U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Taking the Question to the End User

A leading textbook publisher has invited me to pull together some accompanying materials for its textbook aimed at the US Survey I and II, (i.e. from the closing of the Bering Straight to the opening of the investigation into the Justice Department’s firing practices).

Looking over the fine existing examples of collected readings supplements, I realize that a large number of typical selections were written by political and military elites. Recognizing that survey courses must situate the major political and military events, (if for no other reason than to provide context for intellectual, social, and cultural histories), I am certain that this project will silhouette its fair share of generals on horseback and statesmen in debate. But I would like to punctuate the American Survey with as many engaging samples of literary, industrial, philosophical, reform, and scientific writers as the press will tolerate. I’d even like to include historians who were involved in the debates of their day. Just by way of example, I have a copy of a letter from Frederick Jackson Turner to his press, shrugging off as “unimportant” a disparaging review from a “rather non-influential and radical historian” named Charles A. Beard.

So I ask you, teachers of undergraduate American History classes, what specific reading excerpts would YOU like to see included in such a supplement?

Please reply to this question by posting a comment at the bottom of this post, or by emailing me at textcontext (at) psu.edu. I appreciate your suggestions, and you may well see them included!


Joe Petrulionis

2 Thoughts on this Post

  1. This is a great opportunity to show that for undergraduates to truly understand the nation’s past, they should be able to incorporate its cultural, social and (of course) intellectual history into the more traditional political and military narrative.

    Having said that, I’m a bit overwhelmed by the enormity of the request. Can you post the current list, perhaps, or some other way to narrow or focus what the publisher is looking for?


  2. Hi Mike, thanks for your comment.

    My post may have made the request seem bigger than it should have been. My assignment is not a big part of the textbook project at all.

    In a nutshell, there is no existing list to post. I am going to come up with about 30 readings for the first American survey and 30 for the second semester.

    By way of example, we have all seen John Adam’s letter to Jefferson, “Who will write the history of the American Revolution?” This is the place where Adams suggests that the revolution was completed years before he defended the British Soldiers after the Boston Massacre. Interesting stuff!

    But I am trying to get other teachers to nominate one or two of their favorite readings to include in this mosaic. Perhaps there are things someone has always wished would have been included in these sort of readers.

    In other words, do you have a favorite primary source excerpt that you use in teaching a part of the American Survey? If so, share it and you may see it incorporated.

    Thanks again for your comment; perhaps when “the list” is completed I’ll throw it back out for more scrutiny.



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