• Lesson 1: From the President's Lips: The Concerns that Led to the Sedition (and Alien) Act

    John Adams.

    What conditions provided the impetus for the Sedition Act? Partisan animosity was strong during Adams's presidency. The first two political parties in the U.S. were in their infancy—the Federalists, to which the majority of members of Congress belonged, and the Democratic-Republicans, led by former vice-president Thomas Jefferson and four-term Congressman James Madison, who had left the House in 1796.

  • Lesson 2: President Madison's 1812 War Message: A Documentary Review

    The battle between the American warship U.S.S. Chesapeake (right) and the British warship H.M.S. Leopard (left)

    Students examine examples of primary documents (and some secondary accounts) that illuminate key points in President Madison's letter. The lesson identifies 10 statements in the message about which students are likely to have questions, and it provides relevant materials. If students raise questions about other sections of the letter, class members may be able to locate pertinent documents on their own, once they become familiar with some of the sources available in the records of Congress.

  • Lesson 1: The Monroe Doctrine: U.S. Foreign Affairs (circa 1782–1823) and James Monroe

    Portrait of James Monroe, fifth President of the United States, by Gilbert  Stuart.

    What was the Monroe Doctrine? What principles of foreign policy did this Doctrine establish? What were the significant events in U.S. diplomacy before 1823? What diplomatic roles had James Monroe played before he became president? Here, a careful examination of the document anticipates what is to come.

  • Lesson 3: The Formation of the Western Alliance, 1948–1949

    When the Soviets blockaded Berlin in 1948, the Western allies initiated an airlift to relieve the besieged city

    In the spring of 1948 Stalin provoked the first serious international crisis of the Cold War by announcing a blockade of West Berlin. This lesson will trace the Berlin blockade and airlift of 1948–49 and the establishment of NATO.

  • Lesson 2: Turning the Tide in Europe, 1942–1944

    American tank crew in North Africa, 1942.

    Although it was the Japanese who attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, U.S. military planners decided that Germany, not Japan, was to be the primary target of operations. This lesson plan will focus on the overall strategies pursued by the Americans and their British allies in the initial months of World War II in Europe.

  • Lesson 2: The Battles of the Civil War

    Created July 17, 2010
    "A Harvest of Death."

    Through the use of maps and original documents, this lesson will focus on the key battles of the Civil War, Gettysburg and Vicksburg and show how the battles contributed to its outcome. It will also examine the "total war" strategy of General Sherman, and the role of naval warfare in bringing about a Union victory.

  • Lesson 1: The War in the North, 1775–1778

    George Washington in the uniform of the Continental Army, by Rembrandt  Peale.

    Lacking any organized army before 1775 (aside from local colonial militias), the Continental Congress had to assemble a more or less improvised fighting force that would be expected to take on the army of the world's largest empire. This lesson will trace events in the North from 1775 to 1778. By looking at documents of the time, and using an interactive map, students will see how an army was created and understand the challenges that Washington and his men faced during this critical early stage of the war.

  • Lesson 2: How to Win a World War

    "General Bernard L. Montgomery watches his tanks move up." North Africa,  November 1942.

    For most of 1942, the Grand Alliance between the U.S., Britain, and the Soviet Union was on the defensive. Whether it could hold together, or whether the Soviet Union would even remain in the conflict, was uncertain. This lesson plan examines the tensions and the sources of ultimate cohesion within the Grand Alliance during the period when eventual victory seemed uncertain.

  • Taking Up Arms and the Challenge of Slavery in the Revolutionary Era

    A  Map of 100 miles round Boston, 1775.

    Was the American Revolution inevitable? This lesson is designed to help students understand the transition to armed resistance and the contradiction in the Americans’ rhetoric about slavery through the examination of a series of documents. While it is designed to be conducted over a several-day period, teachers with time constraints can choose to utilize only one of the documents to illustrate the patriots’ responses to the actions of the British.

  • Lesson 3: Japan's "Southern Advance" and the March toward War, 1940–1941

    Ribbentrop, Kurusu, and Hitler negotiate the Tripartite Pact, 1940.

    For the Japanese leadership, events in Europe during the first half of 1940 offered new opportunities for resolving the war in China. In this lesson students will examine primary documents and maps to discover why Japan embarked on its "southern advance."