These American Pageant 13th edition notes are intended to provide you with a general understanding of the themes that are covered in the chapter. These can be helpful when writing US History essays and DBQs.
The over-arching theme of chapter 1 is the Old World meeting and clashing with the New World.
In the New World, before Columbus, there were many different Native American tribes. These people were very diverse. In what’s today the U.S., there were an estimated 400 tribes, often speaking different languages. It’s inaccurate to think of “Indians” as a homogeneous group.
Columbus came to America looking for a trade route to the East Indies (Spice Islands). Other explorers quickly realized this was an entirely New World and came to lay claim to the new lands for their host countries. Spain and Portugal had the head start on France and then England.
The coming together of the two world had world changing effects. The biological exchange cannot be underestimated. Food was swapped back and forth and truly revolutionized what people ate. On the bad side, European diseases wiped out an estimated 90% of Native Americans.
The over-arching theme of chapter 2 is that the English colonies quickly gained a foothold and grew along the Atlantic coast of America.
Jamestown, VA was founded with the initial goal of making money via gold. They found no gold, but did find a cash crop in tobacco.
Other southern colonies sprouted up due to (a) the desire for more tobacco land as with North Carolina, (b) the desire for religious freedom as with Maryland, (c) the natural extension of a natural port in South Carolina, or (d) as a “second chance” colony as with Georgia.
The over-arching theme of chapter 3 is that the northern colonies were started out of religious fervor and they largely grew out of religious fervor.
Plymouth, MA was founded with the initial goal of allowing Pilgrims, and later Puritans, to worship independent of the Church of England. Their society, ironically, was very intolerant itself and any dissenters were pushed out of the colony.
Other New England colonies sprouted up, due to (a) religious dissent from Plymouth and Massachusetts as with Rhode Island, (b) the constant search for more farmland as in Connecticut, and (c) just due to natural growth as in Maine.
The Middle Colonies emerged as the literal crossroads of the north and south. They held the stereotypical qualities of both regions: agricultural and industrial. And they were unique in that (a) New York was born of Dutch heritage rather than English, and (b) Pennsylvania thrived more than any other colony due to its freedoms and tolerance.
Chapter 04 - American Life in the Seventeenth Century
The over-arching theme of chapter 4 is that the American colonies quickly became unique as compared to any other land. And, that each region quickly assumed its own personality.
The Southern colonies were dominated by agriculture, namely (a) tobacco in the Chesapeake and (b) rice and indigo further down the coast.
Bacon’s Rebellion is very representative of the struggles of poor white indentured servants. Nathaniel Bacon and his followers took to arms to essentially get more land out west from the Indians. This theme of poor whites taking to arms for land, and in opposition to eastern authorities, will be repeated several times (Shay’s Rebellion, Paxton Boys, Whisky Rebellion).
Taken altogether, the southern colonies were inhabited by a group of people who were generally young, independent-minded, industrious, backwoodsy, down home, restless and industrious.
A truly unique African-American culture quickly emerged. Brought as slaves, black Americans blended aspects of African culture with American. Religion shows this blend clearly, as African religious ceremonies mixed with Christianity. Food and music also showed African-American uniqueness.
New Englanders developed a Bible Commonwealth—a stern but clear society where the rules of society were dictated by the laws of the Bible. This good-vs-evil society is best illustrated by the Salem witch trials.
Taken altogether, the northern colonies were inhabited by a group of people who grew to be self-reliant, stern, pious, proud, family oriented, sharp in thought and sharp of tongue, crusty, and very industrious.
Chapter 05 - Colonial Society on the Eve of Revolution
The over-arching theme of chapter 5 is that the American colonies quickly became unique from any other country. Although the people came from established nations, they blended into “Americans.”
The Americans were very diverse for that time period. New England was largely from English background, New York was Dutch, Pennsylvania was German, the Appalachian frontier was Scots-Irish, the southern coast African-American and English, and there were spots of French, Swiss, and Scots-Highlanders.
