Investigating American History: A Systems Approach

We've renamed the American History Handbook. Now both the teacher/mentor and learner materials are named Investigating American History: A Systems Approach. See links below.

Why this book?

American history must play a central role in the curriculum. Our way of life is dynamic, and change is part of the fabric of life. To survive and thrive, our young must make sense of significant technological, demographic, economic, political, and social transformations, and no subject or discipline other than history can provide that sense. Social stability requires that it be a deliberate focus of study.

But there's a problem. American history as it's usually taught inundates learners with information far beyond their ability to cope. No "master" system of organizing ideas helps them grasp the "big picture," and the passive read-and-remember role they're forced to play ensures that most will see the course as irrelevant, unimportant, and boring.

Most attempts to improve historical study have relied on the potential of a good story to "make the past come alive." We advocate a different approach: "Make the learner come alive." The activities in Investigating American History are active, engaging, and intellectually stimulating. Its "Investigations" focus on unfamiliar primary sources, and provide systemically integrated concepts that give students a master information organizer they'll find useful for the rest of their lives.

Investigating American History is a course of study, but also a professional book for history teachers. It provides a rationale, procedures, and student materials to transform students into active learners, and gives them conceptual tools to analyze historical change. Materials are suitable for adolescents and above.  It may be used to augment the standard American history course, or as the framework for a complete course. It's FREE--no strings, no signup, no advertising, no spam. Download links are below.


Download main units and commentary

Investigating American History 

(formerly American History Handbook for Teachers and Mentors)


Download student materials only Investigating American History


Links to more investigations in American history

We've added 16 additional free American history investigations to supplement those in the course material above. Teachers or mentors may use them to augment these or other materials, or to help build a complete history course focusing on primary sources, active learning, and analysis of systemic relationships. Click on the link above for descriptions and download links.

NOTE: Classroom teachers, working together, are better positioned to improve instructional materials than are policymakers and publishers. To facilitate dialogue and continuous refinement, we invite participation in an interactive, supportive, on-line community to discuss learner reactions, suggest improvements to existing activities, and suggest additional or alternative activities.The "Discussions" box in the right column of this page links to pages for this purpose.