state intervention as an absolute necessity?




  • Why was it not until the emergence of a capitalist order that a powerful abolitionist movement was able to excite the revulsion of people toward an institution that had existed throughout history?




  • Were the reformists successful in accomplishing their goals?

  • Were the reformists largely unsuccessful in accomplishing their goals?



Slavery and Slave Culture


  • How much autonomy were slaves able to retain?

  • Were slaves able to construct a culture of their own? If so, was it largely African or American?

  • Did the experience of slavery obliterate the slaves’ connections with their African past?




  • Did slave owners treat slaves well?

  • Did slave owners treat slaves badly?




  • Did slavery create a damaged black psyche?

  • Have blacks been able to overcome the pervasive evils of slavery?

  • Was slavery profitable?



The Civil War


  • Was the Civil War a “repressible” or irrepressible conflict?




  • Have historians overemphasized the slavery issue as a cause of the Civil War?

  • Were economic differences the main causes of the hostility between North and South?




  • In what ways was the South responsible for causing the war?

  • Did the North share responsibility for causing the war?




  • Was the outcome of the Civil War of such a nature that it should be criticized, if not condemned?

  • Was the outcome of the Civil War of such a nature one that merits uniform praise?



Reconstruction


  • Were the revisionists correct in suggesting that the major issue during Reconstruction was economic?

  • Were the neo-revisionists justified in insisting that the major issue during Reconstruction was moral in nature?




  • Did the particular structural form of state and national politics preclude effective governmental action in dealing with the problems growing out of emancipation?

  • What should have been the proper policy for both the federal and state governments to follow with regard to black Americans?

  • How were the voices of blacks to be heard during policy formation and implementation?




  • Was the American experience dissimilar or similar to that of other nations that also experienced the transition from a slave to a free society?

  • Was Reconstruction a meaningless experiment after which the Southern elite resumed business as usual complete with white supremacy?

  • Was Reconstruction a “splendid failure?”

  • Was Reconstruction a brave but short-lived attempt to fashion real democracy in the South – one that would lay the groundwork for the civil rights movement one hundred years later?

  • How did the juggernaut of postwar capitalism affect the terrain on which Reconstruction was being attempted?



The Triumph of Capitalism


  • How was wealth produced?

  • How evenly was wealth distributed?

  • How much social mobility took place between classes?




  • Was the impoverishment of certain groups of laborers exceptional?

  • Was the impoverishment of certain groups of laborers endemic to industrial capitalism?




  • Did labor unions and regulatory legislation represent a democratic restraint on capital?

  • Did labor unions and regulatory legislation represent a way to buy off radical protest?




  • Was class conflict an aberration produced by greed and bad policy?

  • Was class conflict a permanent feature of industrial capitalism?




  • Was corporate capitalism an achievement?

  • Was corporate capitalism a betrayal of American democracy?



American Imperialism


  • Did the Unites States go to war to resolve basic contradictions within its economic and social systems?

  • To what extent was American foreign policy a response to the diplomacy of other nations and events beyond its control?

  • Did business and strategic thinkers direct the U.S. thrust toward world power status?

  • Did the U.S. stumble toward its new status as a world power without plan or conscious purpose?




  • To what degree did moral sentiments play a role in the diplomacy of the 1890s and thereafter?

  • To what degree did religious sentiments play a role in the diplomacy of the 1890s and thereafter?

  • To what degree did humanitarian sentiments play a role in the diplomacy of the 1890s and thereafter?




  • Was the acquisition of an overseas empire a cause of war?

  • Was the acquisition of an overseas empire an effect of war?




  • Did the US create a new form of “open door” imperialism through the use of its economic power?




  • To what extent were the consequences of American policy harmful to those who experienced it as an intrusion?

The New Deal


  • Was the New Deal simply an extension of the Progressive tradition of piecemeal reform?

  • Did the New Deal involve a radical departure from the mainstream of American political history?




  • Did the New Deal usher in the era of big government and the “imperial presidency?”

  • Did the New Deal create an effective and efficient state to handle the needs of a 20th Century society?




  • Did the New Deal save capitalism?

  • Did the New Deal pave the way for an American version of socialism?




  • Did the New Deal co-opt the struggles of workers and other have-nots for democracy and social equality?

  • Did the New Deal confirm the triumph of the struggles of workers and other have-nots for democracy and social equality?


The Cold War


  • Did the Cold War commence at the end of WWII?

  • Did the Cold War commence at the beginning of WWII?

  • Did the Cold War’s roots stretch back to WWI or even earlier?




  • Was the Soviet occupation of eastern Europe the realization of a centuries-old Russian dream of a sphere of influence?

  • Was the Soviet occupation of eastern Europe a reaction to the more recent devastation sustained during the Nazi invasion?

  • Was the Soviet occupation of eastern Europe an advance in the revolutionary strategy of an international communist movement?




  • Has the course of American diplomacy since the Spanish American War been committed to the defense of a global status quo?

  • Has the course of American diplomacy since the Spanish American War been committed to the aggressive pursuit of hegemony?




  • To what extent were the ever-expanding foreign markets necessary for the survival of American capitalism?

  • What effect did the belief in the necessity of ever-expanding foreign markets have on the actual making of American foreign policy?




  • Was America’s containment policy aimed at checking a Soviet plan to spread communism throughout the world?

  • Was America’s containment policy aimed at subjugating weaker nations to the purposes of American capitalism?




  • Was the Cold War “our” fault?

  • Was the Cold War “their” fault?



The Civil Rights Movement


  • Was the Civil Rights movement a top-down movement?

  • Was the Civil Rights movement a bottom-up movement?




  • Was Martin Luther Kin indispensable to the Civil Rights Movement?

  • Was Martin Luther King simply one of many possible leaders that the movement offered?




  • Did the Civil Rights movement begin with the Brown decision?

  • Did the Civil Rights movement begin with Rosa Parks?

  • Did the Civil Rights movement begin in Tuskegee in 1941?




  • Was segregation the best way for African-Americans to make it into a hostile white society?

  • Was integration the best way for African-Americans to make it into a hostile white society?



  • Did the Civil Rights movement destroy itself in a push for economic rights?

  • Did the Civil Rights movement abandon larger issues on the threshold of progress?




  • What was the relationship between grassroots activism, leadership, and organizations such as the NAACP, SCLC, CORE, and SNCC?



The Women’s Movement


  • Are the needs and interests of women different from those of men?

  • If so, do these needs and interests need fighting for?

  • Is there a reason to explore women’s history and recapture it if it were not importantly different from men’s?

  • Can American history be written as women’s history?

  • Do women represent an essential historical strand – but nothing more?



Sources
Couvares, Francis G. et al. (2000) Interpretations of American History: Patterns & Perspectives. The Free Press.
Davidson, James West & Lytle, Mark Hamilton (1982). After the Fact: The Art of Historical Detection. Knopf. New York
Nash, Gary et al. ( 1998). The American People: Creating a Nation and a Society. Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers Inc. New York.

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