Although they came from different origins, the ethnicities were knowingly or what mingling and melting together into something called “Americans.”
Most people were farmers, an estimated 90%. The northern colonies held what little industry America had at the time: shipbuilding, iron works, rum running, trade, whaling, fishing. The south dealt with crops, slaves, and naval stores.
There were two main Protestant denominations: the Congregational Church up north, and the Anglican Church down south. Both were “established” meaning tax money went to the church. Poised for growth were the “backwoods” faiths of the Baptists and Methodists that grew by leaps thanks to the Great Awakening.
The over-arching theme of chapter 6 is that England defeated France to gain control over North America.
Two dominant cultures emerged in the 1700s in North America: (a) England controlled the Atlantic seaboard from Georgia to Maine, and (b) France controlled the area of Quebec and along the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi River.
New England consisted of towns made up by farmers. They cleared the land and pushed the Indians out. New France was made up of fur trading outposts. They were scattered and lived with and often worked with the Indians in the forests and streams.
Like cats and dogs, England and France cannot live together that close. While separated, they were fine, but the two cultures began to rub against one another in the Ohio Valley. This started the French and Indian War.
The French and Indian War saw the English defeat France. France was totally kicked out of North America.
The over-arching theme of chapter 7 is how England repeatedly forced its laws and regulations down the unappreciative Americans’ throats; and eventually led to bloodshed.
Following the French and Indian War, the British crown needed money and figured the Americans could help pay for the war.
Also, the economic policy of mercantilism dictated that England try to keep its hard money within the British Empire. So, laws were passed to restrict American trade.
The taxes and regulations that followed were not received well by the Americans, notably the Stamp Act.
Conditions deteriorated and radical patriots brought matters to a head in events such as the Tea Party and Boston Massacre. Even though most Americans would be considered moderates at the time, the radical patriots were the ones making things happen.
The culmination of the patriots’ activities came at Lexington and Concord, when the American Revolution began.
The over-arching theme of chapter 8 is that America drew out the American Revolution, and in doing so, won.
Nearly every advantage on paper went to Britain during the revolution. They had better troops, training, a much better navy, experienced generals, more money, better weapons and equipment.
The Americans had on their side heart and geography. America was very big and and ocean removed from England.
Perhaps due to necessity rather than plan, American employed a drawn-out strategy where the war drug on for six years. America won by constantly withdrawing to the nation’s interior and moving on to fight another day.
Meanwhile, as the war waged, the Declaration of Independence was written, signed, and approved.
The Treaty of Paris 1763 legitimized the new nation.
Chapter 09 - The Confederation and the Constitution
The over-arching theme of chapter 9 is that the new nation started out of fear of a strong government. And then, out of necessity, strengthened the government.
The Articles of Confederation, the first government set up after the American Revolution, was structured out of fear of a too-strong government. Therefore, the Articles were very weak on purpose.
Two things showed the Articles as being too weak to the point of being sterile: (a) it could not regulate commerce and the money situation was growing dim fast and (b) Shays’ Rebellion frightened many to the possibility that mobs might just take over and the government might be too weak to stop them. Due to these reasons, the Constitutional Convention was held.
The Constitution was written as something of a balancing act between strengthening the government, yet making sure it doesn’t get too strong to take over. The resulting government was indeed stronger, but also a system of checks and balances were put into place to ensure no one branch becomes like the king had been.
After some negotiating, mostly with the promise of the Bill of Rights, the Constitution was ratified.
The over-arching theme of chapter 10 is that President Washington, and especially Secretary of State
Alexander Hamilton, get the U.S. on a solid foothold. With the Bill of Rights quickly ratified, the top problem the new nation faced was financial in nature.
Secretary of State Alexander Hamilton developed a plan that included (a) starting a national tariff, (b) starting a tax on whiskey, (c) setting up a national bank, and (d) paying off the national debt.
