199 Things Every American Should Know Author:John A Garraty How precise is the educated American's understanding of the history of our country? I don't mean exact knowledge of minor dates, or small details abou the terms of laws, or questions like "Who was secretary of war in 1851?" But just how well does the average person remember the important facts--the laws, treaties, people, and events that should ... more »be familiar to everyone?
What follows is not a test; nor are these items necessarily the most important things to know about American history. But these are all things an American-educated person might reasonably be expected to be familiar with. Most of them can be found in the college textbook "The American Nation" or in any similar work. A good secondary school teacher might mention any of them in the course of a lecture or class discussion.
If you have never heard of most of these items, either you have a particularly poor memory or teachers have not accomplished what they set out to do. On the other hand, if you already know that, in addition to being President Millard Fillmore's secretary of war, Charles M. Conrad killed a man in a duel and served at various times in both houses of the United States Congress and in the Confederate Congress, you don't have to read another word. But for the majority of readers, here are 199 things you should know about American history.« less