AP Summer Institute





 Period 2: 1607-1754 Period 3: 1754-1800 Period 4: 1800-1848Period 5: 1844-1877 
 Period 6: 1865-1898Period 7: 1890-1945 Period 8: 1945-1980Period 9: 1980-present 

An Interpretive Overview of United States History: 2015 Edition

                Three interrelated themes pervade the history of colonial North America and the United States. These themes can be most succinctly summarized as: 1) the land of the free; 2) the land of opportunity; and 3) a nation of immigrants. These themes can each be traced back to before 1492, to a time when the only immigrants living in North America were those who had crossed the land bridge over the Bering Strait centuries before. The Europeans who began arriving in 1492 were seeking a better life, most in the form of a higher standard of living and many wishing to practice the religion of their choice and/or to govern themselves. At various junctures after 1492, some of the new arrivals succeeded in finding the freedom and opportunity they sought, while others came to occupy a subordinate position with only very limited freedom or access to economic opportunity. As we trace the growth and transformation first of colonial North America and then the United States, we will focus on those individuals and groups, immigrants and native-born, who found the freedom and opportunity they sought, as well as those who failed to do so.
 Period 1: 1491-1607
                Prior to 1492, much of the large and diverse population of Native Americans in North America had already learned--to a significant extent through the use of fire--to shape the natural environment in which they lived. After 1492, however, virulent epidemic diseases, brought to the Americas by Europeans as part of what historians now call "the Columbian Exchange," drastically reduced the Native American population and made them susceptible to conquest, control and even enslavement, first to Spanish, and then to French, Dutch and English invaders. Population growth in both Europe and Africa was stimulated by the importation of new foods such as corn, potatoes and tomatoes from the Americas, while the European economy was transformed by the inflationary "Price Revolution" sparked by the influx of large amounts of gold and silver from the colonies. The Spanish and French sought to save the immortal souls of these people they regarded as heathens, and, like the Dutch, to profit from commercial transactions and the mining of precious metals on the lands that the native peoples inhabited.
 Period 2: 1607-1754
                Unlike the Spanish and French, the English learned after 1607 that by establishing agricultural settlements as well as commercial outposts, they could generate greater profits. They gave up almost entirely on converting the native peoples to Christianity. They focused on moving the native peoples off the land they coveted and encouraging immigration from the mother country to populate the land and expand production of staple crops, ships and naval stores. The English colonists' desire for land was only the most important source of repeated conflict. European conceptions of private property and gender roles, especially whether males or females should be responsible for agricultural labor, were also significant sources of intercultural conflict with American Indians. Spanish colonizing efforts in North America, particularly after the Pueblo Revolt, saw an accommodation with some aspects of American Indian culture; by contrast, conflict with American Indians tended to reinforce English colonists' worldviews on land and gender roles.

                By the end of the 17th century the English colonies of North America had begun to evolve into two distinct types of societies: a communal society of small freeholders in New England, settled primarily by Puritans seeking religious freedom and economic betterment, and a plantation society from the Chesapeake southward, based on commercial agriculture and in the midst of a transition from a labor force of white indentured servants to one of African slaves. By the mid-18th century the demographically, religiously, and ethnically diverse middle colonies supported a flourishing export economy based on cereal crops, while the Chesapeake colonies and North Carolina continued to rely on the cultivation of tobacco. The colonies along the southernmost Atlantic coast and the British islands in the West Indies (where sugar predominated) took advantage of long growing seasons by using slave labor to develop economies based on staple crops (rice and indigo in South Carolina); in some cases, enslaved Africans constituted the majority of the population.

                Unlike Spanish, French, and Dutch colonies, which accepted intermarriage and cross-racial sexual unions with native peoples (and, in Spain's case, with enslaved Africans), the English colonies attracted both males and females who rarely intermarried with either native peoples or Africans, leading to the development of a rigid racial hierarchy. The presence of slavery and the impact of colonial wars stimulated the growth of ideas on race in this Atlantic system, leading to the emergence of racial stereotyping and the development of strict racial categories among British colonists, which contrasted with Spanish and French acceptance of racial gradations. Reinforced by a strong belief in British racial and cultural superiority, the British system enslaved black people in perpetuity, altered African gender and kinship relationships in the colonies, and was one factor that led the British colonists into violent confrontations with native peoples. Nevertheless, Africans developed both overt and covert means to resist the dehumanizing aspects of slavery.

                From the turn of the eighteenth century to the 1750s, the English Colonies of North America expanded geographically, developed economically and became more ethnically diverse while their inhabitants grew accustomed to economic and political autonomy. Britain's desire to maintain a viable North American empire in the face of growing internal challenges and external competition inspired efforts to strengthen its imperial control, stimulating increasing resistance from colonists who had grown accustomed to a large measure of autonomy. At the same time, regional distinctiveness among the British colonies diminished over time, and they developed largely similar patterns of culture, laws, institutions, and governance within the context of the British imperial system. As for the structure of colonial society itself, it remained hierarchical, characterized by a clearly defined social order and dominated by a native-born elite of merchants and planters rather than a hereditary aristocracy.

