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Constructing the American Past

A Sourcebook of a People's History, Volume 1 to 1877

Eighth Edition

Edited by Elliott J. Gorn, Randy Roberts, Susan Schulten, and Terry D. Bilhartz

Publication Date - October 2017

ISBN: 9780190280956

288 pages
7-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Asking students to become historians, Constructing the American Past presents a series of "case studies" of particular events in American history


Now published by Oxford University Press, Constructing the American Past: A Source Book of a People's History, Eighth Edition, presents an innovative combination of case studies and primary source documents that allow students to discover, analyze, and construct history from the actors' perspective.

Beginning with Christopher Columbus and his interaction with the Spanish crown in 1492, and ending in the Reconstruction-era United States, Constructing the American Past provides eyewitness accounts of historical events, legal documents that helped shape the lives of citizens, and excerpts from diaries that show history through an intimate perspective. The authors expand upon past scholarship and include new material regarding gender, race, and immigration in order to provide a more complete picture of the past.

New to this Edition

  • New chapters (seven and twelve) in Volume One address the problems of immigration and emancipation
  • Substantially revised chapters in Volume Two on World War One (seven), the Scopes Trial (nine) Great Depression (ten), the Second World War (eleven), the Cold War (twelve), Civil Rights (thirteen), Vietnam (fourteen), and liberalism (fifteen)
  • Increased coverage of the growth of slavery and the centrality of race in chapters related to the Revolution, the Constitution, western expansion, labor, women's experience, and the violent aftermath of the Civil War
  • More inclusion of the diversity of female experience
  • An expanded chapter on the Second Great Awakening explores the relationship between evangelical revivals and social reform
  • New material on the Indian policies of President Andrew Jackson
  • In-depth coverage of Texas Independence and the subsequent war with Mexico underscores the dilemmas brought by western expansion
  • A new chapter on immigration explores the history of nativism
  • A new chapter on emancipation in the Civil War demonstrates the role not just of President Lincoln, but of slaves, abolitionists, and the military
  • New imagery provokes discussion and conveys the visual dimension of the past

About the Author(s)

Elliott J. Gorn is Joseph A. Gagliano Chair in American Urban History at Loyola University Chicago.

Randy Roberts is Distinguished Professor of History at Purdue University.

Susan Schulten is Professor of History at the University of Denver.

Terry D. Bilhartz was Professor of History at Sam Houston State University.


"Constructing the American Past lets students be historians, delve deeply into a single issue, and come to some conclusions of their own. Professors who want to show their students what it's like to be a historian will love it."--Cindy Hahamovitch, University of Georgia

"Compared to other sourcebooks on the market, Constructing the American Past has a focused chapter approach. Other sourcebooks just offer a chapter-by-chapter collection of sources that are relevant, but mostly unconnected or unfocused. With Constructing the American Past, students are led into problem-solving, which is the essence of history."--Louis Haas, Middle Tennessee State University

Table of Contents

    Each chapter ends with Questions and Additional Reading.

    Preface and Introduction

    Chapter 1: Contact and Conquest: the Meeting of Old and New Worlds
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. Privileges and Prerogatives Granted by Their Catholic Majesties to Christopher Columbus: 1492
    2. Journal of Christopher Columbus's First Voyage, 1492
    3. Bartolome de Las Casas, from The Cruelties of the Spaniards Committed in America, 1589
    4. From The Aztec Account of the Spanish Conquest, Florentine Codex, as Collected by Bernadino de Sahagun

    Chapter 2: The Founding of Virginia and Massachusetts Bay Colonies
    Historical Context
    Dying and Surviving in Virginia
    The Documents
    1. Arthur Barlowe, From "Narrative of the 1584 Voyage"
    2. Thomas Harriot, From "A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia," 1588
    3. George Percy, "Discourse," 1607
    4. John Smith, "The Starving Time," from Journal, 1609
    5. John Smith's map of Virginia, 1624
    6. From Laws Divine, Moral and Martial, 1611
    7. Richard Frethorne, A letter to his parents, 1623
    8. An Act by the Virginia General Assembly, "Negro Women's Children to Serve According to the Condition of the Mother," 1662
    9. An Act by the Virginia General Assembly, "Declaring that the Baptism of Slaves Doth Not Exempt them from Bondage," 1667
    10. Virginia General Assembly, "An Act Concerning Servants and Slaves," 1705
    The Puritans of Massachusetts Bay
    The Documents
    11. John Winthrop, "A Model of Christian Charity," 1630
    12. Excerpts from the Trial of Anne Hutchinson, 1637
    13. From The Apologia of Robert Keayne, 1653
    14. Mary Rowlandson, From The Sovereignty and Goodness of God, 1682

