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Instructional Resources

Series Info

Episodes: 8

Length: 60 min.

Grade Levels:
Adult Learning

Social Studies

Video on Demand
Teacher's Guide
Web Resources


Primary Sources: Workshops in American History

In this workshop, 12 high school history teachers explore the use of primary-source documents in the research and interpretation of American history. The programs feature informal lectures by prominent historians on pivotal events from the settlement of Jamestown to the Korean conflict and the Cold War.

The topics relate to programs from Annenberg/CPB’s instructional series A Biography of America, which can be viewed in coordination with this workshop.

Episode Guide

1. The Virginia Company: America’s Corporate Beginnings Tells the story of Jamestown, a less-than-successful example of America’s capitalist beginnings and a colony as a business operation. Coordinated with A Biography of America program 2: English Settlement.

2. Common Sense and the American Revolution: The Power of the Printed Word Explores the power and importance of America’s first “best-seller.” Using the language of ordinary people, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense called for revolution, challenging many assumptions about government and the colonies’ relationship with England. Coordinated with A Biography of America program 4: The Coming of Independence.

3. The Lowell System: Women in a New Industrial Society In the earliest days of American industry, the Boston Manufacturing Company created an innovative, single-location manufacturing enterprise at Lowell that depended on the recruitment of female mill workers. Coordinated with A Biography of America program 7: The Rise of Capitalism.

4. Concerning Emancipation: Who Freed the Slaves? Examines the role of the enslaved in bringing about the end of slavery in the United States. Coordinated with A Biography of America programs 10: The Coming of the Civil War and 11: The Civil War.

5. Cans, Coal, and Corporations: The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition Intrastate transportation and industrial technology exploded in the second half of the nineteenth century, creating a new vision of America. Coordinated with A Biography of America program 15: The New City.

6. The Census: Who We Think We Are A selection of Census forms over the past 200 years shows how categories of race and ethnicity not only reflect, but can shape and sometimes obscure, America’s ideas of racial identity. Coordinated with A Biography of America program 19: A Vital Progressivism.

7. Disease and History: Typhoid Mary and the Search for Perfect Control Looks at the history of infectious disease in America — particularly typhoid, diphtheria, and polio — and their “conquest” by medical research and public health regulation. Coordinated with A Biography of America program 15: The New City.

8. Korea and the Cold War: A Case Study Looks at the first use of military force under the Truman Doctrine, and the Korean War as the first practical manifestation of America’s Cold War “containment” policy. Coordinated with A Biography of America program 23: The Fifties.

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