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Archived Information

History and Social Science
Curriculum Framework

IV. Core Knowledge in United States and
World History, Geography,
Economics, and Civics and Government

The following topics, grouped under commonly recognized eras of United States and world history, have been selected and adapted for History/Social Science instruction in Massachusetts from the relevant national standards reports, the state frameworks in California and Virginia, and curriculum guidelines of the National Council for History Education. They also address particular requirements in the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993. As a required common core of essentials around which study of history and social science is to be organized, these topics are to be offered to all students. Which of them are studied in depth, and which are more briefly considered in their larger historical and geographical context, is left for local schools and teachers to determine.

Patterns of instruction in these topics across the grades appear in Section V below. The full range of required topics is presented here, so that teachers throughout the grades may recognize their own and each other's distinct, interdependent responsibilities in introducing their students to the collective memory of educated people. Readers should see also Section IX, which contains further Core Knowledge in Geography, Economics, and Civics and Government. Suggestions of commonly taught subtopics appear in Section V.

A. Core Knowledge: The United States

1. Early America and Americans (Beginnings to 1650)

  1. The setting: geography and resources of the Western hemisphere
  2. Native Americans: differing economics and politics; peace and war
  3. Major European societies, rivalries; 15th and 16th century explorations
  4. African geography, societies, politics; backgrounds of the slave trade
  5. First encounters between Americans and Europeans; the consequences
  6. Early English settlements and daily life in Massachusetts

2. Settlements, Colonies, and Emerging American Identity (1600 to 1763)

  1. Political, religious, and economic motives of European colonizers
  2. Coexistence and conflict between Europeans and Native Americans
  3. Massachusetts town government, religion, and schooling in colonial times
  4. Colonial era labor and the advent of North American slavery
  5. Family life across classes, races, and regions of colonial America
  6. Intellectual and religious heritage of Anglo-American colonials
  7. Growing social and political divergence from England

3. The American Revolution: Creating a New Nation (1750 to 1815)

  1. Events and interests behind the American Revolution
  2. First battles in Massachusetts; the Declaration of Independence
  3. Leaders, turning points, and deciding factors of the Revolutionary War
  4. The Anglo-American political heritage: Greco-Roman history, Magna Carta, evolution of Parliament, Mayflower Compact, the English Revolution, colonial governments, and ideas of the Enlightenment era
  5. Leading Founders, founding documents and debates: Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison; state constitutions, Articles of Confederation, Northwest Ordinance, Constitution, Federalists, Anti-Federalists, the Bill of Rights
  6. The Constitution: the federal system at its origins; union; separation of powers; the three-fifths compromise
  7. The early Republic: Washington as a founding statesman; The birth of party politics
  8. Expansion and conflict: the Louisiana Purchase; War of 1812

4. Expansion, Reform, and Economic Growth (1800 to 1861)

  1. Evolution of the Supreme Court; John Marshall; Marbury v. Madison
  2. Industrialization in New England; invention and enterprise
  3. The Northern economic system: capital, industry, labor, trade
  4. The Southern economic system: land, agriculture, slavery, trade
  5. Jacksonian Democracy and pre-Civil War reformers: popular politics, abolitionism, women's rights, and schooling
  6. The emergence of distinctly American religion, art, and literature
  7. New immigrants; migration patterns; nativist hostility
  8. Westward migration; Indian removals; war against Mexico

5. The Civil War and Reconstruction (1850 to 1877)

  1. Slave life; families, religion, and resistance in the American South
  2. A nation divided; the failed attempts at compromise over slavery
  3. Abraham Lincoln: beliefs, election; secession and war
  4. Scenes of war: battlefield, farm, factory, home, and hospital
  5. Massachusetts soldiers; Fort Wagner, the Wilderness
  6. Leaders, deciding factors, turning points, and human toll of the Civil War
  7. Emancipation Proclamation; the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments
  8. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, Second Inaugural, and assassination
  9. Reconstruction: aims, obstacles, and phases

6. The Advent of Modern America (1865 to 1920)

  1. Changes and constraints for African-Americans; Plessy v. Ferguson
  2. Industrial expansion; inventions, resources, government supports
  3. Modern business: corporation, banking, stock exchange; the Gospel of Wealth
  4. Organizing 19th century labor: aims, strikes, and obstacles
  5. New immigration and internal demographic shifts; African-American migration to the North and West; life in growing American cities
  6. Settlements and diversity: the West, Southwest, Pacific coast, Alaska
  7. Crises and losses on American farms; the Populist movement
  8. The United States as world power; the Spanish-American War
  9. Progressivism: results and limits; Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson

7. The United States and Two World Wars (1914 to 1945)

  1. World War I: causes and stages; American economic, military, political roles
  2. The war and the peace: short and long term consequences for 20th century America
  3. Campaign for women's suffrage; the 19th Amendment
  4. Jazz Age: optimism, new industries, mass consumption and entertainment; arts and letters; the Lost Generation; the Harlem Renaissance
  5. The underside of the 1920s: race conflict, nativism, urban and farm poverty
  6. Causes of the Great Depression, domestic and international
  7. Massachusetts in the Depression: joblessness, poverty, relief, family life
  8. American artists, writers, and popular culture of the 'thirties and 'forties
  9. FDR's New Deal; business regulation; Social Security; protests Left and Right
  10. Labor's advances; the Wagner Act, NLRB; the CIO and UAW
  11. American isolationism; Axis aggression and conquest in Asia and Europe
  12. From Pearl Harbor to victory; the course and human costs of World War II