    Chapter 3: Eighteenth-Century Voices
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. The Diaries of William Byrd
    2. From Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1790)
    3. From The Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards
    4. From Memoirs of the Life of Mrs. Sarah Osborn
    5. From The Memoirs of Benjamin Franklin

    Chapter 4: What Kind of Revolution? Justifications for Rebellion
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. Joseph Galloway, From "Plan of Union," 1774
    2. "A Society of Patriotic Ladies," 1775
    3. Samuel Seabury, "An Alarm to the Legislature," 1775
    4. Benjamin Franklin to Joseph Galloway, 1775
    5. Thomas Paine, From Common Sense, 1776
    6. John Wesley, "A Sermon Preached at St. Matthew's," 1775
    7. A Proclamation by the Earle of Dunmore, 1775
    8. Letter Regarding Dunmore's Proclamation, Virginia Gazette, 1775
    9. By the Representatives of the People of the Colony and Dominion of Virginia
    10. Abraham Keteltas, "God Arising and Pleading His People's Cause," 1775
    11. Correspondence of John and Abigail Adams, 1776
    12. The Declaration of Independence, 1776

    Chapter 5: Forming a More Perfect Union: The Constitution and the Bill of Rights
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. Patrick Henry, Speeches to the Virginia State Ratifying Convention, 1788
    2. Mercy Otis Warren, "Observations on the New Constitution," 1788
    3. George Washington to Henry Knox and the Marquis de Lafayette, 1787 and 1788
    4. From The Federalist Papers, 1788
    5. From The Federalist Papers, 1788
    6. The Bill of Rights, 1791
    7. Report of the Providence Society for Abolishing the Slave Trade, 1789
    8. John Brown, "To the Citizens of Rhode Island," 1789
    9. Thomas Jefferson, From Notes on the State of Virginia, 1787
    10. Benjamin Bannecker, letter to Thomas Jefferson, 1791
    11. Thomas Jefferson, letter to Benjamin Banneker, 1791

    Chapter 6: Religious Revivals and Social Reform in the Early Republic
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. John Leland, "The Excess of Civil Power Exploded"
    2. Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists, 1802
    3. Lyman Beecher on Disestablishment in Connecticut
    4. Fanny Lewis, Letter to her father, 1803
    5. Portrait of a Camp Meeting
    6. Martin J. Spalding, "A Fanaticism as Absurd as it was Blasphemous," 1844
    7. "Camp Meetings and Agricultural Fairs," 1820
    8. Charles G. Finney, On Revivals, 1835
    9. William Otter, Tales of a "Jolly Fellow"
    10. Lyman beecher, "The National Remedy for Intemperance," 1828
    11. "The Cold Water Army Pledge for Children," c.1845
    12. The Drunkard's Progress
    13. Harriet Livermore, letter to James Madison, 1829
    14. Charles G. Finney, letter to Theodore Dwight Weld, 1836

    Chapter 7: The Ambitions and Limitations of Jacksonian Democracy
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. Portion of a Coffin Handbill, 1828
    2. Satirizing the Coffin Handbills, 1828
    3. From The Democratic Republican, 1829
    4. Andrew Jackson, Message from the President on the Veto of the Bank, 1832
    5. Daniel Webster, Response to the President's Veto, 1832
    6. "King Andrew," 1832
    7. "Ten Reasons for Advocating the Re-Election of General Jackson," 1832
    8. "Why, What Evil Hath He Wrought," 1832
    9. Jackson's Farewell Address, 1837
    10. Memorial of the Cherokee Nation, 1829
    11. Memorial from the Ladies of Steubenville, Ohio, 1830
    12. President Jackson's Message to Congress, 1830
    13. From a map of Cherokee lands, 1831
    14. President Jackson, to the Cherokee tribe of Indians, 1835
    15. Chief John Ross, to the Senate and House of Representatives, 1836

