Your guide to major themes, documents, and key words for the AP US History exam! 

AP US history periods and themes

For an overview of major themes in US history, check out this table:
Table of major themes organized by period.
If that's too small to read, here are some close ups of the themes:
Table with close ups of themes.
Table with close ups of themes.

Example AP US history problems

We've put together some video examples of how to tackle each section of the AP US history exam. Find them here:
Document-based essay: How to approach the DBQ

Key terms, documents, and court cases to know

Having a general grasp of the following major documents, terms, and cases will be a big help on the AP US history exam. Don't worry about knowing specifics or memorizing details—just get the general gist.

Primary documents:

John Winthrop, “City on a Hill” / “A Model of Christian Charity”
Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”
Thomas Jefferson, “Declaration of Independence”
James Madison, “Constitution of the United States”
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, “Declaration of Sentiments”
Frederick Douglass, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”
Harriet Beecher Stowe, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (main ideas)
Abraham Lincoln, “House Divided” speech, Second Inaugural Address
Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I a Woman?”
Andrew Carnegie, “The Gospel of Wealth” (main ideas)
Josiah Strong, “Our Country” (main ideas)
Upton Sinclair “The Jungle” (main ideas)
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address, December 8 1941 address
George Kennan, “Long Telegram”
Martin Luther King Jr. “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, “I Have a Dream” speech
Betty Friedan “The Feminine Mystique” (main ideas)
Ronald Reagan “Evil Empire” speech

Supreme Court cases:

Marbury v. Madison
Dred Scott v. Sanford
Plessy v. Ferguson
Brown v. Board of Education
Roe v. Wade
Bush v. Gore

Foreign policy doctrines:

Monroe Doctrine
Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine
Truman Doctrine
Nixon Doctrine
Bush Doctrine

Key terms

virgin soil epidemic
salutary neglect / benign neglect
mercantilism
Federalist
Anti-Federalist
isolationism
judicial review
embargo
Democratic-Republican
Whig
Jacksonian Democracy
nullification
popular sovereignty
Emancipation
Jim Crow segregation
sharecropping
nativism
mass production
monopoly
labor union
frontier
imperialism
self-determination
prohibition
laissez-faire economics
liberalism (economics/politics)
Soviet Union
containment
Domino Theory
communism
non-violent protest (Civil Rights)
Vietnamization
conservatism
terrorism
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