American History and Culture



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Faculty of Humanities and Educational Sciences

European Languages Department

S. Neries g. 5 – 101

American History and Culture
(H004B012 – JAV Istorija ir kultura)

Course Description, Lecture Notes, and Study Materials


doc. Dr. Susan Robbins


(Global Scholars Professor of Philosophy and Humanities)

Klaipeda University

2012-2016

Table of Contents




  1. Course Description (for students) 3
    Reading list (for students) 4

  2. Bibliography and List of Materials 6

  3. Lecture Notes 8

A. The Colonial Period (1607-1763) 8
1. Reading List (for students) 8

2. Time Line (for students) 8

B. The Revolutionary War and the new Republic (1763-1825) 13

1. Reading list 13

2. Time line 13

C. Cultural Development, Human Rights, and the Growth of America

(1826-1928) 20

1. Reading list 20

2. Time line 21

D. 20th Century America (1901-2001) 27

1. Reading list 27

2. Time line 27

IV. Maps, Study Questions, Tests 31


  1. Map of the 13 Colonies/State 31

“These maps may be printed and copied for personal or classroom use.” (Education Place, Houghton Mifflin Company, www.eduplace.com/ss/maps/)

  1. Study Materials 32

American History & CultureFall 20xx

doc. Dr. Susan Robbins



I. Course Description:


This course will address the highlights of American history through reading and analyzing primary texts. We will focus on how these events have shaped the culture, and how the culture influenced subsequent history. The primary readings will be taken from a variety of genres: we will read either whole works or selections from political documents, speeches, journals, autobiographies, letters, poems, stories, and essays. These readings will give insight into the attitudes, beliefs, convictions, and ideas which have shaped American history and culture. 2 credits.
II. Objectives of the Course: Outcomes for students:

  1. To learn basic facts and concepts of American history, and to become aware of the questions concerning human society and culture raised by this information.

  2. To understand the distinction between primary and secondary sources, and to be able to form good interpretive skills based on this distinction.

  3. To apply critical thinking skills (analysis, synthesis, evaluation) and writing skills (outlining, summarizing, quoting) to topics of this course.

  4. To understand the role of concepts such as freedom, human rights, faith, worship, creativity, adventure, loyalty, courage, and patriotism in the development of American society and culture.


III. Teaching methods:

-reading assignments in primary sources

-written homework assignments to be used in class
-lecture by professor

-class discussion and participation


IV. Course Grading/Evaluation:
Work during the Course: 50%

-homework & class participation 10%


-one practice test (20 min.) 5%
-two short papers (~1200 words each) 30%
-one map test (10 minutes) 5%

Final Exam: 50%


V. Outline of Topics:

  1. The Colonial Period (1607-1763)
    1. The colonies and their charters: Plymouth Colony (1620), Massachusetts Bay Colony (1630)
    2. Key leaders: William Bradford, Squanto, William Penn, John Winthrop
    3. Key Documents and events: Mayflower Compact, Bradford’s Journal, “A Model of Christian Charity”
    4. Key Ideas: “The city on a hill”
    5. Literature and Culture: Squanto, Samoset, Massasoit, Harvard University (1636), the first Thanksgiving Day, Boston Tea Party



  2. The Revolutionary War and the new Republic (1763-1825)
    1. Wars: Revolutionary War, French Revolution, War of 1812
    2. Key People: George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Benjamin Franklin, Lewis and Clark
    3. Primary Documents: Declaration of Independence, US Constitution, “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”, Franklin’s Autobiography (selections)
    4. Key Ideas: Independence, Three branches of government, Checks and balances,
    5. Literature and Culture: Paul Revere’s Ride, Louisiana Purchase, Sacagawea, slavery and race issues, the Voluntary Way, the National Anthem, Franklin’s Autobiography



