Economic History

In Arkansas, licensed social studies educators can be found teaching several different social studies courses in a single school year: US & World History, Civics, Geography, Economics, and more. Curriculum that covers standards and learning objectives across these subjects can be useful to teachers who are looking to incorporate more interdisciplinary topics into the courses they teach or to team-teach topics across classrooms with other social studies educators. This curriculum was designed to provide teachers with resources for teaching about economic events in their history, civics, and government classes. These units can be embedded into existing history, civics, and government units to incorporate economic topics or used in economics classes to present historical case studies of economics in action. Each unit includes full lesson plans with background information, primary source and research activities, hands-on games, and AMI alternatives for teaching outside the classroom.

Prohibition & Unintended Consequences

Prohibition provides economists and historians with a perfect real-world example of the unintended consequences of well-meaning government policy. Banning alcohol was supposed to decrease alcohol consumption, improve health, reduce crime, improve family relations, empty the prisons, and revitalize American society. In reality it made alcohol more dangerous to consume, created black markets dominated by mobsters like Al Capone, increased crime, and made previously law-abiding citizens criminals. Prohibition was a dismal failure and offers a cautionary tale for the present: be wary about the unintended consequences of policy prescriptions. Some questions explored in this unit are: Who were the supporters and opponents of Prohibition? What were some of the outcomes of the passage of the 18th Amendment? & Why was the 18th Amendment repealed?

The Roaring Twenties

Today, the 1920s are known in popular memory for speakeasies, flappers, bootleggers, and jazz. Americans look back on the decade with nostalgia, but few understand the economic policies that contributed to the prosperity of the times. Often, the economic growth of the 1920s is discounted as the product of rampant speculation and the great achievements of the decade are presented as a false prosperity that had to end. In this unit, that myth is explored as students analyze economic data and policy decisions and measure the impact of both individual and government impacts on the economy. Some questions explored in this unit are: What kinds of policies lead to the economic growth of the Roaring Twenties? How had war impacted the United States economically? & What types of human actions were influencing the economy during this time?

The Great Depression

What were the causes and consequences of the Great Depression. The answer is too complex to point to one key factor, although the stock market crash of October 1929 is synonymous with the Great Depression in the minds of many Americans. Why does this myth persist? Was the stock market just a signal for other economic activity? Students will answer these questions and more in this multi-day unit that explores the historical time period through an economic lens. Using economic data, videos, role-play activities, and a variety of reading materials, students will learn how the actions of individuals, businesses, and governments impacted the economy during the Great Depression. Some questions explored in this unit are: How did the American economy transition from the successes of the Roaring Twenties to the economic decline of the Great Depression? How did Americans across the U.S react to the Great Depression? & What policies were implemented in order to try stimulate the economy? Were those policies effective?

The Election of FDR and the Immediate Response to the Great Depression

As the election of 1932 approached, Americans were seeking a response to the impacts of the Great Depression around the country. The election would mark the first of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s four terms as President of the United States. This one-day lesson plan was developed in Spring 2024 by Dr. Marcus Witcher and covers the 1932 election, the transition of power from the Hoover to FDR administration, and early economic policies designed to combat the Great Depression. The lesson could be used as a precursor to a unit on the New Deal in history classrooms or as a case study on economic policy impacts in a social science course.