Advanced Placement® United States History

This teaching resource provides curated images of works of art and primary source documents including maps, cartoons, posters and essays that reflect and illustrate key concepts for each of the 9 periods in the AP® United States History Curriculum. The key concepts of each period are taken directly from the AP® United States History Curriculum Framework*.

PERIOD 1: 1491–1607
On a North American continent controlled by American Indians, contact among the peoples of Europe, the Americas, and West Africa created a new world. Among the 36 images in this group are examples of  Native American material culture, manuscripts, maps and other primary source documents related to the Columbian Exchange, and interactions between American Indians, Africans, and Europeans.
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PERIOD 2: 1607–1754
Europeans and American Indians maneuvered and fought for dominance, control, and security in North America, and distinctive colonial and native societies emerged. Within this group of 15 images is documentation related to the diverse patterns of colonization and interactions in North America, including Casta paintings, botanical studies, and documentation of plantations and other settlements in the Atlantic world.
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PERIOD 3: 1754–1800
British imperial attempts to reassert control over its colonies and the colonial reaction to these attempts produced a new American republic, along with struggles over the new nation’s social, political, and economic identity. The 41 images in this group include key primary source documents, cartoons and illustrations related to the battle of the French and British empires for North American supremacy, and the ensuing conflict among the British government, the North American colonists, and American Indians. Also included are documents, illustrations and paintings related to the creation of a new nation, emerging democratic ideas and republican forms of government, as well as other new religious, economic, and cultural ideas. This group includes illustrations of the landscape of North America and portraits of key figures in the new Nation’s development.
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PERIOD 4: 1800–1848
The new republic struggled to define and extend democratic ideals in the face of rapid economic, territorial, and demographic changes. The 40 images in this group include documentation in the form of political cartoons, illustrations and photographs describing the conflicts and material culture of the United States as the world’s first modern mass democracy. Primary source documentation of the rapid technological innovations that changed both agriculture and commerce and precipitated profound changes in U.S. settlement patterns, regional identities, gender and family relations, and political power are included. Documentation of the bounty of the natural resources of North America and the impetus to fully engage in foreign and domestic trade, expand its national borders, and isolate itself from European conflicts are also shared in this group.
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PERIOD 5: 1844–1877
As the nation expanded westward, and its population grew, regional tensions, especially over slavery, led to a civil war — the course and aftermath of which transformed American society. The 52 images in this group include those that document the expansionist foreign policy and increased migration to the United States from other countries and the deepening regional divisions, debates over slavery and other economic, cultural, and political issues that led to the conflict. Cartoons, photographs and other documentation of the Civil War and the contested Reconstruction of the South are also included in this group.
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PERIOD 6: 1865–1898
The transformation of the United States from an agricultural to an increasingly industrialized and urbanized society brought about significant economic, political, diplomatic, social, environmental, and cultural changes. The 97 paintings, photographs, maps and other documents of massive migrations and urbanization, and the emergence of an industrial culture in the United States are included in this image group. The “Gilded Age” and the political debates over economic and social policies that were incumbent are illustrated with a wide range of primary source documents including elaborately illustrated weekly publications of the time.
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PERIOD 7: 1890–1945
An increasingly pluralistic United States faced profound domestic and global challenges, debated the proper degree of government activism, and sought to define its international role. The 114 images in this group shed light on the people, places and ideas related to the period’s social changes including urbanization and mass migration under the pressure of world wars, and economic distress. Political cartoons and other documents that present varied points of view in the debates over the nation’s values and its role in the world as the increasingly dominant international military, political, cultural force are included in this group.
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PERIOD 8: 1945–1980
After World War II, the United States grappled with prosperity and unfamiliar international responsibilities while struggling to live up to its ideals. The 70 images include primary source documentation of that struggle within postwar America and abroad. The political and social responses to liberalism and an anti-communist foreign policy are documented in this image group, as are the postwar economic,  demographic, and technological changes that had a far-reaching impact on American society, politics, and the environment.
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PERIOD 9: 1980–Present
As the United States transitioned to a new century filled with challenges and possibilities, it experienced renewed ideological and cultural debates, sought to redefine its foreign policy, and adapted to economic globalization and revolutionary changes in science and technology. The 68 images in this final group document the new conservatism that swept over the U.S., impacting culture and politics, and government. The end of the Cold War and new challenges to U.S. leadership are also documented as well as the challenges facing the contemporary U.S. that stem from social, economic, and demographic changes.
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*From: The College Board. "AP® United States History Course and Exam Description, Including Curriculum Framework, 2014-2015," 2012.
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