What were the economic activities of the central colonies
This collection of essay questions on the American Revolution was written and compiled by Alpha Story writers for both teachers and students. They can also be used for brief answers to questions, discussion points, or other research or revision tasks. If you have a question about this page, please contact Alpha History.
1. Examine and discuss three British attempts to settle in North America in the 16th and early 17th centuries. What challenges did these early settlements face?
2. What was the political legacy of the Jamestown Settlement and Mayflower Pilgrims? What ideas did these groups have of politics and government?
3. Explain how British governments promoted or supported exploration and colonization in North America.
4. Compare and contrast the three Colonial Regions: New England, Central Colonies, and South Colonies. How were their societies and economies similar and different?
5. Explain the role of religion in the development of colonial society between the early 1600s and the American Revolution.
6. Colonial American society is sometimes mistakenly portrayed as a mirror of British society. Discuss how life in colonial America was different from life in Britain.
7. Examine the nature of class and power in colonial American society. Which people or groups had power and how?
8. Describe everyday life in colonial America. Compare life in big cities, rural settlements and border regions.
9. How and why was slavery integrated into colonial American society and economy in the mid-1700th century?
10. How were Native American tribes and peoples affected by settlement of British America between the early 1600s and the mid 1700s?
Catalysts for Change
1. Examine the political participation of colonial Americans before the revolution. To what extent were ordinary people involved in local and provincial government and in decision-making?
2. Explain how distance shaped the relationship between Great Britain and its American colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries.
3. Use specific examples to explain why colonial assemblies sometimes conflicted with their royal governors. How were these disputes usually resolved?
4. What was meant by the term "salutary neglect"? Explain how these policies actually worked for both Britain and the Americans.
5. The French and Indian War is sometimes referred to as the "War for Control of America". To what extent was that true? What were the results of this conflict?
6. What was the purpose of the British Royal Proclamation of 1763? Which American colonists were affected by this measure and how did they react?
7. The British Parliament passed two currency laws in 1751 and 1764. What restrictions did these actions place on the colonies and who was hardest hit?
8. “Smuggling” is often cited as a source of tension between Britain and Colonial Americans. Define smuggling, explain who was involved, and discuss how widespread it was before 1764.
9. What are letters of support? With reference to certain examples, why did they evoke a revolutionary feeling in colonial America?
10. The Sugar Act of 1764 reduced UK tariffs on sugar and molasses. Why did it cause unrest among American colonists, especially in the merchant class?
The Postage Stamp Act
1. With reference to the British government and the problems it faced in 1764, it was explained why its ministers were considering introducing a stamp duty in colonial America.
2. Explain the purpose of a colonial stamp tax, how it is introduced and which individuals or groups are affected.
3. To study and discuss the role of Benjamin Franklin in formulating and passing the Postage Stamp Act.
4. In 1765, discuss the opposition to the Postage Stamp Act in Boston. Which people and groups opposed the stamp law? What methods did you use to achieve this?
5. Find three main sources, British or American, that contain protest against or criticism of the Stamp Act. Extract and discuss the arguments used.
6. Discuss attitudes towards the Stamp Act in the UK. To what extent was the legislation supported there?
7. Find three visual sources that contain protest against or criticism of the Stamp Act. Discuss the content of these sources and explain how they encourage people to contradict the Stamp Act with ideas, symbols and sounds.
8. Use three specific incidents to explain how American colonists used intimidation or violence to protest the Stamp Act.
9. What are the differences between "actual representation" and "virtual representation"? Why did these differences become critical in the unfolding revolution?
10. Explain why the Stamp Act was repealed in 1766 and how this affected relations between Britain and its American colonies.
From the duties in Townshend to the tea party
1. Discuss the purpose and content of the Revenue Acts or 'Townshend Duties' of 1764. What goods were affected by these duties?
2. How did the American colonists mobilize to resist Townshend duties? Which groups or classes took part in this campaign?
3. Summarize the ideas and objections to British policy expressed in John Dickinsons Letters from a farmer (1767-68).
4. What ideas did the Massachusetts Circular Letter that Samuel Adams wrote early in 1768 contain? What consequences did this letter have for Anglo-American relations?
5. Use specific people or sources to explain colonial objections to the presence of standing armies in American cities.
6. What was the background to the Boston massacre? Why did violence break out between Bostonians and British soldiers in March 1770?
7. Using primary and secondary evidence, explain who was more responsible for the Boston massacre: the Boston mob or the British soldiers?
8. How did Samuel Adams and the Correspondence Committees contribute to the American Revolution between March 1770 and December 1773?