 Period 3: 1754-1800
                When the British Parliament attempted to tighten its control over the empire in the aftermath of the Seven Years War, the North American colonists asserted their right to remain autonomous. When Parliament and the King insisted on reasserting their control, a majority of the colonists' elected representatives, influenced by a growing preference for republican self-government based on the natural rights of the people, decided to follow the advice offered in Thomas Paine's Common Sense and declare independence. The independence movement, though led by established colonial elites, had strong grassroots support from newly mobilized laborers, artisans, and women, and rested on arguments over the rights of British subjects, the rights of the individual, and the ideas of the Enlightenment. The Declaration of Independence clearly expressed the ideas on which that movement was based.

                Throughout the second half of the 18th century, various American Indian groups repeatedly evaluated and adjusted their alliances with Europeans, other tribes, and the colonists. After the British defeat of the French in the Seven Years War, white-Indian conflicts continued to erupt as native groups sought both to continue trading with Europeans and to resist the encroachment of British colonists on traditional tribal lands. When full scale war erupted after 1775, most groups of American Indians allied themselves with the British. Despite considerable loyalist opposition, as well as Great Britain's apparently overwhelming military and financial advantages, the patriot cause succeeded because of the colonists' greater familiarity with the land, their resilient military and political leadership, their ideological commitment, and their support from European allies, especially the French.

                Beginning with the adoption of the Articles of Confederation in 1781, the leaders of the former colonists embarked on a quest to establish a central government effective enough to express their new-found unity, but not so powerful as to threaten their liberties. When their first effort yielded disappointing results, a group of nationally-minded leaders launched a movement to replace the articles with a new, stronger central government. Led by James Madison, ably assisted by George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, the Founding Fathers drew up a new constitution based on the principles of federalism and separation of powers. This new constitution gave the federal government such great power (for example, the power to tax and to regulate commerce) that only by expressing a willingness to add a Bill of Rights were the Federalists able to secure its ratification. As far as the problems of slavery and the slave trade were concerned, the framers postponed any permanent solution, setting the stage for recurring conflicts over these issues in later years. Moreover, the expansion of slavery in the lower South and adjacent western lands, and its gradual disappearance elsewhere, began to create distinctive regional attitudes toward the institution.

                As settlers moved westward during the 1780s, Congress enacted the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which provided for admitting new states and sought to promote public education, the protection of private property, and the restriction of slavery in the Northwest Territory. Such legislation encouraged western migration and the orderly incorporation of new territories into the nation. While extending republican institutions, however, this measure also intensified conflicts among American Indians and Europeans. Republican institutions received additional support from women through the spread of the ideal of "republican motherhood," which called on white women to maintain and teach republican values within the family and granted women a new importance in American political culture.

                Although the Founding Fathers hoped that the new government would remain free of "faction," Hamilton's financial program strengthened the central government so greatly and so clearly favored the interests of a small group of wealthy individuals that Madison and Jefferson felt compelled to organize in opposition to it. Efforts by Hamilton and his supporters to increase the power of the federal government and use that power to encourage economic activity prompted the rejoinder from Madison, Jefferson and their Republican followers that most governmental power should be reserved to the states and to the people themselves. Caught between these two opposing groups, but sympathetic to Hamilton's efforts to strengthen the federal government to promote national unity, George Washington in his Farewell Address warned about the dangers of divisive political parties and permanent foreign alliances. Despite these warnings, European conflict and tensions with Britain and France, which had begun in 1793, continued to fuel bitter partisan debates throughout the remainder of the 1790s. Although the debate over whether it was in the best interest of the people of the United States for our national government to stimulate economic activity was temporarily overshadowed by these other issues, that issue would re-emerge during the War of 1812 and remain a hotly debated issue, at least intermittently, right down to the present day.

 Period 4: 1800-1848
                After a decade of intense partisan conflict, exacerbated by strong differences of opinion over maintaining our neutrality with regard to the Anglo-French wars, Jefferson, Madison and their supporters prevailed in the Election of 1800 and tried to put an end to both "faction" and Hamilton's policies. Ironically, Madison and his supporters not only found it necessary to go to war in 1812 to defend our neutral rights, in the aftermath of that war they abandoned their previous scruples about strengthening the power of the central government and embraced many of the measures they had so strongly opposed in 1790 and 1791. In 1816 they approved the nation's first protective tariff and the rechartering of the Bank of the United States.