Politics quickly fell into two camps: (a) those who followed Thomas Jefferson became the “Democratic-Republicans” and (b) those who followed Alexander Hamilton became the “Federalists.”
Turmoil broke out Europe with the French Revolution, mostly between England and France. The U.S. nearly got sucked into European issues, but both Washington and John Adams kept the America out of war. This was best for the U.S.
Chapter 11 - Triumphs and Travails of the Jeffersonian Republic
The over-arching theme of chapter 11 is that although Jefferson floundered a bit with foreign affairs, the fantastic Louisiana Purchase seemed to make up for everything.
Jefferson’s election was considered a “revolution” because he represented the common people for the first time.
Troubles in North Africa and between England and France emerged. Jefferson’s actions were sluggish.
Trying to again avoid war with England or France, Jefferson bumbled around with an embargo. His theory was that the only way to avoid war was to stop interaction between U.S. ships and Europe. The overall effect was to kill U.S. trade and enrage the merchants and businessmen up North.
The Louisiana Purchase came as a complete surprise and quickly doubled the size of the U.S.
James Madison picked up where Jefferson left off with the embargo in trying to avoid war. But, young western Congressmen wanted war to possibly gain new land, to squelch Indian troubles, and defend the “free seas.” They declared the War of 1812 with England.
Chapter 12 - The Second War for Independence and the Upsurge of Nationalism
The over-arching theme of chapter 12 is how the young U.S. proved itself to the rest of the world. The U.S. did this by “sticking up” for herself against Britain in the War of 1812. This caused American patriotism to surge.
The U.S. vs. England fighting had a few themes: (a) U.S. lost in Canada, (b) U.S. surprisingly won at sea, (c) the two split in the Chesapeake, and (d) the U.S. won the big battle at New Orleans.
The war was not universally supported. Mostly, the North opposed the war since it was bad for trade. The South and West generally favored the war.
After the war, the U.S. could focus on herself, as with the “American System” to build up the economy.
In terms of expansion, a few things happened: (a) the Missouri Compromise drew an East-West line to separate slave and free states, (b) Oregon and Florida became American lands, and (c) the Monroe Doctrine warned Europe to “stay away!”
The over-arching theme of chapter 13 is that through Andrew Jackson, political power fell to the people more than any other time in history.
Andrew Jackson felt he’d been robbed the presidency in 1824. This motivated the regular folks to political action. He vowed to win for the people’s sake, and did so.
A conflict started to brew between the north and the south. The issue was the tariff (import tax) and whether the south had the right to “nullify” or wipe it out. The trouble was worked out, but it foreshadowed bigger trouble to come, over slavery.
Jackson distrusted banks—he thought they were tools for the rich to milk money off the poor. He killed the National Bank and threw the whole banking system into chaos.
By the time William Henry Harrison ran for president in 1840, popular, mass politics had grown into the circus-like monster that it’s known as today.
The over-arching theme of chapter 14 is that American began to “grow up” economically in the early 1800s.
A wave of immigration came over starting in the 1840s, headed up by hungry Irish and Germans seeking a better life. Both of these groups were looked upon with suspicion, but they were hard workers and did well for themselves.
The factory system was in its infancy, led by Eli Whitney’s “interchangeable parts” Cyrus McCormick’s mechanical reaping machine paved the way for modern agriculture.
Changes were foreshadowed including women beginning to work outside the home.
The nation became “smaller” and tied together more closely thanks to (a) railroads being built, (b) canals such as the Erie, (c) steamships, and (d) the Pony Express.
The over-arching theme of chapter 15 is that Americans began to recognize problems and began attempts to clean them up. The major areas were religion, temperance (no alcohol), women's rights, and equality.
The "Second Great Awakening" began in the 1830s. It's purpose was to wake people from lackluster religion and, like the First Great Awakening, was led by passionate and emotional preachers.
The Mormons emerged from these beginnings and wandered westward to the Great Salt Lake.
