Previous Units: 2017 - 2018
Think Like a Social Scientist
Cicero said, "History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illuminates reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life, and brings us tidings of antiquity." What he means is that history is knowledge from the past that we can learn from. This makes me wonder; if Cicero is correct, then how can we know our knowledge is accurate?
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "There is properly no history; only biography." What he means is that history is not an amalgamation of all stories, but rather it is each story from each person, ever. This makes me wonder; if Emerson is correct, then what does that mean for the future of humankind?
Howard Zinn said, "I am convinced of the uncertainty of history, of the possibility of surprise, of the importance of human action in changing what looks unchangeable." What he means is that although history seems to repeat itself, it doesn't have to. This makes me wonder; can I change the direction of history?
Colonization, c.1492 - 1700s
Hernando Cortés in a letter to Spain describing Mexico 1520, wrote: "IN ORDER, most potent Sire, to convey to your Majesty a just conception of the great extent of this noble city of Temixtitlan, and of the many rare and wonderful objects it contains; of the government and dominions of Moctezuma, the sovereign: of the religious rights and customs that prevail, and the order that exists in this as well as the other cities appertaining to his realm: it would require the labor of many accomplished writers, and much time for the completion of the task."
Christopher Columbus in a letter to Spain, wrote: ""They... brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks' bells. They willingly traded everything they owned.... They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features.... They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane.... They would make fine servants.... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want."
The American Revolution, c.1775 - 1781
Thomas Paine in his pamphlet Common Sense he said "Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one."
Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence wrote: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Abigail Adams in a letter to her husband John Adams who was attending the constitutional convention wrote "I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could.”
Phillis Wheatley published a letter in the Connecticut Gazette in March 1774, she wrote: "In every human Beast, God has implanted a Principle, which we call Love of Freedom; it is impatient of Oppression, and pants for Deliverance." She speaks not just of her own heart here, but of all human hearts. The rest of the letter shows her to be an incrementalist for African-American liberty. But we must note her sarcasm when she writes that the hypocrisy of liberty-hungry slave owners “does not require the penetration of a Philosopher to determine.”
American Expansion, c.1700–1850
The first half of the 1800s saw tremendous growth in the acquirement of U.S. territory as well as in the population of settlers west of the Appalachian Mountains. The land available for settlement almost doubled, and the population in the West more than tripled. The freedom and incentive to move into the unknown territories had been hard won through the American Revolution, which opened up the world west of the Appalachians. Additionally, a major land purchase from the French dramatically transformed the geography of the country and a war with Mexico completes America's land grab
Reinventing America, c.1865-1920
The period from the end of Reconstruction to World War I transformed the nation into an industrial giant that made it as productive and industrialized as the major powers and producers in Europe. This complex period was marked by the settling of the trans-Mississippi West, the expansion and concentration of basic industries, the establishment of national transportation networks and new maritime routes, the invention of a variety tools and industrial processes that increased economic productivity and efficiency, a human tidal wave of immigration from southern and eastern Europe, growth in the number and size of cities, accumulation of great fortunes by a small number of entrepreneurs, the rise of organized labor, growth of the women’s suffrage movement, and increased American involvement in foreign affairs.