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Analyzing Major Changes to American Society: Essay Prompts

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

As you know from History 104, American society has undergone a number of significant changes over its course. This lesson will help you assess your understanding of these changes.


Now that you've completed the lessons in your course, use the exercises shown here to practice applying your new-found knowledge. This is not a mandatory part of your coursework, but it is useful practice.

Reconstruction

Explain three major ways that Reconstruction altered the social and political landscape of the United States. For each of the three changes you name, give a specific example, such as the name of an individual or the name and nature of specific legislation. Provide evidence of each of these changes, either in the form of quotations from primary sources or from secondary source verification. Finally, offer an analysis of what each of these changes meant for American society and civilization, including how they precipitated later racial movements and conflicts in different regions of the country and how they influenced subsequent laws.

Industrialization

Describe two different American inventions that occurred during the Industrial Revolution. For each of the inventions that you name, explain exactly how this invention was made and what individuals or groups contributed to the creation. Then, situate the discovery in the broader context of industrialization, and explain the effect of the invention on how particular individuals or groups lived and worked. Analyze both the pros and cons of industrialization as embodied by the inventions you analyze, and provide as much specific evidence as possible to justify your view.

Urbanization

What do you believe were the three major contributors to increasing urbanization in the United States? Tell the story of each of the causes you are naming, and explain exactly how each cause led more and more people to live in cities. Explain which parts of the country were most heavily impacted by urbanization and why the causes you named played out somewhat differently in different geographic regions. Offer evidence of each of the causes you are describing, using primary as well as secondary source material to justify your arguments. Finally, offer a hypothesis regarding the long term impact of urbanization on subsequent shifts in American society; explain how having more of the population centered in cities impacted politics, culture, and social norms.

American Imperialism

Some scholars argue that American imperialism is similar to imperialism by any other powerful nation at a given point in history, whereas others argue that because of its unique geopolitics and colonial history, America's version of imperialism was distinct. Strongly argue for one or the other of these disparate viewpoints. Whichever argument you take up, give specific examples and explanations that help prove your point. Speculate as to the major arguments of the other side, and use historical examples to show why you believe these arguments to be incorrect.

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