Advanced Historical Themes

Directions: Below are concepts and themes with prompts and tips to help advanced students better understand how history works. Encourage advanced students to look through the list and find concepts and themes that relate to their interests and topics they want to study.

Broad Themes

  1. Civilization, cultural diffusion, and innovation
    1. The evolution of human skills and the means of exerting power over nature and people. The rise, interaction, and decline of successive centers of such skills and power. The cultural flowering of major civilizations in the arts, literature, and thought. The role of social, religious, and political patronage of the arts and learning. The importance of the city in different eras and places.
  2. Human interaction with the environment
    1. The relationships among geography, technology, and culture, and their effects on economic, social, and political developments. The choices made possible by climate, resources, and location, and the effect of culture and human values on such choices. The gains and losses of technological change. The central role of agriculture. The effect of disease, and disease-fighting, on plants, animals, and human beings.
  3. Values, beliefs, political ideas, and institutions
    1. The origins and spread of influential religions and ideologies. The evolution of political and social institutions at various stages of industrial and commercial development. The interplay among ideas, material conditions, moral values, and leadership, especially in the evolution of democratic societies. The tensions between the aspirations for freedom and security, for liberty and equality, for distinction and commonality, in human affairs.
  4. Conflict and cooperation
    1. The many and various causes of war, and of approaches to peace-making and war prevention. Relations between domestic affairs and ways of dealing with the outside world. Contrasts between international conflict and cooperation, between isolation and interdependence. The consequences of war and peace for societies and their cultures.
  5. Comparative history of major developments
    1. The characteristics of revolutionary, reactionary, and reform periods across time and place. Imperialism, ancient and modern. Comparative instances of slavery and emancipation, feudalism and centralization, human successes and failures, of wisdom and folly. Comparative elites and aristocracies, the role of family, wealth, and merit.
  6. Patterns of social and political interaction
    1. The changing patterns of class, ethnic, racial, and gender structures and relations. Immigration, migration, and social mobility. The effects of schooling. The new prominence of women, minorities, and the common people in the study of history, and their relation to political power and influential elites. The characteristics of multicultural societies; forces for unity and disunity.

Broad Concepts

  1. Exploration
    1. Explorations occur for reasons that include quests for power, wealth, knowledge, adventure, and the advancement of humankind.
  2. Migration
    1. Migration occurs for geographic, social, cultural, political, religious, and economic reasons.
  3. Settlement
    1. Settlements develop differently because of many factors such as climate, geographic features of the land, demographics, and so forth.
    2. Settlements need some form of order to exist.
    3. New settlers face many challenges.
  4. Colonization
    1. Colonization can have both positive and negative impacts.
    2. Countries want colonies for economic, political, and social reasons.
  5. Revolution
    1. Revolutions occur for various reasons (when people are poor or getting poorer, when rights are taken away, when people want more control, when a change in ideas occurs, when a few agitators lead masses.)
    2. Revolutions bring positive and negative changes.
    3. Revolutions can be political, economic, social, or technological in nature.
    4. Revolution affects all aspects of society.
  6. Compromise
    1. Divisive political issues may be resolved through compromise.
    2. Not all compromises work.
    3. The individuals involved can affect the compromise.
  7. Conflict
    1. Conflict exists in personal, political, economic, and cultural arenas.
    2. Conflict can be created or accelerated by individuals, organizations, and or propaganda.
    3. Opposing forces in a conflict have strengths and weaknesses, which result in victory or defeat.
    4. Relationships between state and federal governments may create conflict.
    5. Conflict may be resolved with compromise or may result in war.
  8. Nationalism
    1. Especially in modern times, many people have developed feelings of strong connection to, and pride in, their nations.
    2. Feelings of nationalism are often triggered by a common goal/defining event.
    3. Nationalism can affect culture, economics, and society as well as politics.
  9. Governmental Change
    1. State/federal powers sometimes overlap or conflict.
    2. Democratic structures bring decision-making to the people.
    3. Governmental regulations affect the economy.
    4. Citizens’ views influence governmental policy.
  10. Sectionalism
    1. Similar forces (economic, political, social, religious, or cultural) draw and connect people in a specific geographic region.
    2. Sectional issues often create conflicts.
    3. Feelings of nationalism can be overshadowed by sectionalism.
    4. Powerful issues such as slavery can bring about feelings of sectionalism.
  11. Change (Reform)
    1. People continually search for ways to improve their lives (industrial revolution).
    2. While advances in technology improve our lives, there may be a cost or environmental impact.
    3. Society is ever-changing because people are always trying to improve it. 
    4. Immigrants bring change to a nation.
  12. Expansion
    1. Countries expand their boundaries for various reasons: greed, land, money, and to spread religion.
    2. Expansion may result in conflict.
    3. Expansion may result in the assimilation of other cultures.
  13. Civil War
    1. A civil war is between a country’s citizens and its respective governments.
    2. There is often a desire to create a new government.
  14. Reconstruction
    1. Reconstruction after a war is always a difficult healing process to rebuild a nation.
  15. Citizenship
    1. Many groups have organized the redefine citizenship or to be included in the definition of citizenship.
    2. Citizenship includes rights and responsibilities, such as the responsibility of participating in government.
    3. In democratic societies, protest against government policies can be viable means of expressing citizenship and patriotism.
  16. Gender/Sexual Identity
    1. Societies have developed ways of dividing labor by gender, and have developed ideas of differences between men and women that vary by time and place.
    2. Social, economic, and political changes are often accompanied by changes in what it is appropriate for women or men to do, as in wartime when women have traditionally engaged in activities thought to be “men’s work.”