  3. Cultural Development, Human Rights, and the Growth of America (1826-1928)
    1. Key Leaders: Abraham Lincoln
    2. Key Events: Cherokee Trail of Tears, Civil War
    3. Key Documents: Seneca Falls Declaration, Gettysburg Address, Proclamation of Emancipation, Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural Address, Chief Joseph’s Letter, “What to the Slave is the 4th of July?”
    4. Key Ideas: Liberty and Justice for all, self-reliance
    5. Literature and Culture: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Chief Joseph, Frederick Douglas,
    6. Inventors and authors: Thomas Alva Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, the Wright brothers, Mark Twain, O. Henry



  4. 20th Century America (1929-2001)
    1. Key Leaders: John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., George Marshall
    2. Key Events: Stock Market Crash, The Great Depression, The Marshall Plan, the Cold War, 9/11, globalization
    3. Key Developments: Civil Rights, Immigration
    4. Key Idea: the American Dream
    5. Literature and Culture: Neil Armstrong, “Nobody Sick, Nobody Poor,” “One Thousand Dollars,” “I Have a Dream,” “The New Colossus”


Reading List – The ones with * are in Basic Readings in U. S. Democracy; others are online. you must print paper copies of these to use in class, or bring them on some sort of technology (laptop, iPad, etc.). The ones marked ‘selections’ I will give you – they are too long to read in entirety, and it is too difficult for you to find the particular pages online.
a. *William Bradford, "The Mayflower Compact"

b. William Bradford, "On Plymouth Plantation", selections (handouts)


c. John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity” selections (handouts)

d. Patrick Henry, "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death"

e. *Thomas Jefferson, "The Declaration of Independence"

f. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "Paul Revere's Ride"

g. Francis Scott Key, "The Star-Spangled Banner"

h. Benjamin Franklin, "Autobiography" and "Poor Richard's Almanac", selections (handouts)

i. *Elizabeth Cady Stanton, "Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments, 1848"

j. Frederick Douglas, "What to the Slave is the 4th of July?"

k. *Ralph Waldo Emerson, excerpts from “Self-Reliance”
l. "Letter to President van Buren on Behalf of the Cherokee Indians",

m. Chief Joseph, "An Indian's View of Indian Affairs"

n. *Abraham Lincoln, "Gettysburg Address" and "Emancipation Proclamation"

o. O. Henry, "One Thousand Dollars"

p. Zona Gale, "Nobody Sick, Nobody Poor"

q. *Martin Luther King, Jr., "I Have a Dream"

r. John F. Kennedy, "Inaugural Address"

s. *George C. Marshall, “The Marshall Plan”


t. *Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus”
u. *“The US Constitution”, selections
v. *Black Hawk, “Surrender Speech”
w. Benjamin Franklin, “Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America”
x. Native American Poetry
y. Anne Bradstreet, selected poems: “To My Husband”, “On the Burning of our House, July 10th, 1666”
Bibliography of Sources and Materials for Preparation of Lectures and Seminars: [All readings, except those marked ‘selections,’ can easily be found online also.]


  1. Melvin I. Urofsky, editor, Basic Readings in American Democracy (Washington, DC: United States Information Agency, 1994). [The Department of European Languages has 30 copies of this book in the department’s library in room 309, HUMF]
    a. William Bradford, "The Mayflower Compact" (pages 11-12).
    e. Thomas Jefferson, "The Declaration of Independence" (1-6).
    i. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, "Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments, 1848" (114-116).
    k. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance” (91-96).
    n. Abraham Lincoln, "Gettysburg Address" and "Emancipation Proclamation" (159-163).
    q. Martin Luther King, Jr., "I Have a Dream" (228-232).
    s. George C. Marshall, “The Marshall Plan” (339-342).
    t. Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus” (367-368).
    u. “The Constitution of the United States”, selections (25-42).
    v. Black Hawk, “Surrender Speech” (77-78).



  2. Caroline Kennedy, editor, A Patriot’s Handbook: Songs, Poems, Stories, and Speeches Celebrating the Land We Love (New York: Hyperion, 2003).
    c. John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity” selections (32-33).
    g. Francis Scott Key, "The Star-Spangled Banner" (3-6).
    q. Martin Luther King, Jr., "I Have a Dream" (321-324).
    t. Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus” (497-499).



