American history often appears to students as a series of disconnected events, larger-than-life personalities, and self-contained eras. Many students cannot see how the pieces fit together, how all kinds of people make history every day, how history flows and surges. It is not clear to many students that we all live in history every day, that we breathe history as we do air. They lack a way to see larger structures and patterns, to see how current events and past events weave together. Students find it difficult to understand why our perspectives on history evolve as we learn more about the past and about ourselves. Many see history as a cut-and-dried chronicle rather than the turbulent, unpredictable, and deeply human record of everything that has happened before this moment.
New American History attempts to show history in more engaging and meaningful ways by sharing ways for students to see patterns, connections, and contexts otherwise invisible. Free and freely available, broad and flexible, the tools of New American History can be used as teachers want and need to use them. They are designed to enrich the American history we teach now and to suggest new ways we might teach history in the future.