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The goal of these comprehension and discussion questions is to help students determine the effects of historical circumstances on this particular chapter of history, the cause and effect relationships between historical events and social movements, and the effects of implementation of U.S. and/or world policy. Students should be able to broaden their ideas, challenge arguments, formulate positions on issues, hypothesize the influence of the past on current issues, and differentiate between fact and interpretation.



U.S. History/Social Studies

  • The influence of economic, political, religious, and cultural ideas as human societies move beyond regional, national, or geographic boundaries
  • Tradition and cultural history (including literature, art, song, and story)
  • The role of noteworthy individuals in US History
  • The effects of geography on the history of civilizations and nations
  • Westward expansion
  • The tension or disconnect between America's romantic ideals and the realities of American life
  • The demand for resources and the impact of their scarcity
  • The connection of people to place and the impact of geography on events and relationships
  • The development of technology and its effects on people’s health, standards of living, economic growth, government, religious beliefs, communal life, and the environment


  • The growth and spread of free markets and industrial economies
  • Economic growth and social and political change
  • Scarcity and economic reasoning
  • Supply and demand
  • Market structures and trade

Environmental Science/Ecology

  • The interconnection of all life
  • Biodiversity is the sum total of different kinds of organisms and is affected by alterations of habitats
  • The stability and change in an ecosystem results from changes in climate, human activity, introduction of nonnative species, or changes in population size
  • Evaluation of human activity and technology on ecosystem vitality
  • Fluctuations in population size in an ecosystem are determined by the relative rates of birth, immigration, emigration, and death
  • Conservation and resource allocation


1. Whale Populations 1790-1924

2. Interview with Dr. Tim Smith

3. Census of Marine Life

4. New York Times Sunday Magazine, July 8, 2009. “Watching Whales Watching Us” by Charles Siebert

5. Map of whaling ports

6. Whaling Shanty audio

7. Whaling Shanty audio

8. Depictions of whaling in America

9. Timeline of the history of whaling in America

10. Interview with Nathaniel Philbrick, author of the National Book Award winning account of the voyage of the Essex, In the Heart of the Sea.

11. Web book based on the print publication "You Wouldn’t Want to Sail on a 19th-Century Whaling Ship" produced by The Salariya Book Company.

12. American Masters, PBS. The American Novel, Moby Dick 1851

13. American Experience, Into the Deep: America, Whaling and the World

14. New Bedford Whaling Museum

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My American Experience

My American Experience photos

Share Your Story

What impact do you think the whaling industry had on America and its economy? How do you think it shaped us as a nation? What do you believe is currently the industry that epitomizes the identity of America?

  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • Rosalind P. Walter
  • NEH