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Turning Points: Making Decisions in American History, Volume I

David Burner (Editor), Anthony Marcus (Editor)
ISBN: 978-1-881089-51-3
264 pages
August 1999, ©1999, Wiley-Blackwell
Turning Points: Making Decisions in American History, Volume I (1881089517) cover image
Turning Points: Making Decisions in American History uses documents to reintroduce students to the contingency, the adventure of the American past. The decisions examined here all had complex historical roots, multiple causes that could have led to quite differing outcomes. They were not simply made in one intense moment by some single important individual. Even when an identifiable leader acted with the authority of Woodrow Wilson in taking the country into war or Harry S. Truman in ordering the use of nuclear weapons, the action was in response to the previous decisions of many, sometimes countless people. And in other instances-when women went to work in factories during World War II, for example, or families moved to the suburbs afterward-major changes in American life resulted from the private decisions of millions of Americans.


In Turning Points students will encounter what happened in the past in the light of what might have happened. They will see points where will and judgment produced one result rather than another.

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1. First Blood: The Pequot War.

2. Coloring the Colonies: Black and White in Early America.

3. Revolution in Print: The Zenger Case.

4. Brewing Tea in Boston Harbor.

5. The People Decide: Ratifying the Constitution.

6. The Louisiana Purchase.

7. The Trail of Tears: Exiling the Cherokee.

8. "Demon Rum": Battling the Bottle.

9. Manifest Destiny: War with Mexico.

10. Women in Public: The First Women's Movement.

11. Run, Fight, Evade, Resist: Slaves as "Troublesome Property".

12. Crisis in Black and White: Uncle Tom's Cabin.

13. The War over Slavery: Blue and Gray and Black.

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David Burner, a professor of history at SUNY at Stony Brook, received his doctorate at Columbia, where he studied under Richard Hofstadter. He has held a Guggenheim Fellowship and was a Ford Fellow at Harvard. His early books are The Politics of Provincialism and Herbert Hoover: A Public Life. He is also the author of Making Peace with the Sixties (1996) and John F. Kennedy and a New Generation (2nd edition, 2003). He is currently writing a history of West Point.


Anthony Marcus teaches in the School of Anthropology, Geography, and Environmental Studies at the University of Melbourne in Australia. He has published on globalization and culture change (Anthropology For A Small Planet, 1996) and American history, and his current writing focuses on Mexican migrants in the northeastern United States, poverty and public policy, the politics of the culture concept in development, and comparative mestizajes.

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