    Chapter 8: The Upheaval of Westward Expansion
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. Manuel Mier y Teran on the borderlands, 1828 and 1829
    2. Petition from the Committee of Vigilance and Public Safety, 1835
    3. Texas Declaration of Independence, 1836
    4. Public Meeting in Nashville, 1836
    5. Texas Forever! Broadside, 1836
    6. The Eagle of Liberty, c.1836
    7. Moral Map of the U.S., 1837
    8. Mexican Secretary of War Jose Maria Tornel y Mendivil, 1837
    9. John L. O'Sullivan, "The Great Nation of Futurity," 1839
    10. "John L. O'Sullivan, "Annexation," 1845
    11. President James Polk, First Annual Message, 1845
    12. David Wilmot, Speech to Congress, 1847
    13. The Legislature of Massachusetts Resolution on Slavery, 1847
    14. Virginia Resolution Against the Wilmot Proviso, 1847
    15. The Texas Legislature Defends Slavery and the War against Mexico, 1848
    16. From the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, 1848
    17. Emma Willard, Map of United States History, 1853

    Chapter 9: Ideals and Realities for Antebellum Women
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. Lydia Maria Child, From The Mother's Book, 1831
    2. A.J. Graves, from Women in America, 1843
    3. Catherine Beecher, From Treatise on Domestic Economy for Young Ladies, 1847
    4. Sarah Grimke, letter to her sister, 1837
    5. Harriet Jacobs, From Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, 1861
    6. Declaration of Sentiments, 1848
    7. Lucy Larcom, From A New England Girlhood
    8. Letters from Malenda Edwards and Mary Paul, 1849-1848

    Chapter 10: Immigration and Nativism in the Antebellum Era
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. "Poor Pat Must Emigrate"
    2. Letters from the Curtis Family to John Curtis in Philadelphia, 1845-1847
    3. Harriet Martineau, From Letters from Ireland, 1852
    4. "Old Skibbereen," c.1850
    5. Frederick Bogen, Advice to German Immigrants, 1851
    6. Map of Main Routes for Immigrants in North America, 1853
    7. Carl Schurz, Reminiscences of a German Immigrant to Wisconsin, 1854
    8. "See Our Torn Flag Still Waving," 1844
    9. From the Know-Nothing initiation, "The Examiner's Duty," c.1855
    10. "American Citizens!" 1852
    11. Thomas Colley Grattan, From The Irish in America, 1859
    12. "The Funeral of Poole," From The New York Daily Times, 1855
    13. "Lessons from a Murder," from The New York Observer and Chronicle, 1855
    14. From "The Life of William Poole," 1855
    15. Hinton Helper, From The Chinese in California, 1855

    Chapter 11: A House Divided: Free Labor, Slave Labor
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. Frederick Douglass, Open letter to his owner Thomas Auld, 1848
    2. The New "Democratic" Doctrine, 1856
    3. "Forcing Slavery down the Throat of a Freesoiler" 1856
    4. Chief Justice Robert Taney, Majority Opinion in Dred Scott v. John Sandford, 1857
    5. Dissenting Opinion, Justice John McClean, 1857
    6. George Fitzhugh, From Cannibals All!, 1857
    7. Hinton Helper, From The Impending Crisis of the South, 1857
    8. From The Lincoln-Douglas Debates, 1858
    9. Harriet Beecher Stowe, From Uncle Tom's Cabin, 1852
    10. Republican Party Campaign Broadside, 1860
    11. Who Endorsed the Helper Book!, 1861

    Chapter 12: How Did American Slavery End?
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. Jackson Whitney, letter to his former master, 1859
    2. General Benjamin Butler on the confiscated slaves, 1861
    3. Map of slavery in the Southern States, 1861
    4. Lydia Maria Child, letter to George Julian, 1862
    5. Photograph of confiscated slaves, 1862
    6. Horace Greeley, open letter to President Abraham Lincoln, 1862
    7. President Lincoln responds to Horace Greeley, 1862
    8. President Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, 1863
    9. Francis Bicknell Carpenter, "First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation," 1864
    10. "Waiting for the Hour," 1863
    11. A Gift from the Abolitionists to the President, 1864-1865
    12. Republican James Ashley on the Fifteenth Amendment, 1865
    13. Democrat Fernando Wood on the Fifteenth Amendment, 1865
    14. Frederick Douglass, "The Need for Continuing Anti-Slavery Work," 1865

    Chapter 13: Reconstruction and the Rise of the Ku Klux Klan
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. Initiation Oath of the Knights of the White Camelia
    2. Testimony of Victims of the Ku Klux Klan
    3. Congressional Inquiry into Klan Activities, 1871
    4. Jeb Stevenson, speech to the House of Representatives, 1872
    5. Benjamin Bryant, From Experience of a Northern Man among the Ku-Klux, 1872
    6. W.H. Gannon, From The Grand Army of the Republic versus the Ku Klux Klan, 1872
    7. Mississippi Governor Adelbert Ames to President Grant, 1875
    8. Attorney-General Pierrepont to Adelbert Ames, 1875

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