Uploaded by Shannon Honigblum

Big Picture Ideas for US History

Ideas and Questions for US History 1
How cultures change through the blending of different ethnic groups
Taking the land
The individual versus the state
The quest for equity - slavery and it’s end, women’s suffrage etc
Sectionalism (an exaggerated devotion to the interests of a region over those of a country as a whole)
Immigration and Americanization
The change in social class
Technology developments and the environment
Relations with other nations
Freedom, liberty
Forms of government
Impulses at the founding
Social hierarchy
American exceptionalism
Manifest destiny
The Great Awakening
Several ideas dominated Enlightenment thought, including rationalism, empiricism, progressivism, and
1. Is America a land of opportunity?
2. Did geography greatly affect the development of colonial America?
3. Does a close relationship between church and state lead to a more moral society?
4. Has Puritanism shaped American values?
5. Was colonial America a democratic society?
6. Was slavery the basis of freedom in colonial America?
7. Did Great Britain lose more than it gained from its victory in the French and Indian War?
8. Were the colonists justified in resisting British policies after the French and Indian War?
9. Was the American War for Independence inevitable?
10. Would you have been a revolutionary in 1776?
11. Did the Declaration of Independence establish the foundation of American government?
12. Was the American Revolution a “radical” revolution?
13. Did the Articles of Confederation provide the United States with an effective government?
14. Could the Constitution be written without compromise?
15. Does state or federal government have a greater impact on our lives? (federalism)
16. Does the system of checks and balances provide us with an effective and efficient government?
Do separation of powers and checks and balances make our government work too slowly?
17. Is a strong federal system the most effective government for the United States?
Which level of government, federal or state, can best solve our nation’s problems?
18. Is the Constitution a living document? (amendment process, elastic clause, judicial interpretation, legislative
modifications, etc.)
19. Was George Washington’s leadership indispensable in successfully launching the new federal government?
20. Should the United States fear a national debt? (financial problems of the new nation and Hamilton’s
financial plan)
21. Whose ideas were best for the new nation, Hamilton’s or Jefferson’s?
22. Are political parties good for our nation? (Federalists v. Democratic-Republicans)
23. Should the United States seek alliances with other nations?
24. Should the political opposition have the right to criticize a president’s foreign policy?
25. Is the suppression of public opinion during times of crisis ever justified?
Rationalism: the idea that humans are capable of using their faculty of reason to gain knowledge. This was a
sharp turn away from the prevailing idea that people needed to rely on scripture or church authorities for
Empiricism: the idea that knowledge comes from experience and observation of the world.
Progressivism: the belief that through their powers of reason and observation, humans can make unlimited,
linear progress over time.
Cosmopolitanism: this idea reflected Enlightenment thinkers’ view of themselves as actively engaged citizens
of the world as opposed to provincial and close-minded individuals. In all, Enlightenment thinkers endeavored
to be ruled by reason, not prejudice.
Deism, an Enlightenment-era belief in a God who created but has no continuing involvement in the world and
the events within it. Deists also advanced the belief that personal morality—an individual’s moral compass,
leading to good works and actions—is more important than strict church doctrines.