Defining Documents in American History offers primary sources and analytical essays that explore the historical narratives of authors and the events and ideas of their period.
The two-volume set Manifest Destiny and the New Nation: 1803-1859 covers a period of expansion and exploration westward, which would more than double the size of the new nation. The transformation from colonial to a new American identity is reflected in a wide range of developments in the areas of religion, ethnic diversity, and social reform. Political developments would also mark a period of growing divisions that would lead the new nation toward civil war. Designed for college-age students, the aim of the series is to advance historical document studies as an important activity in learning about history. The selection draws upon the major documents of the period, including the governing documents that directed the country westward, as well documents representing the emerging abolitionist and women’s rights movements. In addition, the collection offers less known yet essential primary sources from a diverse collection of authors viewing the new nation from multiple perspectives. The analysis of primary sources will establish the currency of the social and political meaning in primary source documents for today’s researchers.
Essay and Volume Format
Manifest Destiny and the New Nation contains 61 complete and excerpted primary source documents and analytical essays. Each essay is 6,000 words, consisting of a 4,000 word analysis and a 2,000 word primary source. Readers will appreciate the diversity of the collected texts, including journals, letters, speeches, and political sermons, among other genres. Critical essays, written by historians and teachers, begin by introducing readers to the historical period, followed by a brief biography of the author and the events that occasion the composition of the document. An important feature of the essays is a close reading of the primary source that develops evidence of broader themes, such as author’s rhetorical purpose, social or class position, point of view, and other relevant issues. In addition, essays are organized by chapter themes, highlighting major issues in the period, many of which extend across eras and continue to shape American life. Each chapter begins with an introduction that will explain the questions and problems, in some cases the dilemmas, underlying the subjects in the historical documents. A brief glossary highlights keywords important in the study of the primary source. Each essay offers a section of Additional Reading for further research.
- 80 Lesson Plans follow national history standards for learning designed to guide students and educators in document analysis and historical comprehension. Study questions, activities, and suggested author pairings will establish the legacy of documents and authorship for readers today. In addition, comparative analysis highlights how documents often emerge from a myriad of influences.
- Three historical maps illustrate developments in the early nineteenth century. The Louisiana Purchase Treaty of 1803 and the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804 show the transformation of the new nation’s territorial boundaries. Creek and Cherokee Land Cessions in Colonial Georgia provides a graphic overview of the succession of treaties that would lead to the removal of Native Americans from their land in the southeast.
- Historical Timeline and Chronological List of titles will support readers in understanding the broader events and subjects in the period.
- Bibliography lists helpful supplemental readings for further study.