If you were teaching a class on the Great Awakening (1720-1740), what three things would you emphasize? Why? Be specific.
The Great Awakening is a fascinating part of American history. Outside of religious or seminary classes it is often ignored or forgotten by teachers of history. In teaching a class on this subject my goals would be to not only inform on the subject but also to tie it into established secular history to bring it more alive to those students who have studied this period in American history, but not necessarily studied the Great Awakening.
The three things I would specifically emphasize are the ties to people well known in American history, ties to well established events in that period outside of the Great Awakening and the Great Awakening’s impact on American history after this period.
There are many people directly involved and impacted by the Great Awakening that are well known in American history. Bringing together these characters and this movement will help bring this event to life for students. Aside from the Baptist characters such as Roger Williams, Obadiah Holmes and John Clarke there are the American history characters like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Each of these well-known figures in American history has clear and distinct ties to the Great Awakening.
There are also many well established events in the American history from this period that can help bring his event to life. From the choosing of the Seal of the United States, to the great earthquake and diphtheria epidemic of 1727, to the writing of the First Amendment to the Constitution, there are clear and distinct ties between these events and the Great Awakening. Bringing these well-known events into the discussion will bring credibility and depth to the discussion.
The impact of the Great Awakening on American history is more subtle than its ties to people and events of the period but perhaps the most significant point. Before this event, churches across the colonies represented the wealthier and more affluent colonists. After this event, churches were much more representative of the people in general. Also before the Great Awakening impacted colonists across all of the new country, the colonies were much more isolated and unconnected to each other. This event helped bring the colonies together in a way that clearly supported and led to the revolution to come! It also clearly separated the American colonists from their English counterparts, as there was no movement at this time in England up to this time. The Great Awakening helped fuel the American Revolution by uniting colonists from all across the new country around a cause they believed in and in and was fundamental to their daily lives, much like the revolution to come!
In summary, bringing the people, events and impact of the Great Awakening to life by connecting it to more well-known and studied American history is the approach I would take to teaching this material. This event is not just an isolated occurrence but an integral part of our American history!