8. The Contemporary United States (1945 to the Present)

  1. Postwar America: prosperity, new suburbs, education, optimism
  2. Continuity and dislocation in the Massachusetts economy since 1945; cases of poverty and its causes
  3. Widespread ruin and the Cold War call forth new American foreign policies
  4. The 'fifties: advent of television; domestic anti-communism; war in Korea; rising demands for desegregation; Brown v. Board of Education
  5. The 'sixties and 'seventies: assassinations, trauma; civil rights struggles and laws; war in Vietnam; moon landing; the women's movement: advances and limits
  6. The 'eighties and 'nineties: racial tensions and culture wars; effects of technological change and the global economy on American business and labor
  7. The end of the Cold War; new world disorders and American responses
  8. Waves of newcomers to the American promise; debates over immigration
  9. Renewed disputes over government's role in the economy, culture, and schools
  10. Promises and questions from science, technology, medicine, and mass culture

B. Core Knowledge: The World

1. Human Beginnings and Early Civilizations (Prehistory to 1000 B.C.)

  1. Human origins and early life; the work and findings of archaeologists
  2. Earth's geography: climate, soil, waters, topography, and human migration
  3. The agricultural revolution; Neolithic technology and its effects on human life
  4. Early civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, India

2. Classical Civilizations of the Ancient World (1000 B.C. to c. 500 A.D.)

  1. Ancient Israelites; central teachings and legacies of Judaism
  2. Greek civilization: literature, philosophy, arts, and science
  3. Athenian democracy: principles, practices, and legacy
  4. Alexander the Great and the spread of Hellenism
  5. Institutions, culture, and legacies of the Roman Republic and Empire
  6. The classical civilization of India; Hinduism, Buddhism
  7. The classical civilization of China; Confucianism, Taoism
  8. Origins, central teachings, and spread of Christianity
  9. The decline and fall of the Roman Empire; historians' debates

3. Growth of Agricultural and Commercial Civilizations (500 to 1500 A.D.)

  1. The Byzantine Empire: institutions, religion, and culture
  2. The origins and principles of Islam; spread of Muslim power
  3. Components of early European civilization: Roman, Christian, invaders
  4. Western feudalism, manorialism, religion; the three social estates
  5. The Middle Empire in China; trade and arts; Chinese Buddhism
  6. Japan's classical age; Shintoism, Buddhism, Sino-Japanese culture
  7. Kiev and Muscovy; Russia and the Mongol Empire
  8. Africa: cities and states; gold, salt, and slave trade; Muslim expansion
  9. Societies of pre-Columbian America: Mayan, Incan, Aztec
  10. Europe in the high Middle Ages; monarchs, parliaments, church, and culture

4. Emergence of a Global Age (1450 to 1750)

  1. The Italian Renaissance: economic, social, and political bases
  2. Works and legacies of Renaissance artists and humanists, South and North
  3. Leaders, ideas, contending forces, and religious change in the Reformation era
  4. China under Ming and Manchu dynasties; agriculture, trade, and cities
  5. Japanese unity under the Tokugawa Shogunate; the closing inward
  6. European expansion and exploration; economic and technological forces
  7. European conquests, colonization, and consequences in the Americas
  8. Absolute monarchies and constitutional governments

5. The Age of Revolutionary Change (1700 to 1914)

  1. The Scientific Revolution; earlier discoveries; new "laws" of nature
  2. The Enlightenment in Europe and America
  3. Origins, stages, and consequences of the American and French Revolutions
  4. Latin America; wars for independence; economic and social stratification
  5. Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions in the Western world
  6. Cities and urban life of the 19th century
  7. Democratic and social reform in Europe; evolutions and revolutions
  8. Rising European nationalism; motives for the new Western imperialism
  9. Chinese resistance to colonialism; the Chinese Revolution
  10. Japan's modernization and rise to world power
  11. Dawn of the 20th century; Western optimism and counter-currents

6. The World in the Era of Great Wars (1900 to 1945)

  1. World War I: causes, military course, and consequences
  2. The Russian Revolutions of 1917; ideas and practices of Bolsheviks
  3. Paris Conference, Versailles Treaty; aims and conflicts of divided Allies
  4. After-effects of war and colonialism, West and East
  5. The Great Depression: causes and worldwide consequences
  6. International Communism; Leninist/Stalinist totalitarianism in Russia
  7. International Fascism; Italy, Spain; Nazi totalitarianism in Germany
  8. Liberal democracies in danger; economic, social, and political crises
  9. Origins and responsibilities for World War II in Europe and Asia
  10. World War II: geography, leaders, military factors, and turning points
  11. The human toll of 20th century wars and genocides; the Holocaust

7. The World from 1945 to the Present

  1. Origins of the Cold War; the divided victors of World War II
  2. Rebuilding and reform in postwar Europe and Japan
  3. New nations in Africa and Asia; the end of European colonialism
  4. Cold War in Europe; Marshall Plan; NATO; Iron Curtain, Warsaw Pact
  5. Cold War in Asia; Chinese Communist Revolution; wars in Korea and Vietnam
  6. East/West duels for the non-aligned: Asia, Africa, Central and South America
  7. The Soviet Empire collapses; post-Cold War locales of world disorder
  8. Persistent nationalism, militarism; conflicts of race, religion, and ethnicity
  9. Democracy and human rights; advances and retreats since 1945
  10. The changing world economy; limits on national sovereignty and priorities
  11. New boundaries and issues in science, technology, and culture


Last Updated: September 1, 1997
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