                National feeling increased markedly as a result of the War of 1812, especially after Andrew Jackson's decisive victory at the Battle of New Orleans. However, sectional tensions also increased significantly as resentment at the policies of the Second Bank of the United States during the Panic of 1819 grew stronger, divisions over slavery as both a moral and a political issue grew wider and Southern objections to the protective tariff led to the revival of the states right doctrine of nullification, first proposed in the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798-1799.

                The Supreme Court, under the leadership of Chief Justice John Marshall, asserted its authority as a co-equal branch of the federal government with primary responsibility for interpreting the Constitution. In a long series of often unanimous decisions, beginning with Marbury v. Madison (1803) and continuing through Martin v. Hunter's Lessee (1816), McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), and Gibbons v. Ogden (1824), the Marshall Court repeatedly asserted the superiority of federal power over state laws and the federal over the state courts, while reaffirming the primacy of the judiciary in determining the meaning of the Constitution.

                After a brief respite from partisan politics during the "Era of Good Feelings," political conflict intensified as Andrew Jackson and his supporters built a new and stronger political organization in an effort to defend democracy and the interests of the "common man" against those who were allegedly using the federal government to secure monopolistic privileges. Popular participation in politics reached new heights as new campaign tactics, stronger, more widespread organization led by professional politicians and increasing involvement in a money economy combined to give birth to a second, better organized national party system.

                Because the major parties did not address many of the issues most important to ordinary Americans, a variety of reform movements in the form of voluntary associations were organized during the generation after the War of 1812. Women, inspired to improve society by the teachings of evangelical Protestant ministers during the Second Great Awakening, were among the most dedicated and determined reformers, taking part in organizations that worked to feed the poor, care for the mentally ill, abolish slavery, institute moral reform, encourage temperance and promote equal rights for women. The lives of many women were also significantly altered by the market revolution, which caused an increasing separation between home and workplace, and helped foster dramatic transformations in gender and family roles and expectations.

                Westward expansion in the aftermath of the War of 1812 accelerated the nascent "Transportation Revolution." Roads and turnpikes were succeeded after 1815 by the increased use of steamboats on the nation's rivers and an era of canal building inspired by the success of New York's Erie Canal, completed in 1825. Railroad building increased significantly after 1840, but only after 1850 did railroads surpass canals and steamboats as the primary means of transporting goods and passengers in the United States.

                Regional economic specialization, especially the cultivation of cotton in the South, shaped settlement patterns and the national and international economy. Southern cotton furnished the raw material for manufacturing in the Northeast, while the growth in cotton production and trade promoted the development of national economic ties, shaped the international economy, and fueled the internal slave trade. Despite some governmental and private efforts to create a unified national economy, most notably the American System, the shift to market production linked the North and the Midwest more closely than either was linked to the South. Regional interests continued to trump national concerns as the basis for many political leaders' positions on economic issues including slavery, the national bank, tariffs, and internal improvements.

                While some Americans celebrated their nation's progress toward a new, unified national culture, a number of groups of the nation's inhabitants developed distinctive cultures of their own. Many white Americans in the South asserted their regional identity through pride in the institution of slavery, insisting that the federal government should defend that institution. Enslaved and free African Americans, isolated at the bottom of the social hierarchy, created communities and strategies to protect their dignity and their family structures, even as some launched abolitionist and reform movements aimed at changing their status. Moreover, despite the outlawing of the international slave trade, the rise in the number of free African Americans in both the North and the South, and widespread discussion of various emancipation plans, the U.S. and many state governments continued to restrict African Americans' citizenship possibilities, heightening the feeling among African Americans that they constituted a separate and distinct subculture.

                The American acquisition of new lands in the West, beginning with the Louisiana Purchase, gave rise to a contest over the extension of slavery into the western territories as well as a series of attempts at national compromise. The 1820 Missouri Compromise created a truce over the issue of slavery that gradually broke down after 1846, when confrontations over the expansion of slavery became increasingly bitter. In the meantime, overcultivation had already depleted arable land in the Southeast, spurring slaveholders to relocate their agricultural enterprises to the new Southwest, increasing sectional tensions over the institution of slavery and sparking a broadscale debate about how to set national goals, priorities, and strategies.

 Period 5: 1844-1877
                By the mid-1840s, the idea of Manifest Destiny had become so influential that it helped to shape the era's political debates. This concept, which asserted U.S. power in the Western Hemisphere and supported U.S. expansion westward, was built on a belief in white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority. Enthusiasm for U.S. territorial expansion, fueled by economic and national security interests and supported by the idea of Manifest Destiny, resulted in 1846 in the Mexican-American War, the opening of new markets, the acquisition of new territory, and increased ideological conflicts.

