How to Study American History

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How to Study American History

Post by KnicksRule » Sat Apr 19, 2014 1:42 pm

At our school we do not have a course in American History before 11th Grade. How would you suggest to quickly improve in American History within a month or two. (other than reading full-length textbooks such as American Pageant)
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Re: How to Study American History

Post by gustavus.adolphus » Sat Apr 19, 2014 2:08 pm

Something that I've been doing (no idea how effective it is) is to go through my older sibling's APUSH prep boook. It's by no means the best way of doing it, but it at least gives me some familiarity with the names.
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Re: How to Study American History

Post by Cheynem » Sat Apr 19, 2014 2:10 pm

It might help just to write a series of short questions on important people and events. For example, besides reading the textbook on American history, look at the key terms and people. Write a 3 line tossup or so which tries to pick out a few clues on each of them. At the very least, you'll know the giveaway, but you will also be able to recognize some of the harder or middle clues.
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Re: How to Study American History

Post by Angry Babies in Love » Sat Apr 19, 2014 2:13 pm

Shorter textbooks, like the one published by AMSCO (I don't remember what it's called, we just called it "AMSCO") that are usually used to study for the APUSH exam, can be helpful.
Visit places. Go to Bunker Hill, Lexington, Concord. If you have the opportunity, visit Antietam and Gettysburg. If you spend a day at those last two places and see as many things there as you can, I guarantee you that you will be able to first-line every tossup on those battles at the high school level, assuming you don't lose a buzzer race.
Besides that, just try to make sure that you have a good timeline in your head of all of the presidents and major events.
The best thing, as with nearly every subject, is tossups. Tossups on presidents is a good place to start. There are only so many clues about McKinley that are going to come up, and you'll learn that by looking at tossups. Learn clues, but also learn chronological markers to help you place a tossup on your mental timeline. If someone was a Secretary of War, you know they can't be Clinton-era. You don't have to necessarily learn much about Lewis Cass, but if you know he was around in the 1840's, that's a big help in the mental process of elimination in a tossup. During a tossup, you want to be able to narrow it down chronologically as quickly as possible.
And knowing you're a geography person, look at historical maps. IT's a good way for map people like us to really be able to visualize everything.
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Re: How to Study American History

Post by Corry » Sat Apr 19, 2014 2:15 pm

Find a textbook commonly used for APUSH (AP US History), and read it. My high school American History class was essentially just a "read the textbook" class. You guys can easily replicate the experience outside of a classroom environment.
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Re: How to Study American History

Post by Schmidt Sting Pain Index » Sat Apr 19, 2014 4:58 pm

Strange Fascination wrote:Shorter textbooks, like the one published by AMSCO (I don't remember what it's called, we just called it "AMSCO") that are usually used to study for the APUSH exam, can be helpful.
.
This is what I recommended you earlier, and I think it's still the best option at this point. You'll learn the most info in the least amount of time.
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Re: How to Study American History

Post by cchiego » Sat Apr 19, 2014 5:19 pm

One book I have has pages of political cartoons, newspaper drawings of major events, and portraits of people from each presidential administration. It's from 1958 (so I'm pretty sure it's out of print), but it's been a gold mine of information on US history because of all the amusing contemporary images that tend to be very memorable as well as educational. APUSH review books and textbooks are great too, but for someone who wants a different style of learning this might be a good option.

I haven't had much lucking in finding other large-scale online or print collections of historical political cartoons, but I'm sure other people in the community have and I'd love it if they shared 'em.
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Re: How to Study American History

Post by Cheynem » Sat Apr 19, 2014 5:20 pm

That sounds slightly like Stefan Lorant's "This Glorious Burden."
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Re: How to Study American History

Post by Sakata Kintoki » Sat Apr 19, 2014 6:58 pm

Strange Fascination wrote:Shorter textbooks, like the one published by AMSCO (I don't remember what it's called, we just called it "AMSCO") that are usually used to study for the APUSH exam, can be helpful.
Thirding the recommendation for the AMSCO AP US History book; used it to cram for the APUSH exam and it worked like a charm. If you don't know anyone who already has the book, then it's cheapest to order directly from the AMSCO website. Another option is the Oxford Companion to US History, though it does have some articles that are completely useless in the context of quiz bowl.

You might also consider looking at online APUSH course notes to get a quick overview of important people/events for particular time periods.
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Re: How to Study American History

Post by The Stately Rhododendron » Sat Apr 19, 2014 8:21 pm

A People's History, by Howard Zinn, covers plenty.
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Re: How to Study American History

Post by gustavus.adolphus » Sun Apr 20, 2014 12:54 pm

A People's History, by Howard Zinn, covers plenty.]
Yeah, I don't think such an ideologically-obsessed book is really a good way of learning about American history.
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Re: How to Study American History

Post by Cody » Sun Apr 20, 2014 12:56 pm

gustavus.adolphus wrote:
Mr. Joyboy wrote:A People's History, by Howard Zinn, covers plenty.
Yeah, I don't think such an ideologically-obsessed book is really a good way of learning about American history.
You have no idea what you're talking about. The question isn't whether it is "ideologically obsessed" or whatever charge you can level at it, but whether it is a useful tool to learn American History: it is because it is very readable (compared to a standard textbook) and covers a lot of ground compared to other references.
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Re: How to Study American History

