Lesson Plan: Colonial Broadsides of the Revolutionary War

Lesson Plan: Colonial Broadsides of the Revolutionary War

One of the Colonial broadsides
Colonial broadsides: Crisis. To the people of the state of New York. War! War! War! Quit-rents, stamp acts- a common distress in our country is the order of the day- These evils presaged our war with Britain…

In colonial America, broadsides delivered the latest news and much more: government proclamations, public service announcements, opinion papers, advertisements, and entertainment updates. Colonial broadsides address virtually every aspect of the American Revolution, providing a wide range of suitable classroom topics. In this lesson, students will use the resources from the Library of Congress collections to experience the news as the colonists heard it.

Lesson Activity: Colonial Broadsides and the American Revolution

  1. If desired, begin with a review of important events prior to the American Revolution. Share the timeline The Coming of Independence: Key Events. Students can explore the links to additional information, images and documents.
  2. Share with the class the broadside No Stamped Paper to be had . (NOTE: Click the thumbnail for access to the full text as well as higher quality images.)

Discuss what can be learned from this broadside about the Stamp Act and the colonists’ reaction to the Stamp Act:

  • Why does the broadside begin with the story of the hanging in effigy of a stampman?
  • What different locations are mentioned in the broadside? Why?
  • What sorts of actions does the broadside report? Why?
  • Why does the section from New York on November 4th bother to mention that the crowd stopped at the coffee house?
  • What attitudes about the king are expressed? What do they reveal about the state of the rebellion?
  • What attitudes about bureaucrats are expressed? What do they reveal about the state of the rebellion?
  • What sorts of people are described as taking action against the Stamp Act? Why did they take action? Why are they mentioned?

With this background, your students are ready to go on an online scavenger hunt, searching in small groups for colonial broadsides that relate to events on the timeline at The Coming of Independence: Key Events, from the resource Learner.org. How your students search will depend on your goals. For a chronological approach, search Picryl.com by date — “1774,” for instance, returns 142 possible colonial broadsides. Remind students that, because of technological limits on communication and transportation, events on a particular date may not be reacted to until quite a bit later, even the next year. Searching by time period and location (“Boston“) or for a time period and a keyword such as “tea” may also be especially useful. A search for “tea,” for example, uncovers 22 pre-1800 broadsides. Your curricular goals should guide decisions about whether a broadside is relevant; in any case, students should always be required to prepare evidence showing how any particular document connects to an event.If your students have adequate access to computers, you might assign each small group of students one or more historical event on the timeline for which to find a relevant colonial broadside. They can create a collection using PICRYL mobile application and run a slideshow right away, or, to print out a copy, present it to the class, and affix it to a large timeline for display. In classes without access to computers, the teacher can print out full-text (modern typeset) and colonial versions of the broadsides and after student groups pick at random, they can analyze one or more broadsides, present to the class, and then place the colonial broadside version on the timeline.Tips

  1. Selecting a broadside searching leads you to a bibliography page. Clicking on the full-screen symbol on the right top of the thumbnail on the bibliography page leads to the image page. The page also offers a link to a higher quality digitized copies of the original (.jpg and TIFF files), bibliographic information, and a full-text version of the broadside on the source page – see source link. If the source is The Library of Congress, access to the full text (modern typeset) version is found in the loc.gov page heading. URLs provided in this lesson lead to the image page.
  2. Decide ahead of time if students should download and/or print a copy of the colonial broadsides or simply compile a list of URLs for documents noted by students as connected to important events. If you will be posting the documents, you will need at least one hard copy of each.
  3. Familiarize students with the functions “Search” by tags/keywords, and search within the time period.
  4. Allow an equal amount of time for each group to work.
  5. If it is impractical for your students to search online, a selected, briefly annotated list of broadsides with connections to the American Revolution is available as a downloadable PDF.

Once each group has connected an event and a broadside, its members should carefully record the relevant tag set, the name of the document and the URL of the image of choice. If students have access to a word-processing program (such as MS Word), they can cut and paste titles and URLs to create a document.If desired, a Broadside Analysis Worksheet is available to help students examine a particular broadside. This worksheet is based on the Written Document Analysis Worksheet from the resource Digital Classroom. Make sure students understand that they will not necessarily be able to fill in every item for every colonial broadside. For example, some broadsides do not reveal the author.As a class, proceed from event to event on the timeline. For each event, give groups a chance to suggest related broadsides; a spokesperson should explain the connection. If practical, post the broadside. Brief, pertinent portions of the broadside could be read aloud, but not the entire document. A sample of selected broadsides placed along a timeline is available as a downloadable PDF.

Finally, as a class, consider the broadsides once more from a different perspective-unconnected from specific events. Ask students to identify broadsides on the timeline that

  1. Demonstrate how information was circulated among the colonies
  2. Show actions colonists took to protest British policies
  3. Demonstrate actions authorities took against protesting colonists
  4. Provide evidence of the attitudes of those supporting the Crown and those protesting
  5. Indicate how long protesting colonists remained loyal to King George III

Extending The Lesson

  • Students can browse An American Time Capsule: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera for other documents of interest.
  • Students can create their own broadsides about current issues of interest to young people.
  • Students can produce facsimile colonial broadsides for other important historical events.
Selected EDSITEment Websites

American Memory

Digital Classroom: Written Document Analysis Worksheet

The Internet Public Library




Media Files Source: Picryl.com
Picryl provides public domain, free to use, no copyright media resources from finest world’s archives. Search for specific topics, prepare your own lessons with media to use anywhere without any restrictions.

The media sources noted above are licensed under CC0 “No Rights Reserved” or Public Domain Mark License.

Lesson Plans Source: NEH.gov.
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The open source works noted above are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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