NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ1005864
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 17
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 33
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-6239-6008-7
ISSN: ISSN-1535-0584
History's Purpose in Antebellum Textbooks
McInnis, Edward Cromwell
American Educational History Journal, v39 n1 p127-143 2012
Many scholars have argued that history education during the antebellum period in the United States supported conservative values and sought to produce close-minded citizens. History textbooks of that era, they frequently posit, cast Americans as God's chosen people and present the past in a style that reaffirms established social conventions. Ruth Elson, one of the best known advocates of this perspective, argues in "Guardians of Tradition" (1964) that textbooks used history to teach an "ideologically simple" set of morals in which the United States is the world's most righteous nation. Elson reaches this interpretation in part because she focuses almost exclusively on United States history textbooks and on readers for young children which did, in fact, try to cultivate nationalism and possessed a Whiggish historical sensibility. Thus today's scholars still view antebellum-era history education as promoting a narrative designed to foster nationalism rather than genuinely inspire independent thinking. Much less has been written on whether authors posited another element to history education. Only Nina Baym, who examined women writers with a particular focus on Elizabeth Peabody, indicates that textbook authors expressed a more complex purpose for learning history. This article reconsiders this position by revisiting the question: What values and ideals did antebellum history textbook authors seek to teach students? The author addresses this question because Elson's conclusions about what history textbooks taught do not completely align with the educational objectives of antebellum secondary schools. (Contains 3 notes.)
IAP - Information Age Publishing, Inc. P.O. Box 79049, Charlotte, NC 28271-7047. Tel: 704-752-9125; Fax: 704-752-9113; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A