Too much corporate influence in politics; the specter of socialist policies undermining capitalism and individual freedoms; a middle class in apparent decline; waves of immigration which threatened to alter the character of American society; new technologies which introduced new social problems as well as offering new opportunities; and a general sense that the common people had lost control of their government: To a sometimes surprising degree, the issues which troubled Americans in the last quarter of the nineteenth century resembled our own. The past often loses much of its vigor and tumult as it becomes codified as history, and it can be difficult at times to understand how truly revolutionary—tranformative, disruptive, unprecedented, and divisive—an event such as the Industrial Revolution was for the people who lived through it.
To better understand this turbulent period, review the major economic and social changes of the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Illustrate the revolutionary character of this period by describing the rise of Big Business and identifying the particular forms new corporations assumed. Identify the social problems and opportunities which economic changes created in the cities, the New South, the farmlands, and the West. Explain the role of state and federal governments in these developments. In your response, explain how socioeconomic changes affected the following groups, and how those groups responded to these changes:
a. Native Americans
Summarize your responses to the prompts above by responding to the following questions:
a. What were the most revolutionary social and economic developments of the last quarter of the nineteenth century?
b. How did different groups of Americans respond to those changes and how effective were their responses?
c. What role did government play in these developments?
When composing your initial post and your responses to your classmates, draw from the material in at least THREE of the following primary sources:
a. Cross of gold speech
c. Chief Joseph speaks: Selected statements and speeches by the Nez Percé chief
d. Our immigrants at Ellis Island
e. Letter on labor in industrial society to Judge Peter Grosscup
f. Populist Party platform
g. What’s the matter with Kansas?
Also draw from the material in ONE of the following videos:
a. The American industrial revolution
b. Industrial New York
Your initial post should be no fewer than 200 words in length, which does not include works cited or the questions being answered. It should address all of the components of the question in a way that demonstrates independent, critical thought and command of the required material. It should not merely repeat the material in the textbook or other sources, but should use that material as the basis for an idiosyncratic interpretation of the topic.
In addition to your initial post, you should respond substantially, in posts of no fewer than 100 words, to at least two classmates and contribute to their analysis of the topic. When responding to classmates, you should refer to the material from one of the sources which you did not reference in your initial post. Identify important points which they may have missed which either support or challenge their interpretation. Explain how their views have made you rethink your own conclusions or offer perspectives which might help them regard the topic in a different way. Feel free to ask probing questions of your classmates, but, if you do, offer your own interpretation. That is, don’t just respond, “What do you think of X, Y, and Z?” Instead, respond, “What do you think of X? I think W because of V, U, and T. On the other hand some might point to S and R.” In short, the ideal response to a classmate would involve you encouraging a classmate to see things from a new perspective, even as you clarify and develop your own thoughts as well.
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