                Improved transportation, growing sectional economic specialization and rapid westward expansion contributed to strong differences of opinion over the expansion of slavery into the territories. Differing attitudes toward the institution of slavery itself, spanning a continuum from Northern abolitionists at one end of the spectrum to white southerners who regarded African Americans as racial inferior and slavery as a positive good on the other, resulted in a widening cultural and ideological divide. These differences of opinion were exacerbated by the attachment of most southern whites to the idea of states' rights, and the preaching by some of their leaders of the doctrine of nullification.

                Repeated attempts at political compromise failed to calm tensions over slavery and often made sectional tensions worse, breaking down the trust between sectional leaders and culminating in the bitter election of 1860 and the secession of several southern states. National leaders made a variety of proposals to resolve the issue of slavery in the territories, including the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Chief Justice Roger Taney and the southern majority on the Supreme Court also tried to put an end to the controversy with the the Dred Scott decision. Nevertheless, sectional conflict persisted and both the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott decision served only to heighten sectional tensions.

                One of the casualties of the sectional crisis was the so-called Second American Party System. The issues of slavery and anti-immigrant nativism weakened loyalties to the two major parties and fostered the emergence of sectional parties, most notably the Republican Party in the North and the Midwest. When the Democratic Party split due to differences of opinion over protecting slavery in the territories, the Republicans gained an important advantage. Radical Southern slaveholders and their allies, perceiving a threat to their political power and the peculiar institution from the Republicans and their free soil platform, decided to secede from the Union after the Election of 1860. They refused to risk subordination to Abraham Lincoln and the new Republican Party, who adamantly opposed the expansion of slavery.

                What began in the eyes of Lincoln and the Republicans as a war to save the Union was transformed in 1862 by Lincoln's decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Issuing the proclamation changed the purpose of the war, enabling many African Americans to fight in the Union Army, and helping prevent the Confederacy from gaining full diplomatic support from European powers. Unable to organize its economy or unite its society to fight a long and costly war and unable to convince most northerners to permit them to destroy the Union, the Confederates were eventually compelled to surrender and turn their attention to preventing the Republicans from guaranteeing full citizenship rights to African Americans.

                Ratification of the 13th Amendment abolished slavery, bringing about the war's most dramatic social and economic change, but the exploitative and soil-intensive sharecropping system that replaced plantation slavery would endure for several generations. Efforts by radical and moderate Republicans to reconstruct the defeated South changed the balance of power between Congress and the presidency and yielded some short-term successes, reuniting the union, opening up political opportunities and other leadership roles to former slaves, and temporarily rearranging the relationships between white and black people in the South. Although citizenship, equal protection of the laws, and voting rights were granted to African Americans in the 14th and 15th Amendments, these rights were progressively stripped away after the end of Reconstruction through segregation, violence, Supreme Court decisions, and local political tactics. The women's rights movement was both emboldened and divided over the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution.

                Finding the cost in time, energy and money too great, and distracted by the Panic of 1873 and ensuing depression, northern Republicans abandoned the freedmen. In exchange for white southerners support for economic policies favorable to the North, the Republicans tacitly agreed to permit them to deal with African Americans as they saw fit. After 1877, Republicans increasingly turned their attention to the problems resulting from rapid industrialization, especially increasing tensions between capital and labor.

 Period 6: 1865-1898
                A massive migration of population in the aftermath of the Civil War onto land only recently opened to white settlement and unprecedented railroad building helped produce a tremendous increase in the amount of acreage under cultivation. The resultant increase in agricultural production was accompanied by lower transportation costs and increased production world-wide, resulting in a sharp drop in the price of most agricultural commodities. The renewed migration westward was encouraged by government policies, including the violation of treaties with American Indian nations intended to expand the amount of land available to white settlers. The completion of transcontinental railroads helped these settlers reach the west, while U.S. military actions, the destruction of the buffalo, the confinement of American Indians to reservations, and assimilationist policies reduced the number of American Indians and threatened native culture and identity.

                This massive westward migration was accompanied by the rise of big business, which further encouraged migration and urbanization, sparked government and popular efforts to reshape the U.S. economy and environment, and renewed debates over U.S. national identity. Large-scale production - accompanied by massive technological change, expanding international communication networks, and pro-growth government policies - fueled the development of a "Gilded Age" marked by an emphasis on consumption, marketing, and business consolidation. Business leaders consolidated corporations into trusts and holding companies and defended their resulting status and privilege through theories such as Social Darwinism. Small businessmen, ordinary workers and farmers, on the other hand, feared that they would no longer have access to the kind of economic opportunities they had enjoyed in the past. As a result, Gilded Age politics were intimately tied to big business and focused nationally on economic issues - tariffs, currency, corporate expansion, and laissez-faire economic policy - that engendered numerous calls for reform.

