Teaching 19th Century North American History

The 19th century was a significant period in the history of North America, characterized by political strife, inventions/discoveries and human development. Educators wishing to present their public with a well-rounded understanding of the topic, therefore, must acquaint them with certain key events of that era that took place in the region. This article will explore some of those events which are often mentioned in relevant academia-oriented works.

Military Conflict

Military conflict was a prominent aspect of the development process of 19th-century North America. Some of the major conflicts that have taken place on the continent include:

  • The Haitian Revolution (1791 to 1804)

This revolution is significant due to its themes of rejection of slavery and colonialism. It led to the establishment of the modern state of Haiti.

  • The Spanish-American Wars of Independence (1808 to 1833)

A series of conflicts between Spain and Spanish American territories (some situated in North America) which led to the independence of all continental Spanish territories and paved the way for the formation of new states.

  • The American Civil War (1861 to 1865)

One of the first military conflicts that come to mind concerning 19th-Century North America, this war between the Unionist and Confederate States had a profound effect on the subsequent political development of the US, as well as on human rights and industrial development.


Many important (from a modern perspective) inventions and discoveries were made during the 19th century. A sizeable proportion of those was the result of the work of notable North Americans, including:

  • The Liquid-Fuelled Internal Combustion Engine (1872)

Invented by George Brayton

  • Jeans (1873)

Co-invented by Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis

  • The Telephone (1876)

Patented by Alexander Graham Bell, who was a Scottish-born American inventor.


Other noteworthy events that further influenced the development of 19th- century North America include:

  • The Louisiana Purchase (1803)
  • The Missouri Compromise (1820)
  • The Founding of Liberia by the American Colonization Society (1821 to 1838)