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American and National Identity (NAT) examines the values, beliefs, traditions, political systems, economics, and viewpoints that characterize America. It particularly focuses on the major events that helped shape these events and how these characteristics changed over the course of American History. An example of a change to American and National Identity was the shift in Constitutional interpretation allowing “separate but equal” education for African Americans to Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, which outlawed such segregation, exemplifies such a change in values and beliefs.
Politics and Power (POL) covers the influences that different social and political parties have had on American society and the government. It involves the study of why disputes between social and political groups have occurred and how this has lead to the gradual change of various institutions in America. An example of a gradual change in an institution due to disputing parties would be in Puritan New England in the late 1600s, where in response to an increasing number of less religious citizens, the colony declared that men no longer had to be part of the Puritan Church to vote.
Work, Exchange, and Technology (WXT) addresses causes that led to the advancement of systems of economic exchange in America. Three crucial factors backing the betterment of economic exchange systems include improvements in technology, commercial markets, and government. An example of a significant agent leading to better methods of economic exchange would be advancements to communication technologies (phones and the internet), allowing for business to be efficiently conducted between people across the globe and helping to promote global trade.
Culture and Society (CUL) pays attention to the way in which thoughts, beliefs, social behavior, and creativity have helped form the United States. Also important to note are the changes and/or continuities in American society such as cultures, interactions, and ethics over time. An example of a major social change in American history would be the Women’s Suffrage Movement, in which men and women joined together in a successful effort to improve voting rights, allow for better opportunities, and change harmful perceptions of women in the United States.
Migration and Settlement (MIG) analyzes the reasons and ways in which individuals have migrated to and across the United States. Additionally, this topic discusses both the personal changes that these individuals have made in order to acclimate themselves within society and the changes made in order to transform these new physical and social environments. An example of a group of immigrants/migrants altering a social environment of a new area would be them settling in an ethnic enclave such as a Chinatown, in which they can keep many aspects and customs of their previous society in tact.
Geography and the Environment (GEO) concentrates on geography and the environment and their effects on American social and political establishments from colonial times through present day. The environment can prompt economic and political shifts through the profit it boasts, through the raw materials found in nature. A major cultural change in the American Colonies was that power and prosperity became associated with land, since farming was the main economic activity.
America in the World (WOR) focuses on the nations that played a role in the colonizing of the Americas and their interactions with one another. This topic also pays attention to the impact the United States plays and played in global affairs. An example of a large-scale interaction between multiple nations in the colonial period is the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, in which Europeans traded with African tribes/nations in exchange for slaves to work the plantations in the Americas.
The first period covers the time from 1491-1607 (5% of test) begins with Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas and mainly focuses on the Spanish conquest and exploration of the Americas. Resulting from the discovery of the Americas was the Columbian Exchange, which was the transferring of diseases, crops, and livestock between Eurasia and the Americas. Another significant development that occurred was Spain’s early conquest of the Americas (and the Natives who lived there) through which, the Spanish Empire grew into one of the largest and wealthiest empires in human history. In effect to Spanish conquest, European diseases, and the creation of the encomienda system is the death of millions of Native Americans and the annihilation of the Aztec Empire. The most important event in this time is the discovery of the Americas because this lead to exploration, colonization, the Columbian Exchange, and many more significant events.
The second period is over the dates from 1607-1754 (10%) covers European (mainly British) settlements and colonies, beginning with Jamestown and ending with the start of the French and Indian War. The most important series of events of this time was the establishment of 13 British colonies, which would later become what is now the United States. It is important to understand the differences between these colonies including their form of government, main economic activity, as well as the social and religious beliefs of these colonies. Also important to pay attention to is Britain’s gradual increase in the overseeing and governing of the colonies. One of the most significant movements in this time is the Enlightenment since it resulted in new ideas about how governments/society should function and many of the ideas that were incorporated in the Declaration of Independence.
Probably the most important period in American history is the third period, including the time from 1754-1800 (12% of test), which begins with rising tensions between Britain and the colonies leading to the Revolutionary War. After the French Indian War, Britain began to tighten its rule over the colonies and created multiple unreasonable taxes for the colonies. Due to the new laws, tariffs, and taxes Britain created, Americans began to despise British rule and ideas of revolution soon arose. The revolution was soon kicked into full effect when the Continental Congress met to draft the Declaration of Independence and prepare for war. The war ended in 1783, and the United States was victorious (thanks to the help of other nations such as France). The Revolutionary War is the most important event in this time period since it marked the beginning of the United States of America and the end of being under British rule.