                Corruption in government - especially as it related to big business - energized the public to demand increased popular control and reform of local, state, and national governments, ranging from minor changes to major overhauls of the capitalist system. A number of critics challenged the dominant corporate ethic in the United States and sometimes capitalism itself, offering alternate visions of the good society through utopianism and the Social Gospel. At the same time, increasingly prominent racist and nativist theories, along with Supreme Court decisions such as Plessy v. Ferguson, were used to justify violence, as well as local and national policies of discrimination and segregation.

                Despite the industrialization of some segments of the southern economy, a change promoted by southern leaders who called for a "New South," sharecropping, and tenant farming continued to dominate the region. In the West and South, the growth of corporate power in agriculture and economic instability in the farming sector inspired activists to create the People's (Populist) Party, which called for political reform and a stronger governmental role in the American economic system. Skilled craftsmen and even unskilled and semi-skilled industrial workers formed labor unions in an effort to counteract the growing power of big business. Even consumers came together in organizations such as the National Consumers League in an effort to protect themselves and all working people from abuses of power on the part of large employers.

                The emergence of an industrial culture in the United States led to both greater opportunities for, and restrictions on, immigrants, minorities, and women. Gender, racial, ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic inequalities abounded, inspiring reformers to attempt to address these inequities. In a urban atmosphere where the access to power was unequally distributed, political machines provided social services in exchange for political support, settlement houses helped immigrants adapt to the new language and customs, and women's clubs and self-help groups targeted intellectual development and social and political reform.

 Period 7: 1890-1945
                At the same time that the Populists were calling attention to government policies which worked to the disadvantage of farmers, urban dwellers were becoming increasingly disturbed by problems created by declining opportunities for the self-employed, a widening gap between rich and poor, the growing economic power of big businesses and the substantial political influence business leaders increasingly wielded over corrupt politicians. The result was the so-called "Progressive Era," a period from the 1890s to 1916 dominated by a shifting coalition of movements aimed at ending abuses of power, reforming corrupt institutions and applying scientific principles and efficient management techniques to these reformed institutions.

                Progressive reformers responded to economic instability, social inequality, and political corruption by calling for government intervention in the economy, expanded democracy, greater social justice, and conservation of natural resources. In the late 1890s and the early years of the 20th century, journalists and Progressive reformers - largely urban and middle class, and often female - worked to reform existing social and political institutions at the local, state, and federal levels by creating new organizations aimed at addressing social problems associated with an industrial society. Progressives promoted federal legislation to regulate abuses of the economy and the environment, and many sought to expand democracy.

                America's rise to world power, which began with the build-up of the United States Navy in the 1880s and 1890s, reached its first plateau with the Spanish-American War of 1898 and the acquisition of an overseas empire. The American victory in the Spanish-American War led to the U.S. acquisition of island territories, an expanded economic and military presence in the Caribbean and Latin America, engagement in a protracted insurrection in the Philippines, and increased involvement in Asia. Questions about America's role in the world generated considerable debate, prompting the development of a wide variety of views and arguments between imperialists and anti-imperialists and, later, interventionists and isolationists.

                Once the nation achieved the status of a world power in 1898, United States policy makers began enunciating a series of policies, particularly the Open Door Policy and the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, which clarified and reinforced the traditional policy of unilateralism, that is, of no entangling alliances. When the overseas expansion of Germany and Japan and heightened conflict caused by the growth of nationalism throughout Europe produced a general European conflagration, President Wilson's initial reaction was to ask the nation to remain neutral in both thought and action. However, when faced with Germany's resort to unrestricted submarine warfare, continued neutrality proved impossible, and the nation entered the conflict, departing from the U.S. foreign policy tradition of noninvolvement in European affairs in response to Woodrow Wilson's call for the defense of humanitarian and democratic principles. Although the American Expeditionary Force played a relatively limited role in the war, Wilson was heavily involved in postwar negotiations, resulting in the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations, both of which generated substantial debate within the United States. Almost unnoticed at the time was the fact that, as a result of the devastation caused by the war to Great Britain and the other Great Powers of Europe, the United States had become the world's leading economic, financial and military power.

                Postwar domestic problems, including numerous strikes and widespread racial violence, combined with disillusionment at the harshness of the Treaty of Versailles led most Americans to turn their backs on progressive reform and, within a very short time, to seek to escape into a world of pleasure and wishful thinking. Before they had the opportunity to do so, however, labor strikes and racial strife disrupted society, and the immediate postwar period witnessed the first "Red Scare," which legitimized attacks on radicals and immigrants. The global ramifications of World War I and wartime patriotism and xenophobia, combined with social tensions created by increased international migration, resulted in legislation restricting immigration from Asia and from southern and eastern Europe. Several acts of Congress established highly restrictive immigration quotas, while national policies continued to permit unrestricted immigration from nations in the Western Hemisphere, especially Mexico, in order to guarantee an inexpensive supply of labor.