Post by gustavus.adolphus » Sun Apr 20, 2014 1:01 pm

Whatever you think about the ideological merits of Zinn's take on history, it is unorthodox, and therefore I believe needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Particularly considering the book is 800 pages long, it doesn't really work as a crash-course in American history, as the first post asked for.
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Re: How to Study American History

Post by at your pleasure » Sun Apr 20, 2014 1:11 pm

gustavus.adolphus wrote:Whatever you think about the ideological merits of Zinn's take on history, it is unorthodox, and therefore I believe needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Particularly considering the book is 800 pages long, it doesn't really work as a crash-course in American history, as the first post asked for.
I mean, unorthodox takes on history can and are often incredibly valuable. Whether Zinn's take on history is as unorthodox as he postulates it is or actually valuable is another question altogether; I am inclined to say "no" to both given that labor history, gender and racial lenses, and social history are all established as useful frameworks for the study of american history and most of the orthodoxy he claims to decry was overturned decades ago. For the purpose of quizbowl study, it is a reasonable overview which covers quite a bit of material which comes in in quizbowl and which does not suffer many of the defects of some of the textbooks being recommended here(outright unreadable prose and disjointedness, over-focus on narrow segments of political and military history, etc). Having said that, I don't think I would put it on an undergrad syllabus; there are better sets books out there for doing what Zinn is trying to do, although reading a enormous volume of secondary literature is not what people are looking for in this thread.
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Re: How to Study American History

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Sun Apr 20, 2014 1:46 pm

If you're looking to go from zero to competent at quizbowl history (or many things) quickly, the easiest thing you can do is just read a lot of questions. Take notes if you can, write your own questions (or just do further research on things you find interesting) if you have time--short of that, there's no royal road to learning, so even exhaustive packet study can only take you so far.
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Re: How to Study American History

Post by johntait1 » Sun Apr 20, 2014 2:09 pm

Since AMSA is currently ranked number 2 in History Bowl http://www.historybowl.com/nationals-teams/ I believe you guys are already really good at US History and probably know a lot about Lewis Cass and stuff, so I don't really think there's any way to get much better rapidly considering how good you guys already are. Just my thoughts.
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Re: How to Study American History

Post by Guile Island » Sun Apr 20, 2014 4:39 pm

Going through elections and learning about everybody associated with them at some point is a decent way to grab some points.
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Re: How to Study American History

Post by TonyEgg » Sun Apr 20, 2014 5:24 pm

Goole by-election, 1971 wrote:Going through elections and learning about everybody associated with them at some point is a decent way to grab some points.
I think this is great advice. A book that can give you a working knowledge of US elections is Anything for a Vote by Joseph Cummins:http://www.amazon.com/Anything-Vote-Jos ... 1594741565. It approaches each election in a manner meant to highlight "dirty" tactics used by each candidate, which isn't exactly a topic very helpful for quizbowl. However, it's pretty easy reading material that covers the candidates, their strategies, and the historical background of each election. I've found it to be fairly clue-dense as well.If you want a crash course on elections, I'd start here.

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Re: How to Study American History

Post by Capitoline » Sun Apr 20, 2014 9:13 pm

Textbooks for APUSH are the best way to go. If you don't have the time for this, then a Barron's or similar review guide can give you a solid overview. You can definitely earn a lot of points by learning presidential elections; I'd start with the often-tossed-up ones like 1860, 1872, 1912, etc.
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Re: How to Study American History

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Apr 21, 2014 12:50 am

I don't have any specific books to recommend, but here are some things that worked for me:

(1) Biographies of presidents (or any major political figure, really). If a biography is going to do a good job of telling you about a US politician's career, they are going to have to explain what was happening in his era. Boom, there you go, intro text on whatever period of time that guy/gal was from.

(2) I liked to read multiple books on the same topic/time period. If stuff came up in both books, it was obviously worth knowing. This also irons out author bias quite well. United States history is quite small compared to European or World history, so this is a subject where its probably more viable of a strategy than most.

(3) It's easier to write about treaties, politicians, battles, etc. than it is to write about social history. One issue I had with modern history books is that they focus a lot about social history, oral history of individuals, etc. I found that going into my university library or my local used book store and finding old history books from the 1920's/1930's was a pretty good source of the type of clues that showed up in political history questions.

(4) Visiting stuff is underrated as a way of learning things. Especially battlefields, seeing the terrain lets you make much more sense out of battle tossups. And talk to the rangers, the people in historical costume, etc. Every historic site probably has a dude walking around it who would be amazing at quizbowl and is often happy to tell you all sorts of new clues about the site you're visiting and the people who did stuff there!
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Re: How to Study American History

Post by Chef Curry » Thu Apr 24, 2014 8:14 pm

Seeing that history bowl is on Saturday, where I look forward to playing you, this might not help too much. But, I second reading APUSH textbooks. I am a freshman and I was able to check out an APUSH textbook for a month. It is a short time compared to an actual AP Class, but I was still able to get some clues that helped me. What I like to do with history in general is looking up things on Wikipedia, taking notes, and going on Quinterest, and take more notes. Good Luck, and see you at history bowl!
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Re: How to Study American History

Post by themanwho » Sat Apr 26, 2014 5:13 am

cchiego wrote:I haven't had much lucking in finding other large-scale online or print collections of historical political cartoons, but I'm sure other people in the community have and I'd love it if they shared 'em.
The "Comics Should Be Good" blog took a look at Pulitzer Prize winning cartoons in 2009. Here's their achive:

http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.co ... s-archive/
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