Revolution is truly like a pox, spreading from person to person.
This particularly human sickness is the subject of this winter’s issue of History NOW from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Ten essays from a collection of eminent historians detail how the revolutionary fervor of the Americas would spread globally, to France, to Haiti, to Cuba and beyond.
Several of the essays caught my eye. First was Patrick Spero’s interesting piece on the truly global nature of the American war of independence. Unbeknownst to many on this side of the pond, the longest and largest battle of the War of Independence did not occur on American soil and involved no US lives: the Spanish seige of British-held Gibraltar from 1779 to 1783. The British victory was celebrated in a painting by John Singleton Copley, demonstrating the US struggle’s overall limited place in what became a global war.
Susan Dunn’s comparison of the French and American Revolutions is also of note. The analysis is hardly new–that the moderating nature of the American Revolution made for a long-lasting, yet flawed system, while the increasingly radical French Revolution would self-destruct. What is new is the view of the American Revolution from the French point of view, particularly how the French perspective changes from that of doting admirers to critical ascendant revolutionaries bent on correcting and improving on the American model.
I would be remiss if I forgot the contributions of my old friend, UCLA professor emeritus Gary Nash. In an article recovered from Gilder Lehrman’s arch, Nash examines the social and intellectual roots of the Revolution, particularly the various movements advocating for independence and social change. The ideals of revolution manifested itself through various avenues, as Americans of all stripes struggled to create a new society–a society that would be on the backburner as forces of reaction and stability placed the war and the ensuing Constitution as a priority over social change.
As with any Gilder Lehrman product, History NOW is laden with primary sources for educators to utilize the ideas of the authors. This issue contains the Stamp Act, Jefferson’s letters on the Haitian and French Revolutions, the Monroe Doctrine, even the 1836 Texas Declaration of Independence.
The Neighborhood is usually very enthusiastic of Gilder Lehrman resources, and History NOW is no exception. Take your time and really sift through the treasure trove of analysis and insight…it’s among the best issues yet.
A Lesson on WWII Primary Sources; or, how eBay Finds some Educational Value
New websites are like new toys.
We can’t seem to find enough ways to play with them until they either break or get discarded for the next big thing.
In the early 2000s, eBay was my new toy—and a purchase from those early days found an unusual role in my classroom.
One day, while I had some down time at my office, I puttered around eBay looking for whatever crap struck my fancy. In those days, it was THE place to find hard-to-find knickknacks, doodads, and whatnot—a veritable treasure chest.
I didn’t find treasure, but I did find a map.
For some odd reason, I needed an old map to frame for my den (even though I lacked a den, a yacht, and Sperry Top-sider footwear). Though there were plenty of old maps of Maine, Bermuda, Aruba and other preppy hangouts, but I was drawn to a 1940s WPA map of New York City given to servicemen during World War II.
Never mind that it was folded, wrinkly, yellowed and with a funny double-print font that’s hard to read; I needed it for $20.
Let’s say I really didn’t need it. This relic of wartime Gotham sat in my desk for a decade.
A few months ago, one of my fifth grade classes was wrapping up their unit on US History. World War II seemed as good a finish as any. A half-decade of Call of Duty games certainly prepared them with enough content knowledge to teach a military history class at West Point.
To end the unit, I decided to whip out this old relic of a map. It couldn’t be mounted on a wall, since it was double-sided. Nonetheless, I made copies of it and gave it to the class. They examined the map, automatically finding the places they recognize (it’s easy since all the sports stadiums use a ballpark icon).
To really analyze the map, I split the class into groups. One group made a top-10 list of places a soldier would visit on leave. Another planned out a 24-hour day for a soldier, detailing where he would visit and for how long. Still another group came up with places that weren’t on the map.
Some of the responses were downright hilarious.
The top-10 list included places like the George Washington Bridge and the YMCA. One group gave a soldier five minutes to get from the Statue of Liberty to Harlem. The list of places not listed on the map ranged from pizza places to bars to…strip clubs and “love motels” (which we decided to lump into the generic term of “adult establishments.”)
The results, though, were some pretty damn good essays. They covered about not only about what soldiers did on their free time in New York, but also prevailing attitudes about how soldiers were supposed to behave i.e., the lack of “adult establishments.”
All from an impulse buy on eBay so many years ago.
Here is the link to WWII Lesson Plan. It includes worksheets and graphic organizers. Try it out in your own classroom.
This is the Essay Planning Page for the culminating project.
Here’s also a PDF of the WPA New York City Map for Servicemen that goes with it.
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Tagged as American History, Aruba, Commentary, Curriculum, eBay, Education, George Washington Bridge, History, Media, New York, New York City, New York History, Opinion, Social studies, Statue of Liberty, Teachers, Teaching, U.S. History, United States, war, World History, World War II, YMCA