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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:

  1. How has this nation been peopled, from the first inhabitants to the many groups that arrived in slavery or servitude during the colonial period down to the voluntary immigrants of today? How have these waves of newcomers con­tributed to the American cultural mosaic? To what extent have different immigrant groups preserved elements of their ethnic, racial, and religious heritages? How have the tensions be­tween cultural assimilation and cultural preser­vation been played out, in the past and today?
  2. To what extent have Americans developed a sta­ble, democratic political system flexible enough to address the wholesale changes occurring in the last two centuries, and to what degree has this political system been consistent with the principles of our nation's founding?
  3. How have economic and technological changes affected daily life, work, family organization, leisure, sexual behavior, the division of wealth, and community relations in the United States?
  4. How did the European settlement of the Americas alter the landscape? How have environmental factors shaped American society, and how have Americans changed in their attitudes and policies concerning the natural environment?
  5. What role has American religion played in the development of the nation? How has religion served to promote or retard social reform in our history? Whatever their varied sources, how have the recurring reform movements in our history dealt with economic, political, and social problems in attempting to square the ideals of American life with the reality?
  6. In what ways have global events and trends had an impact on the shape and character of American life? How has the United States af­fected the rest of the world? To what extent has the United States served as a model for other peoples, as an interventionist savior of other nations around the globe, and as an interfering ex­pansionist in the affairs of other nations?
  7. How have American beliefs and values changed over more than four hundred years of history, and how have they varied between different

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.

Major Changes

  • A new chapter (Chapter 1) on the pre-contact period called "Ancient America and Africa" be-gins the book. This chapter covers indigenous people in the Americas before 1492 and ancient Africa on the eve of European contact.
  • A new chapter (Chapter 31) on the recent past called "The Post-Cold War World" concludes the book. This chapter examines the post-Cold War period of the Clinton administration, economic and social change, the election of 2000, and new foreign policy challenges, including the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
  • Several chapters have been reorganized and revised. Chapters 1-5 have been reorganized to reflect new material on ancient Africa, the Americas, and the early Caribbean. Chapters 26-29 have been restructured to give students a more chronological examination of the post-war years.
  • This edition also has an important new focus. Because we believe it is not enough to under-stand only the history of our own nation in to-day's world, we have reconceptualized the way in which we present the story of our past. We have woven important international materials and themes into the narrative and added many new maps and tables to illuminate the connec­tion between the United States and the world. Chapter 17, for example, includes a new section on "American Agriculture and the World." Chapter 18 includes a new section on "American Industry and the World."
  • We have strengthened our coverage on the American West, the role of Asian Americans, and religion. Chapter 17, for example, has been reor­ganized to reflect greater coverage of the West. Chapter 13 includes new coverage of the Chinese who came to the West in the middle of the nine­teenth century. Chapter 15, for example, in­cludes new material on the role of religion dur­ing the Civil War.
  • This edition also features several smaller changes, with several new anecdotes. An ex­panded map program as well as carefully se­lected new visual materials provide students with additional ways of understanding chapter discussions. Revised bibliographies with anno­tated sections on film and fiction and a carefully
  • selected list of helpful Web sites provide avenues for further explorations outside of the classroom.

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