Though shunned for more than a generation by many historians, the study of state and local history has continued to enrich our understanding of history. Fortunately, pride-of-place has continued to spur interest in local history, but it is perhaps time that we reexamine the significance of the approach, as it is perhaps too easy to underestimate how the study of local history can provide support, context and insight into the study of history generally.
The Department of History at Illinois State University has regularly offered courses in the history of Chicago, the state of Illinois and Local History. Spurred in part by an October 2003 Illinois State Board of Education mandate to insure that the state’s public university graduates in history and social education programs demonstrate their competency in Illinois state history the Department of History faculty wondered whether the department should increase its emphasis upon the state’s history in its curriculum.
With funds provided through the Illinois Professional Learners' Partnership (IPLP) program, the department explored how it could best strengthen its teaching of Illinois history. Following a survey of its own faculty, the region’s high school teachers and the departments of history at the state’s other public universities; we concluded that it would develop a project that would encourage its faculty to introduce spotlights of Illinois history into their regular courses in American in history.
The rationale was compelling. The region’s high school teachers had expressed no strong desire to expand their emphasis of Illinois history within their existing curriculum. To do so would require that emphasis be shifted from the teaching of general American history when they felt that too little time was already being spent on general history. We felt, as a result, that it would serve little purpose for the department to force its students to shift their own course work from other subjects in history to a subject that would fill no immediate need. We concluded that the department’s wisest course of action would be to develop a series of spotlights in Illinois history that could be included in the teaching of its regular courses in American history. The spotlights could demonstrate to our students how their state’s history has played a vital role in the development of our nation.
The following resources are the result of our two year effort to develop a series of spotlights, as well as sources and readings, and examples of lesson plans that illustrate the role that the state has played in general American history. They will—we earnestly hope—encourage university faculty and high and middle school teachers to incorporate the study of Illinois history into their existing courses.
Though Illinois is not often associated with the Trail of Tears, Cherokee were struggling through southern Illinois as the state’s militia was marching north to face the Sac under Black Hawk.Read More
The eight White Sox players who were involved in throwing the 1919 World Series has haunted Chicago fans for decades. The scandal, though, may have as much about baseball becoming a big business as it did about the game’s efforts to clean up the sport.Read More
Who actually farmed the Illinois frontier?Read More
In providing for the systematic surveying of the land, the Northwest Ordinance encouraged settlement by insuring that settlers could secure firm title to the land, but it may have also determined how the land was settled.Read More
Upton Sinclair’s intent in writing “The Jungle” was not to spur the public interest in sanitation but was instead to encourage a revolution.Read More
Though we tend today to associate urban riots with the succession of riots that began in Watts in 1965, rioting was no stranger to American cities and one of the more vicious occurred in Springfield, Illinois, in 1908 when a mob of whites attached the city’s African American community.Read More
Though we tend to dismiss the Temperance Movement as verging on the silly, the movement was a good deal more successful than we generally suppose.Read More
Did geography alone determine Chicago’s future?Read More