The American People: Creating a Nation and a Society, Single Volume - Sixth Edition by Gary B. Nash, Julie Roy Jeffrey, John R. Howe, Peter J. Frederick, Allen F. Davis, Allan M. Winkler (Longman) presents the lives and experiences of all Americans--all national origins and cultural backgrounds, at all levels of society, and in all regions of the country. The narrative integrates discussion of public events such as presidential elections, wars, and reform movements with the private stories of ordinary Americans who participated in and responded to these events. As it unfolds the drama of American history, The American People highlights the political, social, economic, technological, religious, cultural, and intellectual events that have shaped American society. Appropriate for anyone with an interest in American history and the Social history of the United States.
Excerpt: The Yoruba people of West Africa have an old saying, "However far the stream flows, it never forgets its source." Why, we wonder, do such ancient societies as the Yoruba find history so important, whereas today's American students question its relevance? This book aims to end such skepticism about the usefulness of history.
As we begin the twenty-first century in an ethnically and racially diverse society caught up in an interdependent global society, history is of central importance in preparing us to exercise our rights and responsibilities as free people. History cannot make good citizens, but without history we cannot under-stand the choices before us and think wisely about them. Lacking a collective memory of the past, we would be unaware of the human condition and the long struggles of men and women everywhere to deal with the problems of their day and to create a better society Unfurnished with historical knowledge, we deprive ourselves of knowing about the huge range of approaches people have taken to political, economic, and social life; to solving problems; and to conquering the obstacles in their way. Unaware of how events beyond our national boundaries have affected our own history, we are less able to deal with the challenges of contemporary globalism.
History has a deeper, even more fundamental importance: the cultivation of the private person whose self-knowledge and self-respect provide the foundation for a life of dignity and fulfillment. Historical memory is the key to self-identity, to seeing one's place in the long stream of time, in the story of humankind.
When we study our own history, that of the American people, we see a rich and extraordinarily complex human story that stretches back to the last ice age when nomadic hunters arrived in the Americas from Siberia. This country, whose written history began thousands of years later with a convergence of Native Americans, Europeans, and Africans, has always been a nation of diverse peoples—a magnificent mosaic of cultures, religions, and skin shades. This book explores how American society assumed its present shape and developed its present forms of government; how as a nation we have conducted our foreign affairs and man-aged our economy; how as individuals and in groups we have lived, worked, loved, married, raised families, voted, argued, protested, and struggled to fulfill our dreams and the noble ideals of the American experiment.
Several ways of making the past understandable distinguish this book from most textbooks written in the last 20 years. While this book covers public events like presidential elections, diplomatic treaties, and economic legislation, we have attempted to integrate this broad national narrative with the private human stories that pervade them. Within a chronological framework, we have woven together our history as a nation, as a people, and as a society When, for example, national political events are discussed, we analyze their impact on social and economic life at the state and local levels. Wars are de-scribed not only as they unfolded on the battlefield and in the salons of diplomats but also on the home front, where they are history's greatest motor of social change. The interaction of ordinary Americans with extraordinary events runs as a theme through-out this book.
Above all, we have tried to show the "humanness" of our history as it is revealed in people's everyday lives. We have often used the words of ordinary Americans to capture the authentic human voices of those who participated in and responded to epic events such as war, slavery, industrialization, and reform movements.
Our primary goal is to provide students with a rich, balanced, and thought-provoking treatment of the American past. By this, we mean a history that treats the lives and experiences of Americans of all national origins and cultural backgrounds, at all levels of society, and in all regions of the country. It also means a history that seeks connections between the many factors—political, economic, technological, social, religious, intellectual, and biological—that have molded and remolded American society over four centuries. And, finally, it means a history that encourages students to think about how we have all inherited a complex past filled with both notable achievements and thorny problems. The only history befitting a democratic nation is one that inspires students to initiate a frank and searching dialogue with their past.
Historians continually revise their understanding of what happened in the past. Historians reinterpret history both because they find new evidence on old topics and also because new sensibilities inspire them to ask questions about the past that did not interest earlier historians. It is this continual questioning of the past that has led to historical re-search and writing on many topics previously ignored or scanted.
Through this book, we also hope to promote class discussions, which can be organized around seven questions that we see as basic to the American historical experience:
groups—women and men; Americans of many colors and cultures; people of different regions, religions, sexual orientations, ages, and classes?
In writing a history that revolves around these themes, we have tried to convey two dynamics that operate in all societies. First, we observe people continuously adjusting to new developments, such as industrialization and urbanization, over which they seemingly have little control; yet we realize that people are not paralyzed by history but are the fundamental creators of it. They retain the ability, individually and collectively, to shape the world in which they live and thus in considerable degree to control their own lives.
