Digital History>Teachers>Modules>Westward Expansion

Learn About Westward Expansion

In the span of five years, the United States increased its size by a third. It annexed Texas in 1845; negotiated with Britain for half of the Oregon country; and acquired California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming as a result of a war with Mexico.

America’s dramatic territorial expansion intensified the sectional conflict between North and South and raised the fateful and ultimately divisive issue of whether slavery would be allowed in the western territories.

It took American colonists a century and a half to expand as far west as the Appalachian Mounts, a few hundred miles from the Atlantic coast. It took another fifty years to push the frontier to the Mississippi River. Seeking cheap land and inspired by the notion that Americans had a “manifest destiny” to stretch across the continent, pioneers by 1850 pushed the edge of settlement to Texas, the Southwest, and the Pacific Northwest.

More about Westward Expansion (Scroll down to the heading "Westward Expansion"
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The Mexican War, 1847, by Persifor Smith
"This people have been conceived in sin &...have been degraded by oppression"
A firsthand account of the American capture of Mexico City.
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More documents in the our collection. Scroll down to the period of 1836-1847 focusing on Texas annexation and the Mexican War.
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Handouts and fact sheets:

Manifest Destiny
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Recommended lesson plan:

Manifest Destiny and the Power of Perspective
Manifest Destiny represented the forward-looking outlook of a young expanding nation, the United States. After exploring this topic through readings and video clips, students will write essays on Manifest Destiny from the perspective of the Mexicans and Indians.
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Manifest Destiny and the Commercial Conquest of the United States
The American march to fulfill Manifest Destiny in western North America was not achieved by the military alone, but also by businessmen. In this activity, students will learn about the commercial conquest of America via readings and video clips. Then the students will create their own "commercial conquest.”
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Manifest Destiny and the U.S.-Mexican War: Then and Now
In this activity, students will explore different American opinions about the U.S.-Mexican War (and by extension, Manifest Destiny) from both the 19th century and today. Students will then apply their knowledge by having a debate on the topic.
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Quizzes:

Quiz on Westward Expansion, Answers to the Quiz on Westward Expansion
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Recommended books:

Richard White, It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own
A comprehensive history of the American West incorporating the most recent historical scholarship.

Recommended film:

The AlamoThe Alamo
John Wayne plays David Crockett in this highly romanticized 1960 recreation of the battle of the Alamo

View the movie trailer (requires Windows Media Player):
http://us.imdb.com/Trailers?0053580&893&28
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Learn more about film and westward expansion in this book:
Marshall De Bruhl, “The Alamo” in Mark C. Carnes, ed., Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies

Recommended Website:

The West

Primary source material on the American West, including many memoirs, journals, diaries, letters, and autobiographies.

http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/index.htm
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