One of the thoughts I have for bringing into a survey course are primary sources from the 1890s. Newspaper articles in American papers discussed the rising powers of Germany and Japan; the conflicts happening among Turkey and Greece; Turkey and Bulgaria; and an article on the ambitions of leaders in the Slavic countries of Serbia. These are a few examples yet I think students take to these examples that help set the mood happening in Europe prior to WWI.
When it comes to teaching World War One in a US history course, I first like to pullback and characterize the conflict for what it was: a primarily European phenomenon (though I emphasize the role that Europeans' colonial subjects played as soldiers and laborers during the war). Once I have provided the European context, I explain how initial US neutrality gave way to US intervention in the war on the side of the Allies. With respect to the war's historical significance for the US, I like to highlight two things: 1.
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Ed. note (PBK): The many members of our network who teach the first half of the US survey could find this essay useful in planning their courses. If the links and images do not format properly in the email notification for this post, just click over to read on the web.