  3. Hodgins & Silverman, editors, Adventures in American Literature (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980).
    b. William Bradford, "On Plymouth Plantation" selections (17-25).
    d. Patrick Henry, "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" (70-73).
    e. Thomas Jefferson, "The Declaration of Independence" (77-84).
    h. Benjamin Franklin, "Autobiography", "Poor Richard's Almanac", selections (57-69).
    x. Native American Poetry, (45-47).
    y. Anne Bradstreet, selected poems: “To My Husband”, “On the Burning of our House, July 10th, 1666” (Adventures, 26-29).



  4. Paul Johnson, A History of the American People (New York: HarperCollins, 1997).



  5. Leland Ryken, Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were (Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, 1990).



  6. Clarence B. Carson, The Beginning of the Republic 1775-1825 (Wadley, AL: American Textbook Committee, 1984).



  7. Schweikart & Allen, A Patriot’s History of the United States (New York, Sentinel, 2004).



  8. Stroh & Calloway, editors, American Ethics (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2000).
    i. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, "Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments, 1848" (160-163).
    j. Frederick Douglas, "What to the Slave is the 4th of July?" (173-176).
    k. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance” (123-129).
    l. Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Letter to President van Buren on Behalf of the Cherokee Indians" (130-133).
    m. Chief Joseph, "An Indian's View of Indian Affairs" (189-194).
    w. Benjamin Franklin, “Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America” (80-84).



  9. Jen Greenholt, editor, Words Aptly Spoken: American Documents, 2e (West End, NC: Classical Conversations, 2011).
    d. Patrick Henry, "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" (23-25).
    g. Francis Scott Key, "The Star-Spangled Banner" (119-121).
    n. Abraham Lincoln, "Gettysburg Address" (61-62) and "Emancipation Proclamation" (215-217).
    r. John F. Kennedy, "Inaugural Address" (95-98).
    s. George C. Marshall, “The Marshall Plan” (91-93).
    t. Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus” (127-128).



  10. Stories and Poems (easy to find online)
    f. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "Paul Revere's Ride"
    o. O. Henry, "One Thousand Dollars"

p. Zona Gale, "Nobody Sick, Nobody Poor"



  1. Supplementary materials on Native Americans
    v. Black Hawk, “Surrender Speech” (Basic Readings, 77-78).
    w. Benjamin Franklin, “Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America” (Ethics, 80-84).
    x. Native American Poetry, (Adventures, 45-47).
    y. Anne Bradstreet, selected poems: “To My Husband”, “On the Burning of our House, July 10th, 1666” (Adventures, 26-29).



Other materials: music, film,
DVD – 1776, Broadway Musical produced by Jack L. Warner
DVD – Gone With the Wind
DVD – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford
CD – The Best of John Denver
CD – American Songs of Revolutionary Times and the Civil War Era
CD – Native Heart: The Spirit of the North American Indians, St. Clair Entertainment Group

CD – Old Time Gathering, Traditional Dance Music of Early America



Lecture Notes

Introductory Lecture

  1. Hand out and explain the course description (the first two pages of this document).

  2. Start the first lecture by reminding students of material they should already know.

Educated Europeans had known since the time of ancient Greece that the world was round; they just thought it was a lot smaller than it really is. The Vikings has sailed west and colonized Iceland and Greenland, then Newfoundland in Canada, in the 9th – 11th centuries.

Portugal and Spain were the countries most interested in exploration in the 15th century. Marco Polo’s explorations to China caused them to want a faster route by sea to the East. Columbus “discovered” America in 1492, after persuading Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain that he could probably reach Asia much more quickly by sailing west. He made two more voyages, in 14998, and 1504, after realizing he had discovered a new land mass, possibly a new continent. All during the 16th century, Spain and Portugal were the main financial backers of the explorations, funding such explorers as Balboa (crossed Panama and named the Pacific Ocean in 1513), Magellan (sailed around the world 1519-1522), Ponce de Leon (explored Florida looking for the Fountain of Youth), and Cortez (conquered the Aztecs in 1521). The Portuguese colonies were in Brazil; The Spanish colonized Mexico and central America, and some of Florida; The French colonized Louisiana and Quebec.




