Becoming America
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Student Edition
Instructor Edition
Becoming America: A History for the 21st Century

David Henkin, UC Berkeley
Rebecca McLennan, UC Berkeley

ISBN: 0073385638
Copyright year: 2015


Critical Missions: immerse students as active participants in a series of transformative moments in history. As advisors to key historical figures, they read and analyze sources, interpret maps and timelines, and write recommendations for what do to in this critical moment. After finding out what actually happened, students learn to think like a historian, conducting a retrospective analysis from a contemporary perspective.

Spaces and Places: features buildings, landscapes, monuments, and virtual spaces as sources for exploring the country's built and natural environments. U.S. history is partly a story of how human beings have continually reshaped and reimagined the landscapes that we now take for granted. With rich pictorial detail, we show how the spaces and places in which history unfolds have transformed over time.

Singular Lives: spotlights unusual women and men whose experience, perspective, or mythological status captures some broader point about the period. These case studies reinforce the notion that individuals as well as larger social forces shape history.

How Much Is That?: makes monetary figures meaningful by putting them in the context of today's dollar or other contemporary points of reference. Students will gain a sense of the relative value of sums mentioned in the narrative, from the cost of the Louisiana Purchase to a Union soldier's wages to the price tag for a 1950s suburban home and hamburger.

States of Emergency: dramatizes scenes and moments of destruction, violence, epidemic, and natural disaster, from the Stono Rebellion and the New Madrid Earthquake to the Great Chicago Fire and the New York blackout of 1977. These extraordinary events often had far-reaching social and political consequences for the story we tell in the main narrative, but they also gripped the popular imagination and became the focus of fears and fantasies that help us understand larger historical forces.

Interpreting the Sources: the primary sources in these boxed features include public and private documents, visual sources, material artifacts, and transcripts of oral traditions and stories. A headnote puts the source in context, and a series of questions after the source challenges students to think deeply and analytically about its significance.

Hot Commodities: offers a detailed study of consumer goods, food, paintings, recordings, and performances that were tellingly popular at a given point in time. These boxes—with topics ranging from beavers and Bibles to cigarettes and garbage—reinforce the importance of material artifacts to the study of the past. The point is that consumption patterns are not new phenomena (though they have changed radically) and that they offer valuable insight into past societies, much as they do in the present day.

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