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Reference Book of the Week: Milestone Documents in American History

I would like to start by reminding our local readers to visit our library display, "Celebrating American Independence," in the library's third floor. It will be available until the end of the month. To go with the theme, we have chosen an excellent collection of documents from American history. This week we are featuring Milestone Documents of American History. This four volume set contains a collection of significant documents in American history from the Revolutionary Era to the twenty-first century. For example, you can read items ranging from Patrick Henry's "Liberty or Death" speech to the Bybee Torture Memo. The four volumes are organized in chronological order (1763-1823; 1824-1887; 1888-1955; 1956-2003).  One thing I like about reference works like this one is that you can find various items in one place. This allows you to compare documents as well as see how certain lines of thought progressed over time. These documents cover issues such as politics, economics, science, gender equality, and religious freedom. This resource has more than just the text of historical documents. The work also includes various features that are useful for students and educators. Some of those features are:
  • An overview gives you a quick summary of the document and why it is important.
  • The context places it in its historical time.
  • You get a note about the document's author.
  • A time line of key events related to the document.
  • An explanation and analysis of the document.
  • An audience note discusses the audience of the time. Who was this document addressing?
  • The impact note tells us the historical influence, or why we still read it now.
  • a references list for further reading.

In conclusion, this may be the best reason to look at this work: "understanding these historical documents and their context will prepare students to better appreciate the complexities of the twenty-first century" (from the Introduction, xv). In this month when the United States celebrates its birthday as a nation, what better way to celebrate than to look at the documents that shaped the nation? This is an excellent tool to go back and read the words that have empowered the nation (like Cesar Chavez's Commonwealth Address), the words that have moved so many people (say JFK's Inaugural Address), the words that at times were shameful (for example, the Chinese Exclusion Act). It is also a great tool for students studying rhetoric, history, and communications. And while some readers may argue why some other primary document was not included, the book serves as a very good starting point.

The set can be found in the library's Reference Collection in the second floor. The call number is E173 .M62 2008.

Published by root on 15 Jul

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