Free public schools began in large measure.
There was push to ban alcohol called "temperance." This was led by the ladies; they felt the way to save the family was to ban alcohol.
The first women's rights convention was held at Seneca Falls, NY. They asserted that all men, and women were created equal.
Many "utopia experiments" began. The overall mission was to perfect society and create true equality. Most simply failed and none of them succeeded in the ways envisioned.
Chapter 16 - The South and the Slavery Controversy
The over-arching theme of chapter 16 is that antebellum (pre-Civil War) society in the South was built on slave labor.
Cotton ran the South before the Civil War— it was "King Cotton." The entire southern economy was based on cotton.
The South had developed a pyramid-like social structure. From top-to-bottom: planter aristocrats, small farmers, the white majority (who owned no slaves), free blacks, slaves.
Life as a slave could be wildly varied—some slave owners were kind toward their slaves, some were immensely cruel. In all situations, slaves were not free to do as they pleased.
Abolition (move to abolish slavery) began with the Quakers. Frederick Douglass became the main spokesman against slavery. And William Lloyd Garrison printed "The Liberator", a radical abolition newspaper.
Southerners countered that northern workers were treated even worse than slaves. Slave owners, they said, had a vested interest in their slaves. Northern factory workers exploited then fired their workers.
The over-arching theme of chapter 17 is that the United States chose to pursue a national policy of expansion called “Manifest Destiny.” The U.S. chose to expand it’s borders, and then did it.
A boundary dispute with England over Maine was settled peacably. In the long run, the U.S. likely got the better end of the deal.
Texas finally joined the U.S. Since the Texas revolution, it’d been hanging in the balance. American lawmakers finally decided it was too good of a prize to let slip by, so it was annexed in 1845
Oregon was next on the list of lands to seal up. It was shared land, mainly between the U.S. and England. After some negotiating over the border, the 49th parallel was agreed upon. Again, the U.S. likely got the better.
The election of 1844 saw James K. Polk run on a Manifest Destiny platform. Americans liked the idea, voted him in, and he went after California.
When the Mexican-American war was over, the prize of California that Polk had wanted, was obtained. So was all of the modern American Southwest.
The over-arching theme of chapter 18 is that the nation again fell into sectional dispute over slavery and states’ rights.
The main question facing the nation was, “Will new lands won from Mexico have slaves or be free?”
The answer to the question was hammered out in the Compromise of 1850. It said California was to be free, popular sovereignty (the people decide) for the rest of the lands.
A tougher fugitive slave law was a major concession to the South, but it wasn’t enforced. This angered the Southerners.
The North—South rift was widened with the Kansas-Nebraska Act. It repealed the Missouri Compromise which had kept the peace for a generation. In it’s place, popular sovereignty opened the Great Plains to potential slavery. Whereas the slave-land issue had been settled, now it was a big question mark.
The over-arching theme of chapter 19 is that compromise had prevailed earlier over the slavery issue, but this time, it failed.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin drove a wedge between the Northerner and Southerner. The South cried foul saying it gave a view of slavery that was too harsh and unrealistic, but it cemented each section’s feelings on the issue.
Kansas became the battleground over slavery. Since slavery there was to be decided by popular vote, each side passionately fought for their position. Bloodshed resulted.
The Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision was huge. It said that Congress or a legislature cannot outlaw slavery in the territories. Effectively then, all new lands were possible slave lands.
A financial panic in 1857 added to the chaos and uncertainty.
Abe Lincoln arrived on the scene. Although he lost to Stephen Douglas for Illinois Senate, he made a name for himself there.
In 1860, Abe Lincoln won a very sectional race for president over 3 other candidates. The South had promised to leave the union if Abe won. He won, and the South indeed seceded.
Chapter 20 - Girding for War: The North and the South
The over-arching theme of chapter 20 is that both sides prepared for war. The North relied on numbers to their advantage, the South hoped for England to intervene on their side, and the border states were in the balance.