9. Explain the purpose of the Tea Act of 1773. Which Americans were most affected by this act and how did they react?
10. Was the Boston Tea Party a protest against UK taxes, UK trade regulations, or something else?
From compulsory acts to independence
1. Describe the penalties implemented in the coercive laws. Why did the Americans consider these actions "intolerable"?
2. How has the appointment of General Thomas Gage as governor of Massachusetts contributed to a revolutionary situation there?
3. Although not one of the coercive acts, the Quebec Act (1774) has created opposition in America as well. What were the terms of this law and why did the Americans speak out against it?
4. Discuss the contents of the Fairfax Resolves and Suffolk Resolves of 1774. How did these local resolutions affect the general revolution?
5. What decisions or resolutions were made at the first Continental Congress in 1774? How did they shape the course of the revolution?
6. What attempts were made to reconcile the American colonies with Great Britain between mid-1774 and July 1776? Which people or groups preferred reconciliation?
7. Using specific people, groups, and locations, explain how the American colonies mobilized for war between mid-1774 and April 1775.
8. What ideas and arguments were put forward in Thomas Paine's 1776 essay? Common sense? Discuss the implications of this document.
9. Describe the quest for independence in the Second Continental Congress. What groups and people advocated a break with Britain?
10. With reference to specific sentences or passages, describe how the Declaration of Independence expressed or reflected Enlightenment values and ideas.
The War of Independence
1. In the first few months, the Continental Army was notorious for its lack of military organization and discipline. How did George Washington and others make the Continental Army an effective force?
2. How did American leaders convince ordinary people to enroll in the Continental Army or state militias and fight in the War of Independence?
3. Using primary and secondary sources, explain the challenges and problems an ordinary foot soldier in the Continental Army faces.
4. What happened in Trenton, New Jersey in late December 1776? Why is this apparently minor event seen as a turning point in the War of Independence?
5. Using at least two other nations, explain how American revolutionaries sought the support of foreign nations during the War of Independence.
6. Assess the importance of the French alliance and support for America's victory in the War of Independence.
7. How successful have the Continental Congress and state governments been in delivering the war effort? What obstacles and difficulties did you face?
8. What was the Newburgh Conspiracy and why did it threaten the government in the new society?
9. What were Britain's military objectives during the War of Independence? Why couldn't British commanders achieve and achieve these goals?
10. Examine attitudes towards the American Revolutionary War in Britain. Have these attitudes changed over time and have they affected government policies?
Creation of a nation and a new society
1. Describe the national government created by the articles of the Confederation in 1781. What were the pros and cons of this form of government?
2. Why was the new US in an economic depression during the 1780s? Take into account both internal and external factors.
3. How has the new administration of the United States addressed the challenge of their newly acquired territories west of the Appalachians?
4. Describe the causes of unrest among Massachusetts farmers in 1786. What were their complaints and what steps did they take to resolve them?
5. Explain and discuss at least three compromises that were reached in drafting the United States Constitution in 1787.
6. How was slavery addressed in the United States Constitution - or not?
7. Identify differences between federalists and anti-federalists in 1787-88. How did your visions for the new United States differ?
8. Focus on three specific people and discuss the anti-federalists and their main objections to the proposed constitution.
9. How did the federalist movement contribute to the successful ratification of the constitution in 1787-88?
10. Describe the process that led to the passage of the Bill of Rights. Why was it deemed necessary to include these rights in the Constitution?
Evaluation of the revolution
1. To what extent was the American Revolution complete by 1789? Has the revolution left any "unfinished business" or unsolved problems?
2. Why did the American Revolution lack the violence and death toll of recent revolutions?
3. John Adams famously described Americans as one-third for revolution, one-third against, and one-third indifferent. How accurate is this claim? How many Americans supported and opposed the revolution, and has that changed over time?
4. The United States political system, created in 1789, is often portrayed as radically different from the British political system. Was that really the case? What British structures or concepts were reflected in American systems of government?
5. Some historians have called the United States Constitution "counterrevolution". What is the basis for this claim?
6. Describe the global legacy of the American Revolution. How have the political ideology and values of the revolution influenced other governments and societies?
7. How has the American Revolution changed American society?
8. Research and discuss the involvement of Native American and African American people in the American Revolution.
9. Women participated in the American Revolution as housewives, protesters, or army supporters. To what extent has the revolution changed or improved women's lives?
10. How has folklore and myth shaped or distorted our view of the American Revolution? Where did these myths come from?
Information and resources on this page are © Alpha History 2018.
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