Presenting U.S. History in the words of those who ARGUED it!

ByRay Tyler
On June 2, 2020

My high school American history students loved class debates. Their parents told me it was because they liked to argue! The students especially enjoyed reenacting the Lend-Lease debate of January 1941.

Each year, I assigned several documents from the document database related to the United States Senate’s battle on FDR’s proposal. I gave each student a role to play and set a date for our reenactment of the Senate’s debate. When the day arrived, students argued for and against the wisdom of FDR’s plan to aid Great Britain in her desperate struggle against Nazi Germany. They really got into their roles!

Sometimes it seems that arguing is the true American pastime. From the Stamp Act crisis of 1765 to the current protests over stay at home orders, Americans have argued, protested, and debated contemporary political issues.

Teaching American History developed the two-volume collection to help you teach the issues at stake in some of the most crucial controversies in American history: Documents and Debates in American History and Government, Volume I, 1493-1865 and Documents and Debates in American History and Government, Volume 2, 1865-2009.

A scholar from the Ashbrook Center edited each volume in the Documents and Debates collection. Sarah Morgan Smith, who researches colonial America, women in American history, and the intersection of religion and politics, edited Volume 1. Ashbrook Senior Fellow David Tucker, who has written about such topics as Jefferson, religion, politics, and unconventional warfare in American history, edited Volume 2.

The collection highlights enduring issues and themes in American life, such as the effort to balance freedom and equality as well as liberty and order; the struggle for inclusion and full participation of African-Americans, women, and working people; the conflict over how America should organize its economy and what role government should have in American economic life; and the argument over how America should use its power in the world.

Many teachers are using these volumes with success. For those who’ve not yet discovered them, you can access both volumes digitally, at

Beginning June 9 and continuing over the next several months, TAH will highlight topics in the Documents and Debates collection at our We the Teachers Blog. Each weekly post will include the following FREE resources;

  • A chapter from one of the two volumes – available as a FREE PDF
  • An introduction to the debate topic written by the scholar who edited the volume
  • Study questions to guide students as they read the documents
  • Our newest feature: recordings of the primary sources in each chapter. This new resource helps even the most reluctant reader analyze the documents in depth. Links to recordings of each chapter’s introduction and documents are included in each blog post.

The Chapter Introduction, the Study Questions, and the documents themselves are FREE to download in a single PDF. Teachers can easily hyperlink the downloaded PDF to their school’s learning management system. You can also print out the documents in a wide margin format that allows room for your students to take notes.

Look for the rollout of this new package next Tuesday, June 2, with Chapter 1, Early Contact, from Documents and Debates, Volume 1. Two weeks later, on June 16, we will publish the documents and recordings for chapter 16 of the series, the first chapter of Volume 2: Reconstructing the South. We’ll continue alternating between the volumes in the following months with one topic per month from each volume.

Subscribe to We the Teachers today! Not only will you receive copies of the Documents and Debates in single chapter PDFs but links to recordings of the primary sources in each chapter, posts on upcoming webinars, and other topics of interest to teachers of American history and government.


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