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Introducing the Early America
Classical Library

The Library     Electronic Texts    Curriculum Choices     About Early American History    

Welcome to the Heritage Early America Classical Library. If you have never used a Heritage History Compact Library before, this page will help explain how the information included in the Early American library is organized and how it may be used for independent study.

The Library

The page you are looking uses the same software that you are accustomed to using when you browse the internet, but is reading files directly from your computer. What this means is that all of the books that you link to in this environment are available for you to view, print, or download to another device. You don't need to pay additional fees to copy these books to an e-Reader or Tablet, and you don't need to access the internet to view them on your computer. Best of all, you don't need to worry about copyright violations if you choose to print or copy anything from the Early America Library for your personal use.

The Early America Classical Library contains over fifty traditional history books written especially for young people. It includes books at reading levels from fourth grade to high school and each book is presented in three different formats so students can read them on their home computer, make printed copies, or download them to their e-Reader device. Instructions for using electronic books in various formats are provided in the Electronic Texts User Guide.

The contents of the Early American Library can be referenced by subject, genre, or reading level. Each entry includes the book’s title, author, size, and links to three electronic formats. Software that "reads" electronic books is required to view these files, but the Adobe Reader, which displays the PDF version of each book, already exists on almost all personal computers, and other electronic reader software can be downloaded for free from the internet.

All of the books in the Early American Library deal with some aspect of American history, but the books by Subject page organizes them into more specific topics. Regional History, Military History, Statesmen/Authors, Explorers/Inventors, American Indians, and American Negroes are subject categories that focus primarily on specific topics rather than providing a broad overview of all of American history. Comprehensive histories and books that include diverse stories of American life are grouped into a general U.S. History category.

In addition to subject, the collection of American history books can also be referenced by Genre. Heritage History genres include Comprehensive histories, which cover all of American history chronologically, Episodic histories, which treat a particular incident or era, Military histories, which focus on battles and military heroes, Social histories, which emphasize cultural aspects of history rather than specific incidents, and Biographies, which include both collections of short character sketches, and longer individual life stories. The two final genre categories include Legends and Literature and Historical Fiction.

Lastly, the Early American library provides lists of its books sorted by Reading Level. Books intended for Grammar school students are listed in Green, books appropriate for middle schoolers are listed in Brown, and those recommended for more mature audiences are listed in Red. This color scheme is used throughout the Compact Library to reflect reading level.

In addition to providing book lists organized by subject, genre, and reading level, the Early American Library contains several additional reference pages intended to help students and instructors identify books of particular interest. The Book Summaries page includes a short description of each book in the library. The Series Descriptions page, which features descriptions of overall series rather than individual books, may be helpful to those readers who enjoy a particular book and would like to locate similar volumes. Finally, the Recommendations page provides specific reading recommendations for core reading assignments for various age groups.

Using Electronic Texts

In order to make our entire library of traditional history books available at an affordable price, Heritage History provides electronic versions of all of our books in both e-Reader and printable format. Unfortunately, not everyone is up-to-date regarding the most recent advances in electronic books technology. In order to help our users make informed decisions about usage and purchases of e-Readers and desktop publishing tools, we have provided an Electronic Texts User Guide. It is divided into three main sections that deal with issues related to electronic readers, self-publishing, and copyright restrictions.

The Heritage guide to Electronic Readers discusses the differences between various e-Reader technologies and gives detailed instructions for downloading Heritage e-Books from a Compact Library to an e-Reader device such as Kindle or Apple iPad. For those who prefer reading hard-copies rather than e-Books, the Heritage guide to Self-publishing provides tips for printing and binding the books from the Heritage library at home in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Finally, the terms and conditions of using the electronic texts are discussed in the Copyright Terms section.

A printable copy of the Heritage Electronic Texts User Guide is available, and we recommend that anyone who is not already familiar with e-Reader technology, laser printers, and binding equipment read the guide before deciding how to use the Heritage e-Book library. Even technologically advanced readers should familiarize themselves with the copyright status of the Heritage books before beginning the program. If you still have questions after reading the Electronic Texts User Guide, refer to the Electronic Texts Frequently Asked Questions.

The Curriculum Guide

All Heritage Classical Libraries, including the Early America Classical Library, contain a broad selection of books on a particular historical topic, but do not include maps, timelines, character lists, battle dictionaries, or other learning resources associated with a complete curriculum.

Even without the additional learning aides, Heritage Classical Libraries can be used as the basis of a reading-based course of study, or they can be used to supplement other traditional curricula. Conventional history texts often do a thorough job of covering the basics, but they don't have space to tell the most interesting stories of history in detail. Heritage Classical Libraries correct this deficiency by providing an entire library of engaging biographies and exciting stories from history.

