A few years ago we studied Modern history. We went through history from 1700- current days for some really crazy history lessons. Modern history lessons cover a lot of material. The world changed a lot in the last 300 years. We saw the fall of almost every empire, the rise of democracies and socialism, and the change from a mostly agrarian society to a technological society. It’s a lot to cover in our modern history lessons.
Resources for Modern History lessons
You can also use Story of the World Volume 4, but I don’t like the writing style quite as much.
As we get into different units, I’ll bring up other resources I used, but these are the two best spines I can recommend.
Start of Modern History lessons: colonization
The Renaissance and Reformation lessons bleed into our Modern history lessons because of colonization. The 1600s and 1700s are full of colonies being founded and land being explored.
I’ve got over 20 lessons you can use at my Colonial America lessons for a deep dive in the earliest eras of Modern history lessons.
The twist: Wars and Revolutions in Modern History lesson
The mid-late 1700s saw changes. A lot of them. You saw the traditional European empires flexing their muscles and figuring out who will come out on top and lots of back and forth. You also see the toppling of the first empires.
It all starts with the Seven Years War lesson and the fallout from the Seven Years War lesson. This all leads to the American Revolution lessons (that’s my landing page, there’s quite a lot to dig into). After that comes the French Revolution (I don’t currently have any posts on that, so I’m going to send you over to Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool French Revolution for a great set of lapbooking pieces). Next up comes the War of 1812 over in America and the Napoleonic Wars over in Europe. They’re both separate war and the same war, in a strange bit of craziness.
The crazy continues with the Mexican Revolution, then the Texas Revolution (okay that may not be world-worthy events, but it’s a big deal here in Texas, go check out Texas history). Then Europe goes crazy, with a whole slew of revolutions, which we didn’t dig into because the kids were only in 6th grade. I’m looking forward to covering modern history lessons again because the 1848 Revolutions are amazing and cause the creation of both Italy and Germany as modern countries.
This then moves into the American Civil War, which my kids have memorized the date of, because they HAVE to.
Expansion of Empires
This is the age of expansion. While all of those empires started colonies, and now they are expanding and solidifying their empires. Sadly I don’t currently have many lessons on Expansion for European nations, instead I have an entire Westward Expansion Unit, which apparently still needs a landing page, so to start off I’ll give you the Oregon Trail book list.
Modern Wars in Modern history lessons
You know what happened after the nations of the worlds, and when I say that, I mainly mean Europe and the United States had expanded all over?
Why they started going to war with each other.
That is ridiculously simplified, and there’s a lot more to it than that, and Asia really did have its own variations on wars and territorial expansion. I’m just not an expert on that area of the world. In reality, I’m not an expert on Western history, I just know a bit about that.
Let’s dive into all those wars for our Modern History lessons.
Hmmmm, some of these landing pages are sadly out of date, and some of them aren’t even landing pages (so I’m including both Great Depression posts). Let’s talk through this all.
The American Civil War is considered the first modern war. When it happened, Europe sent over observers to see what happened. You know what happened? Half a million men lost their lives. There was also some great things that happened, but a lot of people died.
After the hub bub of the Civil War had died down, there were a few minor wars between European powers. Meanwhile Germany and Italy were finally countries, and they wanted to get in on this whole colonization thing, and what they really wanted was to be known as a WORLD POWER. The United States had finally achieved that by defeating Spain in the Spanish American War (sadly I never wrote that post). So Italy and Germany were looking for an excuse to start the War to End All Wars, or World War 1. That giant mess, which is commonly referred to with language I don’t use, ended and everyone was happy.
They bought all the fun new toys until their not so great plan crashed and the Great Depression came, you can watch Great Depression movies, participate in a Great Depression simulation, or play a Great Depression dice game. There may be a few others I missed. I really should put together a book list as well….
Well, everyone all around the world was depressed, because there was no money, and lack of food and all that. When along came a shiny new war, World War 2, to get everyone out of the malaise. Or so everyone thought to start off, it wasn’t until later the full import of what Germany was up to.
Everyone got out of World War 2 and everyone was going to get along now. Just like at the end of World War 1, everyone went around buying a lot, and we get the 1950s and how much life changed. Life was swell (did anyone else watch those silly videos on Nickelodeon?).
But, lo and behold things were not as they seem. There was a new reason to be scared, the Red Scare, Commies.
Huh I just learned something
So when I was in high school my brother would say, “Take that commie garbage and go back to China!” and he swore up and down to me that was from a Xena Warrior Princess episode.
I don’t think that’s true because I couldn’t find it on my quick 10 second google search.
Well, I just learned something completly unrelated to these Modern History Lessons.
Okay back to the modern history lessons
So, Red Scare.
The Red Scare started and the American presidents got together with a bunch of other leaders of Western Europe, and decided they would practice “Containment,” and keep Communism contained to Russia, and oops it slipped out into China.
But we’ll keep it there, just in those two, so we’ll fight in Korea and have the Korean police action, that we all really call the Korean War. It didn’t work so well there, and now we have North and South Korea (check out my Korea geography lesson from years ago). Then we got the Vietnam War.
And then we have the most amusing way we fought communism, and probably one of the more effective methods, the Space Race.
After that, we go from Modern History into Current Events
Back when I was in high school, my AP European History teacher explained to me, anything in the last 20 years, and often in the last 20-50 years isn’t history, it’s current events.
We’re too close to truly understand the significance of the events. If you look at “rankings of American presidents” you can see this. You’ll notice if the person ranking is Republican they’ll rank Ronald Reagan near the top, and if they’re Democrat they’ll rank Bill Clinton or JFK near the top.
But, the last 40 years have been tumultuous. We’ve had some interesting events, the Challenger exploded, the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union dissolved, we nearly had another world war over in the Balkans, terrorism rose up and here in the United States there was 9-11, and so it goes.