  1. The Colonial Period (1607-1763)

Reading list:

William Bradford, "The Mayflower Compact"

William Bradford, "On Plymouth Plantation", selections (handouts)

John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity” selections (handouts)



Time Line:

1492-1504: Columbus’s four voyages

1517: Martin Luther, the beginning of the Reformation

1526: Tyndale’s New Testament reaches England

1536: Henry VIII separates from Rome, Church of England begins

1558: Queen Elizabeth I

1585-87: Roanoke Colony fails (Carolinas)

1603: King James I

1607: Jamestown , Virginia, founded

1611: King James Bible published

1619: First Africans arrive in Virginia as indentured servants

1620: Puritans found Plymouth, Massachusetts

1625: Charles I (unsympathetic to the Puritans)

1630: Arabella arrives, Massachusetts Bay colony founded, Puritan Migration begins

1636: Harvard University founded, Maryland settled (1634)

1642-48: English Civil War; migration of Puritans to MA ended

1649: Oliver Cromwell becomes Lord Protectorate, Charles I executed

1660: Charles II becomes King, Church of England restored

1675: King Philip’s War (war between the colonies and the Pequot Indians)

1682: Pennsylvania settled by William Penn, a Quaker

1688-89: English Glorious Revolution and Bill of Rights, William and Mary become Rulers of England, they restore the liberty of Puritans to preach and establish churches.

1707: England, Wales and Scotland unite into the United Kingdom

1700s: remaining colonies founded, (13 altogether) New York bought from Holland

1760: George III accedes to the throne of UK

1763: Proclamation Line of 1763 declared, establishing a western border beyond which colonists were forbidden to go. (See the Map.)

The earliest permanent English colony was in Virginia, and the primary motivation for it was to find gold. The intention was to establish a trading colony, and on the first voyage there, 144 men and boys were sent as the colonists. Jamestown was the first permanent colony established in 1607, and it had problems with the colonists not wanting to work at building and farming to sustain themselves. Many of them were aristocrats who thought such work was beneath them. They also had problems with hostile Indians, and disease. They also had problems with the management and governorship of the colony. They got a new governor in 1624, and in those 17 years 21,000 colonists had arrived from England to the colony. Yet in 1624, the population of the colony was less than 5,000! So many of them had died. The new governor changed many of the laws and policies, and Jamestown was more successful in sustaining itself after that. They brought in women, and started families and homes, building towns, and thinking of Jamestown as a permanent home, rather than merely a place of business.

The next colony, Plymouth Colony, was very different. They brought women, children, animals, tools, and supplies from the beginning. Plymouth Colony was planted by the Puritans of England who wanted both to flee the persecutions there, and to start a new society in the new world. They were called ‘Puritans’ because they wanted to purify the Church of England of its Roman Catholic practices. They were also reformers, with a vision of a reformed society, living under the laws and principles of the Bible. Even though the Church of England was also Protestant, these Puritans were not appreciated in England, and were severely harassed. So they got permission to go to Virginia and start a new colony.

The Context of the “Mayflower Compact”

This group of Puritans, led by William Bradford, had been in Holland in 1608-1609, but they didn’t like how the Dutch culture was shaping their children, so they came back to England, and sailed in the Mayflower in 1620. The Mayflower was the name of the ship. There were 41 adult men along with their women and children; also there were the sailors, who were not originally part of the colony and were not Puritans – in total, 105 people. They were blown far off course, and landed in New England in early November, 1620. Before they moved on land, while they were still living on the ship, they wrote up the “Mayflower Compact” to draw up the covenant under which they would be governed. It sets the tone and the values for the political principles that have shaped America.



Points to Emphasize

They identify themselves as “Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James”; this is to show they are not in rebellion or starting a revolution against the King of England. They are not in Virginia, and have no authorization to be where they are. Their ship has a cracked keel, and they have no more food and supplies; they can’t go on to Virginia.