After Ft. Sumter started the war, keeping the border states were Abe’s top concern. These were slave states that hadn’t left the nation. Throughout the war, Abe would make concessions to “keep them happy.” The border states never left.
All along the South felt that England would help them. The idea was that King Cotton’s dominance would force the English into helping the Southerners. This never happened, largely because Uncle Tom’s Cabin had convinced the English people of slavery’s horrors.
The North had the advantage in almost every category: population, industry, money, navy.
Both sides turned to a draft, the nation’s first. The draft was very unpopular and many riots broke out.
The over-arching theme of chapter 21 is that the North wore down and then forced the South to surrender.
The North thought they could win in a quick war. After they lost at Bull Run, the quick-victory approach seemed to have been a mistake. A northern loss on “the Peninsula” at Richmond reinforced that this would be a long war.
The South started the war winning. Turning point battles, which the North won, took place at (a) Antietam just before Lincoln’s “Emancipation Proclamation”, (b) Gettysburg which effectively broke the South’s back, and (c) Vicksburg which helped the North control the Mississippi River.
Lincoln won a hard-fought reelection in 1864. He did so by starting the “Union Party” made of Republicans and pro-war Democrats and on the simplicity of the slogan, “You don’t change horses midstream.”
General Sherman marched across Georgia and the South and reaped destruction. And the South began to lose battle after battle. These events drove the South to surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.
The over-arching theme of chapter 22 is that the South was placed under strict watch for years after the Civil War. Southern blacks saw some brief improvements, until the U.S. pulled back up North and left Southern blacks “hanging out to dry.”
After the war, the question was, “What to do with the southern states?” The more moderate Republicans, like Lincoln and his successor Andrew Johnson, lost out to the Radical Republicans who desired to punish the South.
The South was divided up into military districts. The southern states were not allowed to reenter the U.S. until the North’s stipulations were met.
For Southern blacks, these years were good politically. Since whites wanted nothing to do with the U.S., blacks voted and were often elected to state legislatures and Congress.
Economically, freed blacks fared worse. They were no longer slaves, but with little other options, they largely became sharecroppers. The end result was little different and little better than slavery.
In 1877, a presidential election was essentially a tie. A compromise was worked out, and the South got the U.S. Army to pull out. This left the southern blacks on their own—southern whites reasserted their power.
Chapter 23 - Political Paralysis in the Gilded Age
The over-arching theme of chapter 23 is that the Republicans and Democrats fell into an era of do-little politics. Each was concerned only with getting their party reelected.
President Ulysses S. Grant’s administration was riddled with corruption. Grant himself was clean, but many others were not and Grant was unwilling to fire them.
The political parties fell into the trap of serving themselves more than the people. Their top priority was to get their party reelected. As a result, little actually got done in the government.
Tensions rose over race and ethnicity. When the U.S. Army pulled out of the South as part of the Compromise of 1877, Reconstruction was over and southern blacks were left to fend for themselves. Also, anti-Chinese sentiment ran high and the Chinese were actually banned from immigration.
The government did reach the billion dollar level for the first time. This was largely due to military pension plans. The plans were very popular and revealed the goal of the legislators—pass something that will get me reelected.
Populism started. This was a farmer and worker movement that sought to clean up the government, bring it back to the people, and help the working man out.
The over-arching theme of chapter 24 is that America’s economy turns from agricultural and handiwork to industrial and machine work.
Before the Civil War, railroads had become important. After the war, railroads boomed and were critical to the nation. Railroads, along with steel, were to be the skeleton on which the nation’s economy would be built.
A class of millionaires emerged for the first time ever. Tycoons like Carnegie and Rockefeller made fortunes. This type of wealth was championed by “Social Darwinism” where the strong win in business.
Unfortunately, many of the mega-industries, like railroads, grew at the expense of the “little man’s” interest. As businesses, they were out to make money, and they did. But the working man cried foul.
