Christina James: Research Questions and Keywords
February 15, 2013 § 1 Comment
Hello, my name is Christina James and I am a second year history major. In this Decal I’m interested in looking into the different ideas, viewpoints, and arguments about the distribution of Western government territory leading up to the Homestead Act in 1862.
Using Booth’s format:
I am studying the motivations and ideas behind policies surrounding the distribution of public lands in the West, in order to find out why the Homestead Act was passed at the time it was, and what its supporters hoped it would accomplish, to show my readers whether or not legislation regarding the settlement of western territories contributed to the development of the character of the American West.
I’m not totally sure about how well these three elements work together, but the research question I developed is: To what extent did the nature of debates and policies regarding the distribution of government territory influence what the American West has come to represent? (i.e. opportunity, egalitarianism, etc.). I’m completely open to this question evolving over the coming weeks.
This week, I came up with some possible key words and began searching OskiCat for sources. Some of the keywords I searched were: Homestead Act, western land policy, westward expansion, and land distribution. I found several promising books listed in OskiCat. I came across many more sources, thanks to the suggested subject searches (which included: West (U.S.) History and United States Territorial Expansion) which were listed under the books I found using my own keywords.
The book that I checked out of Main Stacks as my first source was Abraham Lincoln and the Western Territories by Ralph McGinnis and Calvin N. Smith. From this source, I hope to gain an idea of how Western territories were organized at the time that Lincoln became president and also determine how the Civil War and slavery influenced this issue. So far, the book has provided some interesting maps, showing how the borders and organization of territory changed over the decades leading up to the 1860s. The book also includes arguments on why Lincoln supported the Homestead Act, and why his predecessor, James Buchanan, vetoed it. In addition, the authors introduce some of the main opponents of the act; including Northern factory owners who worried they would lose their workforce. I’m looking forward to delving deeper into this source and also finding more potential sources in its bibliography.