The purposes given in the introduction are “for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country.” The first two show that they are not merely fleeing the difficulties in England; they are moving toward a vision of establishing a new society and commonwealth, one that can show those back in England how to set up a properly Christian civil society.

The compact establishes the method of government: “We, . . . covenant and combine ourselves into a civil Body Politick”. All 41 adult men signed it. The idea of government “by the people” is born here. There is to be no aristocracy, no classes in which some rule and others have no say in the governing of the commonwealth.

They, all of them together, declare they will “enact . . . just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Offices, . . . as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience.” The values of justice and equality are established here, as well as the value of the Rule of Law above and beyond the rule of any human being, such as a king. The idea that no one, no matter how high standing or rich he is, is above the law is born here. Also here is the idea that no one is qualified to exercise authority over others who is not submissive to authority himself. So these men are individually promising to obey all the laws which they collectively make!

William Bradford’s Journal: selections from “On Plymouth Plantation”

William Bradford was elected governor, and continued by election as governor for 30 years. He kept a journal of the colony and recorded in clear, plain, and detailed language what occurred in the colony. The clarity and detail he gave encourage the assumption that he was extremely accurate in what he reported, even though he did not use the modern standards of journalism that we expect today.



Highlights of the selections:

The Sea Voyage, and Arrival at Cape Cod:

The English vocabulary is that of the 17th century; Bradford uses many words unfamiliar to modern readers, and uses familiar words in unfamiliar ways. Still, it can be gathered that there were many storms during the voyage, that they had a cracked keel and a lot of argument whether to go on or not, and that only one person died during the voyage. (See “Language and Vocabulary”, Adventures, p. 25).



The Starving Time:

They arrived in November, went permanently ashore in December and “in two or three months’ time, half their company died, especially in January and February” of 1621 (p. 21) due to lack of food and housing causing scurvy and other diseases. Out of more than 100people, by March less than 50 remained. Bradford also records the behaviour of the sailors, both kindly and stingy, and of the “passengers” during this time.



Indian Relations:

Two very astonishing things happened. “About the sixteenth of March, a certain Indian came boldly amongst them and spoke to them in broken English, which they could well understand but marvelled at it.” . . . “His name was Samoset.” It was as shocking as if a group of Lithuanians has set sail, and coming to an island in the Carribbean, met an Indian walking to them out of the woods speaking in Lithuanian! Samoset had learned English from English fishermen who had been coming only in the summers. Another Indian named Squanto, spoke even better English because he had actually been in England for some years. Squanto came to meet them and stayed with the colony for the rest of his life.

Squanto brought with him another Indian named Massasoit, the chief of the tribe in that area. They had a feast which lasted 3 days, and made a treaty – the longest lasting treaty made with any Indians in the history of America. Both sides kept it for over 50 years, until King Philip’s War (1675-1676). Bradford recorded the six articles of the treaty (p. 23). No one starved from the spring of 1621, and the colony flourished, with Squanto to teach them how and what to plant, and how to cook and prepare foods native to North America, and how to store them for winter.

The feast was the origin of the celebration known as Thanksgiving, although it was celebrated at different times in different places, usually in the fall. Abraham Lincoln declared the 4th Thursday of November to be the national Thanksgiving Day in 1865. It is the only holiday in America in which there is a general country-wide tradition to eat a big family meal with turkey, cranberries and pumpkin pie. All other holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, have very different traditions, depending on the region, the culture, and even differing from family to family.



John Winthrop’s message “A Model of Christian Charity

Context and Highlights: A fleet of ships with Puritan colonists from England arrived in Massachusetts in 1630. They had permission to hold their yearly elections and meetings of the trustees of the colony in Massachusetts, rather than in England. This permission made them essentially self-governing. Between 1630 and 1642 over 20,000 colonists came to New England and established colonies around New England. All the colonies kept the treaty Bradford had made with the Indians.

This sermon is based on the section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, where it is written, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5: 14-16) Winthrop’s famous lines allude to this: “For we must consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill. The eyes of all people are upon us; . . .”. It was a challenge to aspire to become the greatest nation on earth.



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