To right these wrongs, the beginnings of anti-trusts began (to bust the monopolies) and organized labor got a jumpstart (although they were still rather ineffective).
The over-arching theme of chapter 25 is that in the late 1800s, the Industrial Revolution forced the American city to gain dominance over rural America.
Cities grew because factories grew. The Industrial Revolution kicked into gear in America in the late 1800s and factories needed workers, so people flocked to the cities.
Problems arose as cities boomed. The problems included: exploitation of immigrant laborers, poor/unhealthy work conditions, over-crowdedness and sanitation problems, corrupton, and “nativism” (anti-immigrant feelings).
Booker T. Washington & W.E.B. DuBois were the top black leaders. They disagreed on how to help blacks—Washington encouraged blacks to obtain a practical skill at a trade school, DuBois encouraged blacks to study anything they wished, even academic subjects.
The roles of women began to change, if only slightly. More women worked, though most were still at home. The “new woman” was idealized by the althletic, outgoing “Gibson Girl.”
The over-arching theme of chapter 27 is that America took over new lands, mostly in the Caribbean and the Pacific.
The Spanish-American War saw the U.S. gain Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guantanomo Bay in Cuba, the Philippines, and other smaller islands.
The Philippines proved to be hard to handle since the Filipino people didn’t want the U.S. there. They waged a guerilla war and resented American control until it was turned back over to the Philippines after WWII.
The U.S. managed to get an “Open Door Policy” with China. This opened the Asian giant to international trade.
Teddy Roosevelt became a vigorous president who obtained and built the Panama Canal. His “Big Stick Policy” toward Latin America increased America’s influence, but also increased animosity toward the U.S.
Chapter 28 - Progressivism and the Republican Roosevelt
The over-arching theme of chapter 28 is that reformers called “Progressives” sought to clean up America on behalf of the people. Teddy Roosevelt became the best-known and most active Progressive.
The Progressives grew out of the Populist (or People’s) Party and sought to correct injustices.
Progressives and “muckraker” writers attacked city corruption, corporate greed, poor living and working conditions, alcohol, and women’s right to vote. Each of these ills saw laws and/or Amendments passed to attempt to better the condition.
Teddy Roosevelt made a name for himself as a “trust-buster”. That is, he broke up a few high-profile companies that he said were monopolies (or trusts). Busting trusts and thus creating competition was to benefit the average person.
He also obtained huge tracts of land, usually out West, for parks and conservation.
Roosevelt picked Taft to follow him, but Taft began to stray from Roosevelt’s ways and the two split.
Chapter 29 - Wilsonian Progressivism at Home and Abroad
The over-arching theme of chapter 29 is that Woodrow Wilson was an idealist (he had high principles and would not bend them for practical purposes).
Wilson won the presidency mainly because Teddy Roosevelt ran as a third-party candidate and split the Republican vote with Taft.
Wilson was an idealist and progressive who sought to clean up problems. He attacked the tariff as too high, banks as corrupt by the rich, and trusts as milking the people.
Wilson hated war and wanted American foreign policy to be fair and just to all. Conditions in Latin America, however, forced this peaceful president to take military action. Notably, he ordered the US Army to chase Pancho Villa in Mexico.
In Europe, war had begun. In the Atlantic ocean, German subs began to sink sinks carrying Americans, notably the Lusitania. Wilson tried to keep America out of the war, and did, for the time being.
Chapter 33 - The Great Depression and the New Deal
The over-arching theme of chapter 33 is that FDR led the federal government into his massive New Deal programs. The goal was to re-invigorate the U.S. economy and jolt it right up out of the Great Depression.
FDR quickly got many New Deal programs passed. The general philosophy was: the government will start massive projects and spend huge quantities of money, and this will “jump-start” the economy.
These programs hit on all walks of life. Emphasis was placed on creating jobs, housing, construction projects, and restoring confidence in banks.
Though FDR was popular, there were critics to the New Deal—some saying it did too much, others that it did too little.
