• Lesson 4: The Great Debate: Internationalists vs. Isolationists

    Senator James Byrnes of South Carolina defended the U.S.'s aiding of Great  Britain prior to America's entry into World War II.

    President Roosevelt's proposal to provide direct military aid to Great Britain launched a nationwide debate over foreign policy that lasted through most of 1941. Should the United States observe its traditional policy of non-involvement in European affairs (to which World War I had been a notable exception), or should the United States take whatever steps were necessary (up to and, perhaps, including direct involvement in the war) to prevent a German victory?In this lesson students are introduced to the main arguments used by both sides in this great debate. Through the use of an interactive map and primary source documents, students trace the events of 1941, and think critically about what foreign policy would have best served national interests.

  • Lesson 2: The First Inaugural Address (1861)—Defending the American Union

    Photo of Lincoln’s first Inauguration, March 4, 1861. The Nation was on the  brink of war.

    Abraham Lincoln felt that the attempt of seven states to leave the American union peacefully was, in fact, a total violation of law and order. This lesson will examine Lincoln's First Inaugural Address to understand why he thought his duty as president required him to treat secession as an act of rebellion and not a legitimate legal or constitutional action by disgruntled states.

  • Lesson 2: The Strategy of Containment, 1947–1948

    The Convair B-36 strategic bomber symbolized American military might in the  early days of the Cold War.

    The unwillingness of the Soviet Union to allow the creation of independent and democratic states in Eastern Europe, and the failure of East and West to reach a compromise on Germany, left many Americans puzzled. Why were the Soviets acting as they did? Moreover, how should the United States respond? This lesson will consider containment through the use of original documents, mostly from the Truman Presidential Library. They will study what it meant in theory, and then examine the first two major instances of its application—the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan.

  • Lesson 3: Victory and the New Order in Europe

    Conference of the Big Three at Yalta makes final plans for the defeat of Germany

    By the beginning of 1944, victory in Europe was all but assured. The task of diplomacy largely involved efforts to define the structure of the postwar world. Why and how did the United States attempt to preserve the Grand Alliance as American diplomats addressed European issues?

  • Lesson 4: The New Order for "Greater East Asia"

    "At the White House, President Truman Announces Japan's Surrender." Abbie Rowe,  Washington, DC, August 14, 1945.

    For American diplomacy, the war against Japan was not just about the destruction of Japanese supremacy in the Pacific, China, and Southeast Asia. The ultimate issue was just what would replace Japan's imperial design of a "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere." This lesson plan focuses on two major postwar problems—the future of China and (using French Indochina as a test case) the future of Western imperialism in Southeast Asia.

  • Lesson 1: How "Grand" and "Allied" was the Grand Alliance?

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing the Declaration of War against Japan,  December 8, 1941.

    This lesson plan will survey the nature of what Winston Churchill called the Grand Alliance between the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union in opposition to the aggression of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

  • Lesson 2: Legislating Neutrality, 1934–1939

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to keep the U.S. out of World War II as  long as possible.

    Americans in the mid nineteen thirties turned increasingly pessimistic about the possibility of preventing the outbreak of wars through international cooperation and instead moved toward measures designed to prevent the United States from intervening in any foreign war that might occur. In this lesson students examine a series of primary source documents that will help them understand why these laws were passed, and how they were applied in the mid- to late-1930s.

  • Lesson 4: Fighting for Peace: The Fate of Wilson's Fourteen Points

    Created July 17, 2010
    In the aftermath of the First World War, Woodrow Wilson tried to push a  comprehensive and enlightened peace plan.

    In January 1918, less than one year after the United States entered World War I, President Woodrow Wilson announced his Fourteen Points to try to ensure permanent peace and to make the world safe for democracy. Wilson's aims included freedom of the seas, free trade, and, most important, an international organization dedicated to collective security and the spreading of democracy. Through the use of primary source documents and maps, students examine Wilson's Fourteen Points, as well as his efforts to have them incorporated into the final peace treaties.

  • Lesson 2: "To Elect Good Men": Woodrow Wilson and Latin America

    Created July 16, 2010
    Woodrow Wilson changed the course and tone of U.S. policy towards Latin  America.

    President Woodrow Wilson and his first Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, rejected the Dollar Diplomacy that had guided U.S. relations with Latin America during the administration of William Taft. Wilson resolved that the United States would only recognize Latin American governments founded upon law and order, "not upon arbitrary or irregular force. In this lesson, students analyze Wilson's attempts to carry out this "missionary diplomacy" in Haiti and Mexico as well as the responses of selected Haitians and Mexicans.

  • Lesson 4: The Failure of Diplomacy, September–December 1941

    A Japanese torpedo bomber over Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 1941.

    Faced with crippling economic sanctions imposed by the United States, the Japanese government decided in September 1941 to prepare for war to seize the raw materials that they were now unable to obtain from America. Students in this lesson will put themselves in the shoes of U.S. and Japanese diplomats in the final months of 1941.