Second, we emphasize the connections that al-ways exist among social, political, economic, and cultural events. Just as our individual lives are never neatly parceled into separate spheres of activity, the life of a society is made up of a complicated and of-ten messy mixture of forces, events, and accidental occurrences. In this text, political and economic, technological and cultural factors are intertwined like strands in a rope.
The chapters of this book are grouped into six parts that relate to major periods in American history. The title of each part suggests a major theme that helps to characterize the period.
Every chapter begins with an outline that provides an overview of the chapter's organization. Next, a personal story, called American Stories, recalls the experience of an ordinary or lesser-known American. Chapter 3, for example, is introduced with an account of the life of Anthony Johnson who came to Virginia as a slave but who managed to gain his freedom along with his wife, Mary. This brief anecdote introduces the overarching themes and major concepts of the chapter, in this case the triracial character of American society, the gradual tightening of racial slavery, and the instability of late seventeenth century colonial life. In addition, American Stories launches the chapter by engaging the student with a human account, suggesting that history was shaped by ordinary as well as extraordinary people. Following the personal story and easily identifiable by its visual separation from the anecdote and the body of the chapter, a brief chapter overview links the story to the text. Students should read these crucial transition paragraphs carefully for three reasons: first, to identify the three or four major themes of the chapter; second, to understand the organizational structure of the chapter, and third, to see how the chapter's themes are related to the organizing questions of this book
We aim to facilitate the learning process for students in other ways as well. Every chapter ends with pedagogical features to reinforce and expand the narrative. A Timeline reviews the major events and developments covered in the chapter. A Conclusion briefly summarizes the main concepts and developments elaborated in the chapter and serves as a bridge to the following chapter. A list of Recommended Readings provides supplementary sources for further study or research; an annotated selection of novels and films, called Fiction and Film, is also included. Finally, a special annotated section of suggested Web sites, Discovering U.S. History Online, offers students information on electronic sources relating to chapter themes. Each map, figure, and table has been chosen to relate clearly to the narrative.
Five distinctive features help contribute to student learning of history.
Recovering the Past. A distinctive feature of this book is the two-page Recovering the`Past presented in each chapter. These RTPs, as the authors affectionately call them, introduce students to the fascinating variety of evidence—ranging from household inventories, folk tales, and diaries to tombstones, advertising, and popular music—that historians have learned to employ in reconstructing the past. Each RTP gives basic information about the source and its use by historians and then raises questions, called Reflecting on the Past, for students to consider as they study the example reproduced for their inspection.
New to this edition, an international context for American history. Believing that in today's global society it is particularly important for students to think across national boundaries and to understand the ways in which our history inter-sects with the world, we have provided an inter-national framework. Rather than developing a separate discussion of global events, we have woven an international narrative into our analysis of the American past. Chapter 13, for example, discusses the international context for American expansionism. Chapter 10 examines the international character of reform. We have shown the ways in which the United States has been influenced by events in other parts of the world and the connection between the history of other nations and our own. We have also drawn attention to those aspects of our history that appear to set the nation apart. New tables, charts, and maps provide an additional dimension for this international context. These are identified by a global icon and are accompanied by Reflecting on the Past questions.
Analyzing History. This feature brings together, in visually engaging ways, a variety of socio-economic data that illustrates the ways in which complex changes are closely intertwined at particular moments in American history. One chart, for example, suggests how new methods of steel production during the late nineteenth century affected prices, working and living conditions, and investment in industry. Our goal is not only to show connections but also to encourage visual literacy by helping students read and interpret statistics and graphs. We have written captions for this feature to assist students in analyzing these materials and have posed Reflecting on the Past questions to en-courage them to think about the implications of the data presented.
Discovering U.S. History Online. Suggested Web sites, carefully evaluated for this edition, allow students to explore particular areas that relate to each chapter. These sites can also provide the basis for written evaluations, essays, and other learning activities.
Illustration Program. Color illustrations—paintings, cartoons, photographs, maps, and figures—amplify important themes while presenting visual evidence for student reflection and analysis. Captions on all photographs, maps, and figures are designed to help students understand and interpret the information presented. Many map captions pose questions for students to think about. Summary tables, which we refer to as "talking boxes," recap points discussed in the narrative, pulling the material together in a format designed for ease of student study. Examples of such "talking boxes" include "Significant Factors Promoting Economic Growth, 1820-1860" in Chapter 10 and "Conflicting Aims During the Cold War" in Chapter 27.
The sixth edition of The American People has benefited from both the helpful comments of scholars and the experience of teachers and students who used previous editions of the book. While some of the modifications are small, this edition incorporates substantial changes.
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