                In the meantime, a majority of whites sought to "return to normalcy" and, after a brief recession, to enjoy a return of prosperity. The next several years were a period of hedonism and hype, bigotry and intolerance, get-rich-quick schemes and a willingness to ignore laws such as Prohibition that interfered with having a good time. The "Roaring Twenties" were an era marked by nativism, immigration restriction, religious fundamentalism and the revival of the Ku Klux Klan. More generally, technological change, modernization, and changing demographics led to increased political and cultural conflict on several fronts: tradition versus innovation, urban versus rural, fundamentalist Christianity versus scientific modernism, management versus labor, native-born versus new immigrants, white versus black, and idealism versus disillusionment.

                Racial tensions increased as large numbers of African Americans left the South to pursue new economic opportunities offered by World War I. This "Great Migration," which accelerated after 1915 in response to floods and the destruction of much of the cotton crop by the boll weevil, increased competition between whites and blacks in northern cities for jobs and housing. Beginning in 1917 and reaching a peak during the Red Summer of 1919, white-on-black violence occurred in a number of northern cities, and continuing competition for housing spurred greater racial segregation in the North. Thus began "the Rise of the Ghetto," which, somewhat ironically, produced at least some positive cultural consequences such as the literary and artistic movement that came to be known as the Harlem Renaissance.

                The Stock Market Crash and the Great Depression completely altered the mood of the American people from heedless optimism to strong pessimism and a loss of confidence in our business leaders and the capitalist system itself. It took the political savvy, can-do attitude and willingness to experiment on the part of Franklin Roosevelt to restore confidence and put the nation on the path to economic recovery. The liberalism of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal drew on earlier progressive ideas and represented a multifaceted approach to the causes and effects of the Great Depression, using government power to provide relief to the poor, stimulate recovery, and reform the American economy. The reform efforts of the New Deal transformed the United States into a limited welfare state. Although the New Deal did not completely overcome the Depression, it left a legacy of reforms and agencies that endeavored to make society and individuals more secure, and it helped foster a long-term political realignment in which many ethnic groups, African Americans, and working-class communities identified with the Democratic Party.

                Roosevelt's New Deal policies drastically altered the role of the federal government, making it a permanent presence in the lives of its citizens and the guarantor of both social security and economic prosperity. The experience of coping with the depression temporarily discredited the "trickle down" economic policies of the 1920s and gave birth to a new approach that became known as Keynesian economics.

                Debates about the nation's role in the world and how best to achieve national security and pursue American interests intensified during World War I as President Wilson tried to decide whether to remain neutral and pursue a "peace without victory" or enter the conflict. After obtaining congressional approval to declare war in order to "make the world safe for democracy," Wilson not only failed to negotiate a peace treaty based on the principles he had enunciated in his Fourteen Points speech, he stubbornly defended the treaty he had helped negotiate despite strong opposition to accepting the commitments entailed in Article X of the League of Nations charter. When the United States Senate refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, debate over the nation's role in the world subsided and, for almost two decades the United States pursued a unilateral foreign policy that used international investment, peace treaties, and select military intervention to promote a vision of international order, while maintaining U.S. isolationism. It was only the involvement of the United States in World War II, which had been opposed by most Americans prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, which finally vaulted the United States into global political and military prominence, and transformed both American society and the relationship between the United States and the rest of the world.

                Mass mobilization to supply troops for the war effort and a workforce on the home front ended the Great Depression and provided opportunities for women and minorities to improve their socio-economic positions. Wartime experiences, such as the internment of Japanese Americans, challenges to civil liberties, debates over race and segregation, and the decision to drop the atomic bomb raised questions about American values. The United States and its allies achieved victory over the Axis powers through a combination of factors, including allied political and military cooperation, industrial production, technological and scientific advances, and popular commitment to advancing democratic ideals. The dominant American role in the Allied victory and postwar peace settlements, combined with the war-ravaged condition of Asia and Europe, allowed the United States to emerge from the war as the most powerful nation on earth.

 Period 8: 1945-1980
                The Nazi threat and especially the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 convinced a majority of Americans that isolation no longer meant safety or security. After leading a coalition of Allied powers to victory in yet another war to preserve democracy, the United States emerged at the conclusion of the conflict as, unmistakably, the world's greatest economic, financial and military power. Frightened by the threat--as much ideological as military--of worldwide Soviet expansion, the United States abandoned its traditional opposition to binding political commitments and took the lead in forming the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949. Beginning as an effort to defend Europe against the spread of Soviet Communism, the Truman Doctrine and the policy of "containment" were quickly applied to Korea, Southeast Asia and even the Middle East as the Cold War developed into a global conflict between the capitalist "free world" and the dark forces of revolutionary communism. Until it ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the Cold War fluctuated between periods of direct and indirect military confrontation and periods of mutual coexistence (or détente).

