Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Curriculum Resource: Colonial and Jeffersonian America

One issue I have with the way American history is taught is that it is so often presented in a vacuum.  However, just like today, where relations with Mexico, Israel, Great Britain, Saudi Arabia, and other nations have so much impact on our decisions, both domestically and in foreign policy, so much of American history was really a response to events happening all over the globe.  Fortunately, there are a growing number of resources to provide students with a broader perspective of these events in our past.  Apparently the academic term for this approach is "transnational history."  

Here are two books I think are appropriate for middle school readers that present the larger global perspective about things we tend to think about from just an "American" point of view:

The Real Revolution:  The Global Story of American Independence by Marc Aronson (2005)
This book makes a great case for the American Revolution as merely one local reaction to the battle for global domination between England and France during the 17th and 18th century.  It traces one of the most egregious complaints of the American colonists--the tax on tea--as an attempt to shore up the profits of the East Indian Trading Company in order to secure the English colonies in India in order to... well, you get the picture.  It's a much bigger story than just some upset colonists in Boston.

What's the Deal?  Jefferson, Napoleon, and the Louisiana Purchase by Rhoda Blumberg (1998)
Blumberg chronicles the merry-go-round intrigue between England, France, Spain, and the new nation of the United States over who would control not only the highly desirable port of New Orleans, but the territory of unknown wilderness that would eventually become 1/3 of the continental US.

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