U.S. History Outlines & Charts

World War I recruiting poster
by James Montgomery Flagg

Select any of the resources below to view topical outlines and charts. PDF versions of many lectures and charts are available for easier printing.

Pre-Columbian Americans: (pdf) Spreading from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, America's first immigrants cultivated maize, developed sophisticated calendars and used zeros, built temples and pyramids without the use of wheels, but were helpless against the disease and weapons of the Europeans.

Chart: 16th & 17th Century European Colonizing Efforts   (pdf)-Five European nations (Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands, France, and England) played major roles in opening up the New World to priests, treasure-seekers, and colonists.

Colonial Beginnings (pdf)--Europeans apply different models to colonial America, though the British plan is the most successful. The establishment of English colonies in America in Virginia and New England.

Chart: American Colonies   (pdf) --A brief summary of facts about the original 13 colonies. American Puritanism (pdf) --From the earliest setlers at Massachusetts Bay through the Great Awakening, Puritanism had the largest effect on American values of any single religious tradition. H.L. Mencken defined Puritanism as the "haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy." Historian Perry Miller described Puritans as "moral athletes."

Slavery in the American Colonies--(pdf) The first African-Americans arrived in Jamestown in 1619. Slavery greatly influenced American attitudes towards race, work, and justice, particularly in the South.

Early American Colonial Life: Politics & Economics A look at the ways America changed and grew in the 1600s and 1700s, focusing on mercantilism, the Glorious Revolution, and the growth in influence of colonial assemblies

The Great Awakening (pdf) --The religious revival that arose in the 1730s produced some of America's greatest preachers and colleges, changed colonial behavior, and challenged religious authority.
Chart: America's Colonial Wars (pdf) --A series of wars with European and American theaters affected the American colonies, particularly as French influence waned and British influence increased.

Chart: French & Indian War (pdf) --A quick look at the important battles and results of the French & Indian War.

Prologue to Revolution--(pdf) The French & Indian War set in motion a series of actions and reactions that led to the outbreak of war in 1775.
Colonial Restraints--(pdf) British laws enacted from 1759-1773 placed burdens on Americans and highlighted the growing differences between the colonists and the mother country
The American Revolutionary War (pdf)--Political and economic in origin, the colonial fight for freedom resulted in a new nation. Chart: American Revolution-A quick look at the important events and battles of the American Revolutionary War Articles of Confederation period--The first American constitution established America as a loose confederation of states Chart: Articles of Confederation vs. the Constitution--A comparison of some of the key features of the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution.

Chart: Federalists & Antifederalists--Diagreeements, practical and philosophical, emerged as the Constitution took form. This is a list of key areas of disagreement between supporters and opponents of the Constitution.

Miracle at Philadelphia:Constitutional Convention of 1787 (pdf) --The American Constitution was born out of compromises and led to America's first political parties

The Federalist Era (pdf)--From 1789-1801, the Federalist Party dominated America's political and economic life.

Chart: Federalists & Democrat-Republicans--During the Federalist Era, the supporters of Hamilton and Jefferson took radically different positions on the issues of the day. These two groups were the nation's first political parties.

Jeffersonian Era- (pdf)-Jefferson and Marshall, two very different Virginians, had tremendous impact on American life

Legacy of the Marshall Court--(pdf)The decisions of Federalist Supreme Court JusticeJohn Marshall have shaped American judicial life in profound ways.

War of 1812 (pdf)--Frustration with British policies and War Hawks pushed America into an ill-advised conflict that left Washington in ruins.

Chart:War of 1812 (pdf)--A quick look at the causes and events of the War of 1812 Sectionalism & National Growth-- (pdf)---Following the War of 1812, America's three major sections developed into interdependent economic regions.

Jackson Era-(pdf) Andrew Jackson expanded the concept of American democracy while making the presidency a more powerful position.

19th Century Reform The reformers of the antebellum period sought to improve American life through a variety of causes.
    Chart: Reforms & Reformers--The reforming impulse manifested itself in a number of do-good causes

Expansionism--Texas, Oregon & the Mexican Cession were the main scenes of America's westward expansion in the 1830s and 1840s.

Chart: Mexican-American War--A quick look at the key events of the Mexican-American War. The Peculiar Institution of Slavery--How slavery, morally disabling, yet incredibly profitable, came to dominate the life of the South.

Chart: Southern Society -(pdf)--The unique social pyramid of the South, with a few wealthy slave owners at the top and a large group of poor whites and slaves at the bottom, defined Southern society in a powerful way.

Antislavery Reform Movements--The essential question facing Americans in the second quarter of the 19th century was "What should be done about slavery?" A variety of groups opposed slavery for a number of reasons, but differed on how to bring it to an end.

1850s: Decade of Controversy--The decade 1850 to 1860 witnessed the unravelling of the nation over sectional issues.

Chart: Significant Antebellum Events--A brief chronology of the events leading up to the Civil War.