                As the United States focused on containing communism, it faced increasingly complex foreign policy issues, including decolonization, shifting international alignments and regional conflicts, and global economic and environmental changes. Postwar decolonization and the emergence of powerful nationalist movements in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East led both sides in the Cold War to seek allies among new nations, many of which remained nonaligned. Cold War competition extended to Latin America, where the U.S. supported non-Communist regimes with varying levels of commitment to democracy. Ideological, military, and economic concerns shaped U.S. involvement in the Middle East, with several oil crises in the region eventually sparking attempts at creating a national energy policy.

                Americans debated policies and methods designed to root out Communists within the United States even as both parties tended to support the broader Cold War strategy of containing communism. Although the Korean conflict produced some domestic opposition, the Vietnam War saw the rise of sizable, passionate, and sometimes violent antiwar protests that became more numerous as the war escalated. Americans also debated other important issues such as the merits of a large nuclear arsenal, the "military-industrial complex," and the appropriate power of the executive branch in conducting foreign and military policy.

                The same Cold War mentality that produced the domestic excesses of a second Red Scare and McCarthyism led to tragedy and national disaster in Southeast Asia. United States intervention in a civil war in Vietnam in an effort to stop the spread of communism proved fruitless and misguided. The Vietnam War diverted funds originally earmarked for Great Society programs, crippled the War on Poverty and convinced many African Americans and others in favor of further reform that our leaders could not be trusted. The loss of faith in our national leadership, which began during the Johnson Administration, reached its height with the Watergate scandal and the resignation first of Vice President Agnew and then President Nixon.

                Spurred by Soviet criticisms to remedy our shortcomings and pressured by the growing assertiveness of African Americans, most white Americans and those of our leaders who believed in the principle of equality and/or stood to benefit politically increasingly supported the demand for equal rights for black people. President Truman was one of the first white politicians to act, establishing the President's Committee on Civil Rights in 1946 and ordering the desegregation of the armed services in 1948. Civil rights activists utilized a variety of strategies- legal challenges, direct action, and nonviolent protest tactics - to keep up the pressure to end racial discrimination. The legal challenge to the "separate but equal" doctrine produced a major breakthrough with the unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education that "in the field of public education, the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." Encouraged by this important victory but discouraged by the growing resistance of southern whites, civil rights activists turned increasingly to non-violent direct action and protest, culminating in the March on Washington in August 1963. Shortly thereafter, and with the strong support of President Lyndon Johnson, the African American Civil Rights Movement won a series of hard fought victories culminating in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. However, guarantees of full legal and political equality only made widespread poverty more difficult to bear and produced yet another series of efforts to remedy glaring economic inequities and increase both racial pride and "Black Power." At the same time, stirred by a growing awareness of inequalities in American society and by the African American civil rights movement, activists also addressed issues of identity and social justice, such as gender/sexuality and the unequal treatment of Latinos, American Indians, and Asian Americans.

                Liberalism, based on anticommunism abroad and a firm belief in the efficacy of governmental and especially federal power to achieve social goals at home, reached its apex in the mid-1960s and generated a variety of political and cultural responses. Liberalism reached its zenith with Lyndon Johnson's Great Society efforts to use federal power to end racial discrimination, eliminate poverty, and address other social issues while attacking communism abroad. Liberal ideals were realized in Supreme Court decisions that expanded democracy and individual freedoms, Great Society social programs and policies, and the power of the federal government, yet these unintentionally helped energize a new conservative movement that mobilized to defend traditional visions of morality and the proper role of state authority.

                Postwar economic, demographic, and technological changes had a far-reaching impact on society, politics, and the environment. Rapid economic and social changes fostered a sense of optimism, as well as underlying concerns about how these changes were affecting American values. A burgeoning private sector, continued federal spending, the baby boom, and technological developments helped spur economic growth, middle-class suburbanization, social mobility, a rapid expansion of higher education, and the rise of the "Sun Belt" as a political and economic force. Internal migrants as well as migrants from around the world, including increasing numbers from Asia and Latin America, sought access to the economic boom and other benefits of the United States, especially after the passage of a new immigration law, the Hart-Celler Act, in 1965.

                These economic and social changes, in addition to the anxiety engendered by the Cold War, led to an increasingly homogeneous mass culture, as well as challenges to conformity by artists, intellectuals, and rebellious youth. The most highly publicized of the challenges to conformity was the counterculture of the 1960s. Participants in the counterculture rejected many of the social, economic, and political values of their parents' generation, initiated a sexual revolution, and introduced greater informality into U.S. culture.