Whether you use Early America collection as your primary curriculum, or to supplement another program, it may be instructive to read the Heritage Classical Curriculum User Guide, supplied with this library. The differences between a conventional history program, and the "living books" method of learning history, recommended by Heritage History, are discussed in the introduction, along with other aspects of the Heritage History learning philosophy. Most of the rest of the guide focuses on practical tips for keeping students on track learning the essentials while maintaining enough flexibility to allow them to pursue their own interests. We recommend that anyone who is interested in the program review its contents.

About Early American History

The Heritage Early American collection is currently offered as a Classical Library rather than as a complete curriculum. Although the project of upgrading to a curriculum is underway, the task of providing a complete curriculum for American history is a challenging one. The Heritage History approach to American history differs from that of many contemporary curriculums and has some inherent limitations. Some of the differences between the Heritage Early American Classical Library and conventional American history programs are discussed as follows.

The most obvious difficulty that Heritage History has in dealing with American history is that we are confined entirely to public domain texts, meaning we can only consider books that were published before 1923. Books dealing with the last century of American history are still under copyright protection, so we have no way of providing complete, reproducible texts for more recent material. The United States is a dynamic country that has seen vigorous growth in the last hundred years, but much of the 20th century is beyond the scope of Heritage History.

The second issue that makes American history a special challenge for the editors of Heritage History is simply the large volume of available material. Even confining ourselves to pre-1920 history, the number of juvenile American histories is high relative to other periods—instead of dozens of books to sort through we have hundreds to consider. Not all are included in the Early American library, but the collection is already large and it will continue to expand to a size greater than most other libraries.

The third difficulty with developing a curriculum for American history is that its political system and government is central to its identity as a nation. The United States is the first and longest established modern representative democracy so attention to political matters is part of its cultural heritage. This is unusual; most governments in human history have been oligarchical rather than democratic and disruptions have been driven by force and intrigue rather than political philosophy (hence the important role of wars and palace politics). Even western countries, such as France and Germany, have a limited experience with representative democracy so America is unique in this regard.

When telling the story of the United States, therefore, political philosophy is a central concern and most families assume that the study of American history should be associated with the study of government, especially for older students. In the elementary grades this may simply involve imparting an appreciation of American liberties and representative government; in the middle school grades lessons may focus on civil rights, liberties, and political parties; and in high school American history may be taught in the context of a civics course. In other words, the whole approach that Heritage History typically takes to history—that is, one that de-emphasizes analysis and political philosophy in favor of stories and biographies—is not a typical approach. This is much less of an issue in the younger grades than in high school, when a civics-based, analytical study of American history is expected of all college-bound students.

Instead of modifying its narrative approach to fit into the more analytical framework of other United States history curriculums, Heritage History will continue to do what it does best—provide a broad selection of easy-to-read, age-appropriate, story-based histories. Families that prefer this approach will have a source of stories they can’t find elsewhere, and families that have different ideas about how American history should be taught can use the Early American library for supplemental reading, while using a more conventional American history textbook for their core reading.

The Early American Library has inherent limitations, but it also has several great strengths. Our collection of American Indian history is exceptionally good and in many cases quotes original sources so students can read first-hand accounts written by those directly involved in the conflicts between Indians and white men. We currently have only three American Negro histories, but all were written by negro scholars of the early twentieth century with deep concern for improving the condition of American former slaves. We have an excellent collection of Exploration and Invention stories that are of exceptional interest and great consequence. Our Military History collection includes a number of biographies and naval warfare stories written for students and also includes fascinating accounts of the Spanish American, Civil, and Mexican American Wars.

In terms of Regional History, the current collection includes the complete twelve volume collection of James Otis’s Colonial Children series, of outstanding interest to young readers. In the future our regional history section will contain many more state and regional history stories. The biography section will also be expanded to include life stories from prominent Americans involved in business, finance, and industry. Our collection of political histories will also continue to grow but it will never be the primary focus of the Heritage American collection.

By emphasizing interesting stories from American history that feature topics such as exploration, invention, pioneer life, regional history, American Indian history, American Negro history, business and finance, authors and literature, transportation and industry, and military history, the Early America Classical Library can offer both a complement and an alternative to standard American history texts.

Liberty is of utmost importance and it is worthwhile for students to take the time to understand the difficulties associated with self-government. But what makes American history truly interesting is not only the study of the process and political theories associated with self-government, but also the stories of what a free people actually do with their liberty.

Liberty is not an unmixed blessing—it provides the latitude for people to do evil as well as good,—so the fascinating stories of American accomplishment and progress are by no means a parade of virtuous intents and noble purposes. But they are full of drama and self-determination. There are stories of heroism and treachery, survival and sacrifice, conflict and cooperation, accomplishment and failure. The story of America is the story of thousands of free citizens, only a few of whom use their liberty of thought and action to engage the political questions of the day. Heritage History is committed to providing American history stories from all walks of life that provide insight into the drama of self-government, but also the drama of self-determination and individual achievement.

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