FDR pretty much had his way with Congress, until he asked for more Supreme Court judges and was finally told, “No.”
All told, though the New Deal may have helped the economy a bit, it did not boost the U.S. from the Depression.
Chapter 34 - Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Shadow of War
The over-arching theme of chapter 34 is that dictatorships overseas forced FDR to stray from American issues and look outside of the U.S. FDR wanted peace, but events slowly drew the U.S. closer and then into WWII.
When it became evident that both Japan and Germany were marching toward militarism, FDR (and Europe) made it clear they wanted peace. This effectively gave the dictators a “go-ahead” sign.
Events showed war as inevitable. Japan attacked China. Spain became a dictatorship, and Italy and Germany did as well.
After watching Hitler go on the move, he finally broke a pledge to not attack Poland. England and France went to war. The U.S. still wanted to stay out.
As the situation overseas deteriorated, the U.S. began to support England and France more openly with words and supplies. Finally, when Pearl Harbor was attacked, the U.S. entered WWII.
The over-arching theme of chapter 35 is the U.S. fought a two-front war: in Europe and in the Pacific. To win, America mobilized its massive resources of people and materials, then steadily fought to overwhelm the enemy.
The first goal of the U.S. in the war was to mobilize. This meant signing up thousands of troops, and switching the American economy over to war. For example, it was time to stop making sedans, and start building bombers.
The war affected all Americans. Men (of all races) went to war and women took the jobs the men had left.
In the Pacific, the U.S. “island hopped” over four years from Hawaii all the way to Okinawa and were “knocking on Japan’s door.” Finally, the atomic bomb drove Japan to surrender.
In Europe, the U.S. and her allies worked from North Africa up through Italy and toward the “soft underbelly” of Germany. Then, the massive D-Day invasion drove the Nazis back to Germany where Hitler committed suicide and his generals surrendered.
The over-arching theme of chapter 36 is that post-war America found a new prosperity economically and a new enemy in communist Russia. Opposition to communism would dominate foreign policy for over 40 years.
The production boom of WWII jolted America out of the Great Depression. With other nations torn up by war, America enjoyed an economic dominance for three decades following WWII.
The policy of “containment”, or not letting communism spread, was the basis of the “Truman doctrine.” This policy was drove foreign policy until communism fell in 1989.
With the Marshall Plan, the U.S. gave billions to rebuild western Europe. The Marshall Plan, NATO (alliance between U.S. and Western Europe), the U.S.S.R. and U.S. chose opposite sides of the fence.
When North Korea invaded South Korea, the policy of containment was challenged. The U.S. entered the Korean War to uphold the Truman Doctrine.
The over-arching theme of chapter 37 is how 1950s America entered a period of conformity where middle-class America largely shared the same ideals and to do differently was a major no-no.
American enjoyed its new prosperity and bought up loads of consumer items to go along with new homes. The “baby boom” also began.
“McCarthyism” played off of, and added to, America’s fears of communism.
Black—white segregation in the South became rigid. But, the foundation of the civil rights movement was laid with events such as the Brown v. Board of Education case and Montgomery bus boycott.
The Cold War dominated culture. Incidents between the U.S. and U.S.S.R., such as America’s U-2 spy plane being shot down, added to the tension. Plus, a new “arms race” of nuclear weapons, and a “space race” to develop satellites and rockets began.
The over-arching theme of chapter 38 is that the 1960s were a decade of upheaval. Abroad, the Vietnam War drug throughout the decade; at home, cultural changes were staggering.
John Kennedy bumbled over foreign policy with his failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba; then redeemed himself by standing up to the U.S.S.R. in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
JFK also sent U.S. “advisors” to South Vietnam. The goal was to prevent communist North Vietnam from taking over non-communist South Vietnam.
The Civil Rights Movement gained steam and reached full boil with Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech.” The Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act were large steps forward toward ending discrimination.
