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Gilded Age to World War I, 1870-1920
Overview, Key Understandings & Questions

Time Period Key Understandings

  • Labor unions developed as social and political movements
  • Rural and urban areas have distinct needs that shape political and economic concerns
  • Racial and ethnic groups have fought to obtain civil rights and liberties
  • Government accountability relies on a politically engaged populace
  • Society's idea of morality changes over time
  • A balance between public safety and economic growth is desirable
  • A nation's diplomatic powers rest in its ability to have a foreign presence
  • There are multiple factors that a nation must consider when deciding to go to war
  • The U.S. has gone through periods where it feels it is in its best interest to remain detached from certain global events
  • Negotiating a peace involves compromises and consensus and can extend well beyond the end of hostilities

Key Questions

Workers of the World, Unite!

  • Describe working conditions for the average laborer in the 19th century.
  • What reasons did workers have for organizing labor unions?
  • What tactics did labor unions employ to get their demands met?
  • How did employers respond to workers' early attempts to form labor unions?
  • Do you think labor union demands were fair for workers? For employers?


  • How were farm issues different from the issues faced by industrialized workers?
  • What were some of the early organization efforts by farmers? How did these efforts lead to populism?
  • Why did the farmers' alliances want the government to own railroads and communications systems?

Racism in America

  • What challenges did African Americans face in the post-Reconstruction era?
  • Evaluate the Americanization movement efforts to assimilate immigrants. Do you think their methods were fair?
  • Asian immigrants, Native Americans, and African Americans all faced forms of racism or discrimination. Choose one ethnic group and explain how racism and discrimination affected them.

Reforming Government

  • Who were the muckrakers and what were they known for?
  • What concerns did muckrakers have regarding governmental reforms?
  • Evaluate the reforms passed regarding government. How effective do you think the muckrakers were in enacting change?

Moral Reform

  • What are some reasons for supporting Prohibition?
  • What are some reasons that Prohibition didn't work?
  • The Woman's Christian Temperance Union eventually endorsed suffrage for women. What do you think is the relationship between women's suffrage and Prohibition?

Regulating Business

  • How did antitrust laws limit the power of businesses? Why were they created?
  • What acts did the federal government pass regarding food and drugs? Why were these acts created?
  • Analyze the reforms made relating to business practices. Did the reforms achieve their intended outcome?


  • Analyze the United States' motivations for expansion in the late 19th century. What do you think was the primary motivation?
  • What are some arguments for and against imperialism?
  • Would you consider yourself to be an imperialist? Why or why not?

Foreign Policy of a World Power

  • What events and factors influenced early U.S. foreign policy?
  • What was the Roosevelt Corollary and how did it build upon the Monroe Doctrine?
  • In 1903, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt backed a Panamanian movement for independence from Colombia in exchange for exclusive treaty rights to the planned canal. Evaluate Roosevelt's decision to support the Panamanian revolt. What do you think was his motivation for supporting the revolt?

Spanish-American War

  • To what extent did yellow journalism influence the U.S. decision to go to war with Spain?
  • How did the outcome of the Spanish-American War make the United States a world power?
  • If you had been a part of the discussion in the late 1800s, would you have sided with the imperialists or the anti-imperialists?

American Isolationism

  • Why did the United States choose an isolationist policy at the beginning of World War I?
  • What advantages did a policy of neutrality provide for the United States in dealing with the various European alliances?
  • Evaluate President Woodrow Wilson's decision to stay neutral at the beginning of the war and to later declare war on Germany. Do you think he acted appropriately?

America Goes to War

  • What events or factors led to the U.S. decision to abandon its policy of neutrality and enter the war on the side of the Allies?
  • What challenges did the U.S. government face when preparing to enter World War I?
  • What types of sacrifices did Americans at home make to support the military effort abroad?

The Processes of Peace

  • What were Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points? Summarize the key points.
  • Evaluate Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points. What are the pros and cons of his plan?
  • What reasons did Henry Cabot Lodge and others who opposed the Treaty of Versailles have for their opposition?

MLA Citation

"Gilded Age to World War I, 1870-1920." History Hub, ABC-CLIO, 2019, historyhub.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/2142604. Accessed 25 Aug. 2019.

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Entry ID: 2142604

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