Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Monthly Themes

OK, now we're looking good! Alicia Dimmitt of Blogs and Blings did me a huge favor and designed this background for me. I think I owe her cookies.

A few people have suggested to me that it might be nice to have monthly themes, to give us some direction and make it easier to discuss what we read. I had a difficult time dividing things up into 12 units, and I'm probably the wrong person to do that since the whole point of this project is that I need to learn more about American history. But here are my divisions, and if you hate them, please suggest improvements. Or weigh in on the whole theme idea.

Colonial period: pre-1770
Revolutionary era: 1750-1789
Federalist period: 1789-1815
Jacksonian era: 1815-1850
Civil war era: 1850-1865
Westward Expansion
Gilded Age/Immigration
World War I/Prohibition era: 1914-1929
The Great Depression: 1930's
World War II
Cold War/post-1950

I could spend a little time gathering reading suggestions for each month, if that would prove helpful.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Welcome to the American Primary Sources Challenge

The goal of this challenge is to get us all a little more educated in American history by reading primary sources. The rules:

1. The challenge will run from July 4, 2010 to July 2, 2011.

2. Participants may join in at any time. Comment on this post to join.

3. Each participant will read a primary source document weekly (if it's really long, feel free to work in weekly chapters or segments). The weeks will start on Sundays.

4. If you're not American but want to participate, read your country's historical documents!

5. I'll put up a weekly post telling what I've read. You can leave a comment telling about what you read. I'd love to have discussions.

American history has always been one of my worst subjects. I hardly studied it in school, and didn't read much after that. I always mean to read the Federalist papers or Lincoln's speeches, it just never happens. But if I have a challenge to live up to, I think I'll get much closer to learning something about my country--so here we are.

We are not going to be reading history books here, though. We are going to read primary sources--texts produced in the time we are studying. (If you are studying Eleanor Roosevelt, a letter from her is a primary source; a biography of her life is a secondary source.) You may read diaries, news accounts, letters, oral narratives, poems, sermons, essays, speeches, folksongs, almost anything. And you may study anyone or any time period in American history. I plan to try to move fairly chronologically, but it won't be all that rigid.

On the side menu, you will find a few links to massive collections of every sort of American historical texts you could desire. Between those and your friendly neighborhood public library, I think we can all educate ourselves for nothing. Join me!

I'm still getting up and running, so the look of this place will improve considerably over the next week or so. I'll have a button to put up too. Thanks for your patience.