Historians sometimes distinguish between “history from the top down” and “history from the bottom up.” History from the top down focuses on leaders and elites: presidents, politicians, military officers, and the like. History from the bottom up discusses the experiences of common people: average citizens, racial minorities, immigrants, workers, and families.
Which approach offers a better path for understanding the history of the United States since 1945? Who exerted a greater influence on U.S. foreign and domestic affairs – elites or common people? Do you believe that political and military elites charted a course that the nation followed? Or have broad-based social movements made up of average people exerted more influence since 1945? If you were teaching a course on U.S. history since 1945, which approach would you be more likely to emphasize?
In formulating your answer, choose three different individuals/groups that we have discussed in the third section of this course (modules 11-14). How do the experiences of each individual/group reflect the top down/bottom up divide? What sort of historical agency – that is, influence – were your individuals/groups able to exert?
Be as specific as possible and be sure to use the assigned readings to defend your answer. Your answer must quote and cite at least three different primary documents from the required reading for Modules 11 through 14.
Be as specific as possible, and be sure to use the assigned readings to defend your answer.
Answers that are too short or too long (more than 50 words in either direction) will lose points.
Your answer must quote and cite at least three different documents from the required reading for Modules 1 through 4.
Your answer will be checked for plagiarism using Turn-It-In.
Your answer should be based on material covered in class lectures and in the assigned reading for this course. DO NOT CONSULT OTHER SOURCES. I do not want to know what Google tells you about this topic. All the information you need to answer this question can be found in the assigned reading and in your class notes.
Some tips on formatting and length:
750 words is not much! It’s about three double spaced pages (1” margins, 12 point font).
Be brief, especially in your introductory paragraph. Get right to your argument, don’t waste words describing everything we’ve covered in the course. There’s no need to make sweeping statements like “Since the beginning of U.S. history….”
The prompt asks several different (but closely related) questions. You do not need to answer each and every one of them, but you should try to address most of them (at least in passing) in your essay.
75 words: Introductory paragraph that ends with a clear thesis statement (that is, your argument and your answer to the question asked in the prompt).
200 words: body paragraph 1, which should contain your first example and a quotation from your first document.
200 words: body paragraph 2, which should contain your second example and a quotation from your second document. A transition paragraph between paragraphs should address the similarities/differences between your first and second example.
200 words: body paragraph 3, which should contain your third example and a quotation from your third document. A transition paragraph between paragraphs should address the similarities/differences between this example and your first two examples.
75 words: a concluding paragraph that compares your three examples and reiterates (not word-for-word!) your thesis from the introduction.
You MUST introduce and contextualize your quotes. We’ve read dozens of documents this term. You must tell your reader what document you’re quoting.
GOOD: Southern African Americans had their own definition of freedom. “We claim freedom as our natural right,” black residents of Nashville stated in a petition, “and ask that in harmony and co-operation with the nation at large, you should cut up the roots the system of slavery.” As these petitioners noted, the work of freedom remained incomplete, even after emancipation.
BAD: Southern African Americans had their own definition of freedom. “We claim freedom as our natural right, and ask that in harmony and co-operation with the nation at large, you should cut up the roots the system of slavery.”The second example is extraordinarily confusing for your reader. Who are you quoting? Are these your words? Introduce your quotes, and then explain them in your own words.
You should also try to avoid extended quotations. In almost all circumstances, you shouldn’t be quoting more than one or two sentences at a time. When you’re trying to quote a longer passage, intersperse your own words as necessary. When I see paragraph-length citations I start to worry that you’re just trying to fill up space…
Historians use Chicago Manual of Style, Humanities format. Use footnotes, not parenthetical/in-text citations.
Cite the documents from Eric Foner’s Voices of Freedom as follows:
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Home Life,” in Eric Foner, ed. Voices of Freedom, Vol. 2, 6th Edition (New York: W.W. Norton, 2020), 14-17.