Poems of American History edited by Burton Egbert Stevenson is a must-read to add to your student’s reading list. This free eBook chronologically covers American history beginning with the Norsemen and Leif Erikson and ending with the end of World War I.
Poems are introduced with just enough background information to provide context. Odd references in the text are elaborated on in the footnotes. Stevenson explains his task in the introduction:
The thread of narrative upon which the poems have been strung together has been made as slight as possible, just strong enough to carry the reader understandingly from one poem to the next. The notes, too, have been limited to the explanation of such allusions as are not likely to be found in the ordinary works of reference, with here and there an account of the circumstances which caused the lines to be written, or an indication of source, where the source is unusual. Every available source has been drawn upon—the works of all the better known and many of the minor American and English poets, anthologies, newspaper collections, magazines, collections of Americana and especially of broadsides—in a word, American and English poetry generally.
The subjects covered are very extensive — everything from Pocahontas to Henry Hudson, the first Thanksgiving to the Salem Witch Trials, John Brown to the League of Nations. Broadly speaking, then, you will come across these subjects:
- The discovery of America by Columbus.
- Other explorers of America.
- The American Revolution.
- The Constitution.
- The War of 1812.
- Westward expansion.
- War with Mexico.
- The Civil War.
- The assassination of Lincoln.
- War with Spain.
- World War I.
This is a very large book (over 700 pages). Each poem deserves a full reading — to be savored. So it will be a good candidate for spreading over more than one year of study.
You might also consider aligning the poems with source documents to round out your American history study. Great sources for this would be The Patriot’s Handbook edited by George Grant or American Historical Documents, which is in the public domain.
Poetry can be difficult when it comes to student interest. A collection of poems that tell an already familiar story is one way of making the task approachable — and this one is free!
Poems of American History edited by Burton Egbert Stevenson
Reputable paperback copy for those interested.