Lyndon Baines Johnson fought two “wars”: (a) at home, he started the “Great Society” in attempt to make America the place everyone had dreamt it would be, (b) he significantly escalated the U.S. presence in Vietnam after the Tonkin Gulf Incident.
Culturally, young people rebelled against the conformity of the 50s. In the 60s, the norm for many became to not follow the norm. This was seen mostly in the hippies, in music, in drug use, and in the idea of “questioning authority.”
The over-arching theme of chapter 39 was that America’s post-war economic prosperity began to take a sharp slide downward.
The economy began to slow. This was mostly due to increased oil prices and resulting inflation. Generally speaking, during the seventies, gas prices tripled and inflation reached double digits by 1980.
Nixon was brought down by the Watergate Scandal. The scandal involved a break-in and mic bugging at the Democratic headquarters. Nixon got into trouble for “obstructing justice” and telling people to keep quiet about it.
Jimmy Carter was elected as a Washington outsider. He struggled as president with (a) the economy which took a nose-dive and (b) foreign affairs as he was unable to deal with U.S. hostages taken in Iran.
Though times were certainly not bad, mixed with the Watergate scandal, it was a decade without tremendous progress.
The over-arching theme of chapter 40 is that Ronald Reagan returned America to more traditional policies and values.
Conservatism emerged through Reagan who supported tax cuts, “supply-side” economics that helped businesses, and a strengthening of the military. The national debt increased dramatically, largely due to increased military spending.
Reagan took a strong stance against communism, calling the U.S.S.R. the “evil empire.”
When Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union, tensions began to soften. Gorbachev’s actions within the U.S.S.R. would eventually lead to communism’s fall in 1989.
In 1991, Iraq invaded Kuwait. This started an international effort to oust Iraq, led by George H. W. Bush and the U.S.
Chapter 41 - America Confronts the Post-Cold War Era
The over-arching themes of chapter 41 is that Bill Clinton and the federal government largely bumbled through eight years of presidency yet enjoyed a robust economy. And George W. Bush took the “War on Terror” overseas to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Entering the White House in 1992, Clinton came with a desire to make several liberal reforms such as gays in the military and universal government-sponsored health care. Most of these were over-estimated and did not pan out.
Two years later, the Republicans, led by Newt Gingrinch, won large numbers in Congress. Then they also over-estimated the call for change.
Problems abroad were also a thorn in Clinton’s side, including chaos in Somalia where the U.S. entered and then left, trade policies with China, ethnic fighting in the Balkans where the U.S. and NATO tried to clean up the mess.
The 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore was the closest in history, and likely the most controversial. Gore got more popular votes, but after counts and recounts in Florida, Bush got more electoral votes and won.
On September 11, 2001, radical Muslim terrorists attacked the U.S. by hijacking airplanes. This motivated President Bush to attack Afghanistan in hopes of (a) ousting the Taliban rulers and (b) uprooting the terrorists.
Believing Saddam Hussein had “WMDs” (weapons of mass destruction) Bush and Congress elected to attack Iraq. Hussein was captured and the U.S. set up a new Iraqi government. Chaos in the streets remained, however, and the rest of the story is still being written.
Chapter 42 - The American People Face a New Century
The over-arching theme of chapter 42 is that America faces new challenges in the future.
The high-tech sector has revolutionized the modern nation. Personal computers are the norm and the internet came in a boom (and a bust). A handful of tech firms and founders became instant billionaires.
The rich-poor gap widened as the wealthy got wealthier during the ReaganBushClinton years. The rich did get richer, and they paid an increasing percentage of the total taxes.
Women broke into many places formerly reserved for men. This was true for both jobs, but also for colleges such as Ivy League schools and military schools.
Family make-up began to change dramatically as divorce increased sharply. Births to unmarried women also increased dramatically.
Demographic changes are seen in (a) baby boomers aging, (b) a large rise in Latino immigration, and (c) a rise of “multiculturalism”.