Describe and analyze the key changes in American foreign policy from the 1890s to the 1950s.

This is an analysis that requires you to consider how things change over time. This should not be a narrative essay starting in 1890, rather it should look at ways things changed; specific types of policies, or public support of foreign policies

Note 1:  Successful responses will consider a broad range of evidence in support of arguments and use a minimum of three primary and three secondary sources.  Take a few moments to consider how things were and the types of policies the US pursued in the 1890s, the 1910s, the 1920s-1930s, the 1940s, and 1950s. See which policies or programs could be found in each period (or look at a policy that completely changed), then think about the events that happened to make these changes come about. Then choose the strongest three key changes you have listed and write your essay around these points. You should have three changes not three time periods in your essay.

Be sure to have a mixture of big/broad ideas and specific/detailed evidence in your argument. 

If you are confused about how change over time is used as a tool for historical analysis, go back to Unit 0 and read the information there. If you are still confused about the conceptualization of change over time, contact your coach.

Note 2: We DO NOT want summaries. Summaries will not earn a high grade. “A papers” utilize rule of three analysis (including strong rule of three thesis statements in the introduction and each paragraph of the body), specific and detailed historical facts as evidence, analysis instead of summary, consider change over time and historical geography (as necessary in response to the prompt), and properly cite both primary and secondary sources.

Note 3: Required length is 2-3 pages (introduction, 3 paragraphs of the body, conclusion).


  • Must be in Rule of Three format with an introduction and strong thesis statement, 3 paragraphs of the body (each with their own thesis statement – one for each of the three key points of your overall thesis), and conclusion. So, a minimum of 5 paragraphs. (2-3 pages)
  • This is a fact-based essay; you must provide specific and detailed evidence for your hypotheses.
  • You must utilize a minimum of three primary sources from the assigned materials (primary sources posted in the course module OR found under the primary source section of each chapter in American Yawp only; you may not utilize sources linked to in the reference section of American Yawp as evidence in your essay
  • You must utilize a minimum of three secondary sources from the assigned materials as evidence in your essay
  • You may only use materials assigned in this course for your essay (we have vetted all the materials utilized in this course, other materials may not be appropriate or accurate). If you use outside sources your grade will be docked.
  • DO NOT QUOTE secondary sources, paraphrase in your own words and cite; do not make long block quotes of primary sources – this is not analysis.
  • You analyze how things changed over time – how they were, what happened and why, and how they ended up
  • Don’t forget about historical geography, where something takes place matters and it may (or may not) be important to your argument.
  • You must use Turabian citation style in this essay; all citations must be footnote style citations (no parenthetical cites allowed, no endnotes/works cited at the end, you need footnotes).  Be sure to review how to properly cite a primary source that may be contained in another work and be sure to use page numbers where possible.
  • You must provide a proper citation for your primary sources. If they are from Yawp it would be name of author of document, title of document, date of document in Ameican Yawp (then citation for Yawp)
  • 12 pt. type, 1-inch margins, double-spaced

REMINDER: Turabian/Chicago footnote citations are required for this essay. You will lose points if you use parenthetical cites or other citation styles. You must provide a specific page number or other location (chapter, section, etc.) where possible in your footnotes.

How the Assignment is Graded

The following factors are considered when we grade:

RULE OF THREE THESES – Do you have a well thought out and clear overall thesis in your introduction? Do you have a thesis statement for each of your three paragraphs of the body? Do the paragraphs of the body follow the overall thesis statement?

EVIDENCE – You must have solid evidence for each point you raise in the thesis.  Evidence is not simply a statement, there must be an explanation of how that evidence supports the thesis statement. 

Example:  If you were writing a paragraph on the causes of the Cold War, you might use the Baruch Plan as an example.  Simply writing “the Baruch Plan was a cause of the Cold War” in your paragraph would not be enough and would not be analytical. However, the following sentences do provide a good analysis of this piece of evidence:

“One cause of the Cold War was the failure of the United States and the Soviet Union to agree upon a plan for nuclear disarmament after World War II.  The Baruch Plan, presented by the US, would maintain the American atomic weapon advantage for the foreseeable future.  This played into Stalin’s suspicions of the Americans’ true motivations toward the USSR.”

Did you use the required minimum number of primary sources? secondary sources?


Did you analyze (not summarize)? Is your argument clear and does it make sense?  Is it historically accurate?  Does your evidence prove your point? Does your analysis answer the prompt?  Have you considered the concepts of change over time, and any historical geography factors in your essay? 


Have you properly cited? Have you used Turabian/Chicago?  You must also FOOTNOTE.  Parenthetical cites are NOT allowed.


Is the essay up to college standards for grammar and spelling? Is it an analytical essay? Does it meet minimum length and formatting requirements?


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