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One curiosity after another

Background reading in American History

Taking a course in regional history can be tough if you don’t have a strong undergrad background in US history.  If you don’t, or you just want a quick refresher, here are some suggestions:

— for a good grasp of the major events and peoples in American history, taking a look at a balanced survey textbook like Out of Many is a good idea.  Read through the table of contents.  Do you remember most of it?  If there’s an area that seems unfamiliar, read that section.  If you plan to continue studying American history, or teach it, having a textbook on hand is very useful.  Everyone forgets what, say, the Lecompton Constitution was from time to time, and having a reference to go to will help with your work in many classes.  If you can’t find one in the library (try asking the reference librarians) you can ask them to buy one.

— if you didn’t have the American West as an undergrad, you’ll probably benefit from an overview text.  You’ll have an easier time placing readings in context with something like the Oxford History of the American West or Major Problems in the History of the American Weston hand.  I note that Amazon currently has several copies of the Oxford history in hardcover for about $2.  If you’re at all serious about pursuing study of the west, this a major steal and you all should jump on it.

— finally, if you could use a stronger understanding of the major interpretative debates American historians engage in, I advise checking out Interpretations of American History, volumes I and II, or perhaps the Major Problems in American History series, (three volumes – I’ve linked to the first here).  Interpretations is much more current; Major Problems combines analytic essays with documents.