 Period 9: 1980-Present
                Reduced public faith in the government's ability to solve social and economic problems, the growth of religious fundamentalism, and the dissemination of neoconservative thought all combined to invigorate conservatism. Advocates of this new conservatism achieved some of their political and policy goals, but their success was limited by the enduring popularity and institutional strength of some government programs such as Social Security and Medicare and public support for cultural trends of recent decades. Conservatives enjoyed significant victories related to taxation and deregulation of many industries, but many conservative efforts to advance moral ideals through politics met inertia and opposition. Some questioned whether the increased success of the Republican Party marked a true resurgence of conservatism, but there could be little doubt that, more often than not, political and economic conservatives triumphed over liberal and reformers in disagreements over key policy issues. Nevertheless, although Republicans continued to denounce "big government," the size and scope of the federal government continued to grow after 1980, as many programs remained popular with voters and difficult to reform or eliminate.

                The "Reagan Revolution" and the promise that supply-side economics ("Reaganomics") would stimulate economic growth and bring greater prosperity earned mixed reviews. Nevertheless, there could be little doubt that massive increases in defense spending helped spur economic recovery while the actions of the Federal Reserve brought inflation under control. President Reagan's optimism that it was once again "morning in America," in combination with his aggressively anti-communist foreign policy, increased his popularity. Despite his initial rejection of détente, President Ronald Reagan proved flexible enough to develop a friendly relationship with the new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, leading to significant arms reductions by both countries. These arms control agreements helped to relax tensions with the nation he had previously labeled the "Evil Empire" and accelerated the ending of the Cold War.

                Having learned the lesson of "imperial overreach" taught by the loss of the Vietnam War, successive administrations pursued a more cautious foreign policy, working to defeat the Soviet Union through peaceful competition. Taken by surprise by the sudden fall of the Berlin Wall and the equally unanticipated collapse of the Soviet Union, the Reagan and Bush administrations declared victory in the Cold War and took credit for engineering the Soviet demise. Whatever the actual cause of the Soviet collapse, the United States now found itself, at least temporarily, the world's only Superpower, dominant not only militarily, but also economically, financially and technologically.

                Presiding over the fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the Soviet Union and credited with putting together and leading the victorious coalition that liberated Kuwait from Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Reagan's successor, George H.W. Bush was nevertheless unable to deliver on his promise of crafting a "New World Order." Disappointing conservatives by agreeing to increase taxes and failing to pursue a strong pro-life, anti-immigrant agenda, the first President Bush proved equally unsuccessful in combating a deepening recession or inspiring confidence in his leadership. Under attack from conservatives in his own party and opposed by billionaire Ross Perot for failing to reduce ballooning deficits, Bush was defeated by a young Washington outsider from Arkansas who promised to make the federal government more efficient, reform the health care system and end the ban on gays in the military. Anathema to conservatives in Congress who became increasingly aggressive in opposing his policies and no match for the more experienced Washington insiders, Clinton was unable to fulfill his campaign promises. He did, however, balance the budget, eliminate the deficit, reform the welfare system, and raise awareness of the importance of responding to economic globalization, achievements that were sufficiently popular to win him re-election.

                Despite being the only remaining super power and spending more on defense than most other developed nations combined, United States policymakers continued to struggle to define, much less construct, a "New World Order." The September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and other major targets diverted attention from any such effort and motivated President George W. Bush and his advisors to declare a "War on Terror" instead. Invading Afghanistan and then Iraq in an effort to capture Osama bin-Laden and destroy Al-Qaeda, the Bush administration managed only to provoke a civil war in Iraq while failing to pacify Afghanistan. By running up large deficits to fight two major wars while dramatically reducing taxes and failing to regulate complex new financial derivatives or curb abuses in mortgage lending, Bush and his advisors drove both the United States and the world's financial system to the brink of disaster. Only massive government intervention to rescue major banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions, begun reluctantly by President Bush and his advisers and completed by his successor, Barack Obama, prevented a total collapse. The addition of a large economic stimulus package and massive government loans to two of the three major automakers at the beginning of the Obama Administration helped put the nation on a slow and winding road to recovery.

                The increasing integration of the U.S. into the world economy was accompanied by economic instability and major policy, social, and environmental challenges. Economic inequality increased after 1980 as U.S. manufacturing jobs were eliminated, union membership declined, and real wages stagnated for the middle class. Policy debates intensified over free trade agreements, the size and scope of the government social safety net, and calls to reform the U.S. financial system. Conflict in the Middle East and concerns about climate change led to debates over U.S. dependence on fossil fuels and the impact of economic consumption on the environment.

                The U.S. population continued to undergo significant demographic shifts that had profound cultural and political consequences. After 1980, the political, economic, and cultural influences of the American South and West continued to increase as population shifted to those areas, fueled in part by a surge in migration from regions that had not been heavily represented in earlier migrations, especially Latin America and Asia. The new migrants affected U.S. culture in many ways and supplied the economy with an important labor force, but they also became the focus of intense political, economic, and cultural debates. Demographic changes intensified debates about gender roles, family structures, and racial and national identity as well.

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