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Best Websites: History


Colonial and American Revolution

The Coming of the American Revolution
This website from the Massachusetts Historical Society takes students inside the pre-revolutionary struggles between the British colonies and various policies of the British government through official documents, personal correspondence, and newspaper pieces. By clicking on the "Explore" section, visitors will have the opportunity to look into the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, and other important documents from the period that led up to the actual Revolution. Moving on, the "Resources" area contains brief biographies of key players involved in this period of rebellion and resistance, including Abigail Adams and Thomas Paine. Finally, the site is rounded out by a section for teachers which includes lesson plans.

“The Decisive Day is Come”: The Battle of Bunker Hill
The purpose of this site is to make available documents from the Massachusetts Historical Society's collections to a wider audience. The events of June 17, 1775 are told here through the words of those who were present. It includes well-known documents such as Abigail Adams's letter to her husband John, but there also are letters and journals of American and British soldiers, including ordinary soldiers in the ranks, as well as civilian observers who lived in the Boston area.

The James Madison Papers
The James Madison Papers from the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress consist of approximately 12,000 items captured in some 72,000 digital images. They document the life of the man who came to be known as the "Father of the Constitution" through correspondence, personal notes, drafts of letters and legislation, an autobiography, legal and financial documents, and miscellaneous manuscripts.

The Thomas Jefferson Papers
This site contains the complete Thomas Jefferson Papers from the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress - approximately 27,000 documents. Document types in the collection as a whole include correspondence, commonplace books, financial account books, and manuscript volumes.

The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database (Voyages)
This database contains materials on ships, crews, slaves, and places of embarkation and landing. It lists the names of ships, captains, number of crew and slaves, place where slaves were taken and landed, where they were sold, and if anything unusual happened during the voyage. It can be searched by just about any variable imaginable, including the number of crew deaths and the outcome of the voyage. The site provides links to other relevant sites and lesson plans for secondary school teachers.

The Civil War

The Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War
The Valley of the Shadow is a digital archive of primary sources maintained by the University of Virginia that document the lives of people in Augusta County, Virginia, and Franklin County, Pennsylvania, during the era of the American Civil War.

Wisconsin Goes To War: Our Civil War Experience
During the Civil War, over 12,000 men from Wisconsin were killed. Their stories in this collection are told through first person narrative accounts. Students may wish to start their journey by looking at some of the 42 sub collections here, which include the diary of William Ault who served in the 14th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment and the papers of the Ladies' Union League, which handled claims for money for Wisconsin soldiers and their families.

The 1960’s and the Vietnam War

Radical America
This site makes available the first 14 years of the magazine Radical America, a publication launched by college students in Madison, Wisconsin in 1967. The journal was affiliated with the organization Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). The site was created and is maintained by Brown University. All files are in PDF format.



Cold War

American Experience: The Trials of J. Robert Oppenheimer
J. Robert Oppenheimer was a brilliant scientist, and while the United States was quick to acknowledge his work in creating the atomic bomb, it was also quick to cast him aside as the Cold War escalated in the 1950s. Visitors can use this site to watch the original documentary in its entirety and also take a look at some resources for teachers and learn about the current proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Cold War International History Project
Part of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC, this site gathers, archives, and produces materials related to the Cold War from both Eastern and Western perspectives, including biographies, pamphlets, conference proceedings, legal documents, and other primary source materials. Of special interest is the Digital Archive, which makes available a multitude of translated primary source documents.