A Brief History
This article contains links to online versions of what we consider the essential primary source readings for students of American History through the Civil War. Please click on the title of the document to read it.
I. Background and Colonial Development, 1500-1763
- November 11, 1620: The Mayflower Compact
II. Revolutionary Era: Emergency of Democracy, 1763-1800
- July 8, 1775: The Olive Branch Petition
- January 10, 1776: Common Sense
- July 4, 1776: The United States Declaration of Independence
III. Expansion of American Democracy, 1800-1850
IV. Challenge to Democracy, 1850-1865
Question for students (and subscribers): What is your favorite primary source in American history? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Johnson, Michael P., ed. Abraham Lincoln, Slavery, and the Civil War: Selected Writings and Speeches, Second Edition. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011.
Levy, Peter B. 100 Key Documents in American Democracy. Westport: Praeger, 1994.
The featured image in this article, The Mayflower Compact, the first governing document of Plymouth Colony, is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or fewer.