Period four includes the dates from 1800-1848 (10%) and covers the development of modern US democracy, the increasing of the United States’ interest in foreign trade, technological advancements, and Westward expansion. Another significant concept of this era is the push for equal rights for colored people and women in many areas, because of which lead to growing tensions between the North and the South and will eventually lead to the Civil War. The most important event during this time would be the Louisiana Purchase since this significantly increased the size of the United States and helped promote Westward expansion.
The fifth period lasted from 1844-1877 (13%) and focuses mainly on the Civil War, Reconstruction, Westward Expansion, and the increased immigration of foreigners into the United States. The most impactful event of this time was Civil War started by the South’s secession from the North and forming the Union to form the Confederate States. Soon after the end of the civil war had ended, Reconstruction efforts began in order to help rebuild the South and to help reunite the nation.
Period six includes the dates from 1865-1898 (13%) and is characterized by industrialization, urbanization, railroads, immigration, and racial tensions. Large-scale immigration to the United States from foreign countries began during this time, leading to a more ethnically diverse population and increased inequality in cities where immigrants settled. The construction of major railroads across the United States helped promote large-scale trade between cities across America. The most significant development of this time is the creation of segregation laws in southern states whose public services were supposed to be separate but equal, which was far from accurate.
Period seven lasts from 1890-1945 (17%) and includes the World Wars and the Great Depression. In the 1930’s economic activity in the United States came to a sudden halt due to issues in the stock market and with American banking systems, putting millions out of jobs. The Great Depression ended largely because of efforts by Franklin Roosevelt such as working to fix US banking systems and to promote new job opportunities for Americans through projects such massive construction projects. The most important event in this time period was World War 2, which helped get people working by men serving in the army and women working in factories in order to supply soldiers with vehicles and weaponry.
The eighth period lasts from 1945-1980 (15%) and includes the Cold War and Civil Rights Movement. The Cold War led to America significantly improving its military power (nukes, advanced defense systems, etc.) and tightening its foreign policy. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s is the most important event of this period because it led African Americans finally getting the voting, education, and other rights that they had been denied.
The final period covers the events from 1980-Present (5%) with some of the main ones being the invention of the World Wide Web, Terrorism, and the War On Terrorism. In recent times, there has been a significant increase in terrorist attacks on America such as the Oklahoma City Bombing and the September 11th Attacks. America has made great efforts to end terrorism all across the globe by funding for the deployment of soldiers in areas such as the Middle East to combat terrorist groups such as ISIS and the Taliban. The most significant development of this time is the creation of the Internet, which has allowed businesses and nations to efficiently interact with one another from across the globe.
Contextualization is the first historical thinking skill on the AP US History Exam; this skill explains a distinct historical event in a broader and less specific sense. In order to get full credit, the student must be able to provide an accurate and historical context for a specific event, and then explain how the context is relevant to this event. For example, if a question asks to explain the use of the encomienda system by the Spanish in the Americas, the student could explain feudalism in Europe during the Dark Ages and how the encomienda system is based off of feudalism.
Comparison is the second historical thinking skill on the AP US History Exam; this skill expresses similarities and/or differences of two separate historical processes or developments. To earn full credit, the student must mention and explain relevant similarities and/or differences between different historical events or developments. An example of a comparison between 2 historical events might look similar to the following: “The causes American Revolution and the French Revolution both largely had to do with unfairly high taxes, lack of representation, and both started because of enlightenment ideas. These revolutions differed in that America’s revolution was an external struggle against Britain, while France’s revolution was an internal conflict between the peasants and the corrupt upper class.”
Causation is the third historical thinking skill on the AP US History Exam; this skill involves looking at the various reasons and prior events that led to a particular historical occurrence. In order to receive full credit, the student must describe the causes or effects of a particular historical development, the differences between primary and secondary causes, and the relative historical significance of various causes and/or effects.
Continuity and Change Over Time is the fourth historical thinking skill on the AP US History Exam; this skill is recognizing the trends and changes over time. For full credit, the student needs to explain the patterns of continuity and/or change over time and to explain the significance of historical occurrences and their influence on a larger pattern of continuity and/or change. The continuous mistreatment and racial inequality that African Americans faced from slavery up until the Civil Rights Movement is an example of a continuity over time. The ending of segregation in the South as a result of the Civil Rights Movement is an example of a change.
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