Modern United States History

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Section I: Choose one of the following two questions for your first essay.

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1.Between the Civil War’s conclusion and the New Deal (1865-1940) the perceived role of government, long viewed as strictly limited, began to change in response to growing economic complexity, matters of civil rights, and questions of national security.Choose three examples from this period that illustrate such expansions of governmental power, explain them, and then assess how well they balanced acting for the common good while still respecting individual rights and the free market.(Reconstruction, the Progressive Era, World War I, and the New Deal are good places to focus upon for this question)

2.Historians fiercely debate the period between the Civil War’s conclusion and the Great Depression in terms of defining who enjoyed the benefits of American freedom.One group sees these years in terms of an incredible expansion in the boundaries of belonging.Among other things, they point to the end of slavery, the Reconstruction Amendments, the Homestead Act and settlement of the West, the millions of immigrants who settled in America in these years, and women’s suffrage.A second group argues just the opposite: they argue that the overwhelming tide of this period was a narrowing of the boundaries of belonging privileging the rights of whites, and above all white men.Among other things, they point to the failure of Reconstruction, American Indian policy in the West, segregation and disfranchisement, lynchings, American empire-building and foreign policy at the turn of the century, and immigration restriction.For this question, take a position on this debate (for, against, or a middle ground), define why you believe this position correct, and then present three specific historical examples from this period that support your argument.

Section II: Choose one of the following two questions to answer in your second essay.

1.One of the major themes of the course thus far has been the double-edged nature of technology, scientific approaches, and “modernity.On one hand these concepts helped bring the United States into the modern world; spurring innovation, firing the modern industrial economy, and largely building the society that still is the basis for this country today.On the other, technology and scientific approaches inflicted terrible consequences as well; fueling racism, driving conquest, and making war much more costly.In your essay, first explain why “modernity” and the thinking that drove it presented so many potential pitfalls.Then provide three concrete examples that illustrate how technology, scientific approaches and modern thinking manifested in dangerous and even regressive ways. (Focusing on the Gilded Age, Imperialism, World War I, and the Twenties may be helpful here)

2.In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge famously stated that “the chief business of the American people is business.”Between 1865 and the Crash in 1929, American industry and, consequently, corporations grew at a historically unparalleled rate, transforming the nation by 1900 into the world’s greatest economic power.However, this created a situation where a vastly unequal concentration of wealth allowed those at the top of the economic order to translate their fortunes into political influence.For this question, first explain how this concentration of wealth posed a threat to American democracy.Then, discuss what measures were employed over the decades to attempt to offset the political influence of wealth, citing at least three specific examples and explaining how they attempted to redress this imbalance.

Please see attached word document for essays instructions.

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