Civil War The conflict that devastated the South, caused over 600,000 deaths, and helped define the United States as a true nation.

Chart: Civil War--A quick look at the key events and battles of the Civil War. Reconstruction: 1865-1877--Huge political, social, and racial problems faced America as the South re-entered the Union

The Frontier West--Indians, miners, cowboys, and farmers and how their interactions opened up the western half of the continent

Federal Government Land Policy 1850-1900-- (pdf)Railroads, cattle companies, agricultural students, and homesteaders all benefited from a series of laws that distributed federal lands in the last half of the 19th century. Biggest losers: American Indians, who saw over half of their lands (usually the best half) taken by whites.

American Industrialization--The owners, workers, machines, and ideas that helped form the American industrial empire

Rise of the American City--Urban problems such as corruption and congestion were battled by reformers and the rise of a new form of Christianity called the Social Gospel which applied religious principles to social problems.

Immigration in American Life--Everyone (even the Indians) is an immigrant, yet citizens and the government have expressed ambivalent attitudes towards immigrants from the earliest days.

Gilded Age Politics--In a dreary time of party politics and economic disaster, the Populists energized America and helped promote William Jennings Bryan, an orator of prodigious power

American Imperialism 1877-1914--As American industrial might grew, the desire to expand to international markets and the emergence of a new manifest destiny led to adventures and misadventures close to home (Mexico) and far away (China)

Spanish-American War--A summary of the important background, major events, and results of the Spanish-American War (1898)

The Progressive Era--Seeking to create a just society through governmental action, direct democracy, and volunteerism, Progressives challenge traditional American ways of thinking and governing

U.S. Involvement in World War I--Events that helped move the U.S. from a neutral to a belligerent stand in a horrible and costly war

World War I's Aftermath: Attack on Civil Liberties and Betrayal at Versailles 1918-1920--Wilson's idealistic quest for a "war to end all wars" ends disastrously in France while civil liberties are squelched in America 

Wilson's 14 Points--Which of Woodrow Wilson's idealistic goals of 1918 were actually accomplished?

Simulation: Civil Liberties in World War I--a fact-based simulation concerning four instances of First Amendment cases that demonstrate the tensions that come about for the Bill of Rights in time of war.

The Roaring Twenties--The decade of the 1920s was marked with disillusionment, conservative Republican presidents, and major social and technological changes

Cultural Tensions of the 1920s--A list of the serious issues in the culture wars of the 1920s that led to divisions and disagreements about American society.

The Scopes Trial--This 1925 Tennessee trial pitted Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan in a fight over the teaching of evolution in the schools and also pointed to the growing divisions in American society between religious fundamentalism and modernism

The Great Depression--America's most serious economic downturn had many causes and brought a decade of personal and national hardships

American Involvement in World War II--A quick look at the key events and battles of World War II.
The Home Front During World War II--The industrial might of the U.S. was a major factor in turning the tide for the Allies. In addition, the U.S. faced issues of propaganda, racism, and women's roles.

World War II Conferences & Treaties--From the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact which sacrificed Poland to the Potsdam Conference which brought the nuclear age to reality, World War II witnessed several significant conferences and treaties.

Arguments for Dropping the Bomb (pdf version) --President Truman never second-guessed himself for the decision to use nuclear weapons, though plenty of others have since.

Origins of the Cold War--The early years of the competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and the fears it raised at home.

The Second Red Scare--Pursuing Hollywood stars, State Department staffers, and one Army dentist, the communist-hunting groups of the late '40s and early '50s put a chill on American politics.

Key Events in the Korean War--The "temporary" division of Korea between Americans and Soviets becomes permanent as a result of Cold War tensions that result in war.

Key Events in the American Civil Rights Movement A brief overview of some major events in the civil rights struggle in the United States

1960s: The Tumultuous Decade--From Camelot to cynicism, the 1960s witnessed American society pull apart due to a number of forces, including racial tension, the Vietnam War, and student protest

The Vietnam War--Traces America's involvement from World War II to defeat in 1975.

A Chronology of the Watergate Crisis--President Nixon won 49 out of 50 states in the 1972 election, yet resigned in disgrace in August 1974 because of the coverup of the series of crimes, errors, and actions that came to be known as "Watergate."

The Rise of Conservatism and the End of the Cold War--Ronald Reagan's election in 1980 marked a resurgence in American conservative values and new economic policies. While foreign relations were strained at times, the Cold War ended and the Berlin Wall fell.

A Clinton Impeachment Timeline--President Bill Clinton faced a Senate impeachment trial for his involvement with the Kenneth Starr investigation. While escaping conviction, Clinton was forced to admit "inappropriate" relations with a 22-year old White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.

Recent American History--A brief summary of the major domestic and foreign events that have helped shape America since Watergate.

America's Wars--The causes, results, years, and treaties of America's wars.

Political Parties--The development of American political parties, key issues, leaders, presidential winners, and third parties.