Exam preparation materials


abolitionist    one who favors the end of slavery

abomination    a vicious or vile action that is met with great distaste

affirmative action    policies of the government aimed at increasing access to jobs, schooling, and opportunities to people previously discriminated against

agrarian    pertaining to farming or agriculture

anarchist    an individual who advocates the overthrow of all government

annex    the act of taking a smaller territory into a larger one

antebellum    before the war; usually used with regard to the time before the Civil War

anti-Semitic    one who is prejudiced against Jews

apologists    those in the South who justified slavery by claiming African Americans were better off under the current system than left on their own

appeasement    a policy of giving into modest demands of an enemy to hold off potential conflict

apportionment    the proportional distribution of the number of members of the U.S. House of Representatives on the basis of the population of each state

arbitration    the settlement of a dispute by a third, unbiased party

armistice    a suspension of fighting; a cease-fire

arsenal    a stockpile of weapons or a place for making and storing weapons

artisans    those considered skilled in certain industries such as metal work, carpentry, or printing

autocrat    a ruler having unlimited power; a despot

bandwagon    a political cause that draws increasing numbers of proponents due to its success

bicameral    composed of or based on two legislative chambers or branches

blasphemy    a contemptuous or profane act, utterance, or writing concerning God or a sacred entity

blitzkrieg    Hitler’s tactic of “lightning war,” which involved swift action against the enemy

bond    an interest-bearing note that guarantees repayment at a set date

boycott    to refrain from engaging, purchasing, or trading with another in an expression of protest

bracero    a Mexican farm worker brought to the United States to work during World War II

buying on margin    the act of purchasing stock on credit

capitalism    an economic system in which the means of production and exchange are controlled by individuals

caravel    any of several types of small, light sailing ships, especially one with two or three masts and lateen sails used by the Spanish and Portuguese in the 15th and 16th centuries.

carpetbagger    a Northern Republican who moved South for financial and political gain

ceded    given up or surrendered to another, possibly by treaty

charter    a written grant from the sovereign power of a country conferring certain rights and privileges on a person, a corporation, or the people

closed shop    a workplace in which workers must join the labor union as a condition of employment

collective bargaining    employees and management negotiating wages, working conditions, and work hours

confederation    an alliance or body of states loosely united for common purposes

conquistador    a Spanish conqueror of the Americas

conscription    compulsory enrollment of persons in the armed forces

constituents    the voters or citizens of a particular region who are represented by an elected official

conversion experience    a rite of passage for Calvinists, who publicly confessed all sins to become one of the “elect”

corollary    an inference that follows proof from a previous instance

coup    the overthrow of a ruling party/person by a small group illegally and/or by force

de facto    “in fact”; usually with regard to segregation

de jure    “in law”; usually with regard to laws passed for segregation

demography    the study of the characteristics of human populations, such as size, growth, density, distribution, and vital statistics

depression    a prolonged period of declining economic activity characterized by rising unemployment and falling prices

détente    a period of relaxed tensions between countries

direct primary    an election in which registered members of the party elect their party nominees for office

dissent    to object or disagree

domestic    of or relating to a country’s internal affairs

duty    money collected by government from a tariff

egalitarian    upholding the equality of all people

elect    according to Calvinists, those who have been chosen by God for salvation

elite    a group or class of persons, or a member of such a group or class, enjoying superior intellectual, social, or economic status

emancipate    to free from slavery or bondage

embargo    a prohibition or ban; usually used with regard to trade or shipping

encomienda    the Spanish labor system whereby individuals were bound to unpaid labor but were not legally owned by a master

enfranchisement    giving the right to vote

entrepreneur    a person who engages in a risky business venture

established church    a church that is officially recognized and protected by the government

excise tax    a fee collected on goods and services bought and sold within a country

executive privilege    the claim by a president that certain information should be kept from Congress

expatriates    individuals who have chosen to leave their native country in favor of living abroad

fascism    a dictatorial form of government that glorifies military service and nationalism

filibuster    the act of members of congress of delaying a vote or action by refusing to release the floor during debate

Fire Eaters    term used by Northerners to describe Southern slavery advocates

foreclosure    the repossession of a property by a lender after a borrower fails to pay on the loan

fugitive    an individual who flees danger or capture

Fundamentalism    a religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to rigid adherence to fundamental principles

genocide    the systematic extermination of a race or ethnicity by another group

gentry    people of gentle birth, good breeding, or high social position; usually land owners

ghetto    an area where ethnic minorities are forced to live either by law or discrimination

graft    the use of one’s position to gain money or property illegally

greenback    paper currency in the United States that replaced specie before the founding of the Federal Reserve

gross national product (GNP)    the sum of all goods and services produced both within and abroad by citizens of a country in a given year

guerrilla warfare    irregular, paramilitary units operating in small bands in occupied territory using subversive tactics to surprise the enemy

hard money    limited currency with high value

headright system    a system of obtaining land in colonial times in which one received 50 acres of land for every emigrant to America one sponsored

heresy    an opinion or a doctrine at variance with established religious beliefs

hierarchy    a system that places things in graduated order, from lowest to highest

homestead    a single-family home or farm

horizontal integration    a single company’s absorption of other companies in the same industry to control one aspect of the manufacture of a product

ideology    the body of ideas and beliefs that represent a culture or large group

impeach    to charge a government official with a criminal offense

imperialism    a policy of extending a country’s authority over a foreign country by acquisition or colonization

impress    to force into military service

incumbent    an individual running for an office he or she currently holds

indentured servant    a person who is bonded or contracted to work for another for a specified time, in exchange for learning a trade or travel expenses

indigenous    native to a particular region

inflation    an increase in the value of currency relative to the cost of consumer goods

infrastructure    the basic structure needed for the functions of a society; usually refers to transportation, sanitation, and communication

initiative    process by which voters can propose legislation and place that law on a ballot in a popular election

insurrection    the act or an instance of open revolt against civil authority or a constituted government

isolationist    an individual who would rather remain uninvolved in world affairs

Jim Crow    the practice of legal racial segregation

jingoism    extreme nationalism coupled with an aggressive foreign policy stance

joint-stock company    a company that has some features of a corporation and some features of a partnership

laissez faire    the belief that government should refrain from interfering in business and the economy

landslide    the winning of an election by a large margin

literacy test    an exam given to individuals to prove they were literate before they could register to vote

lynching    the illegal act of putting to death a person accused of committing a crime; usually conducted by mobs

mandate    a command or instruction given by the electorate to their representative

martial law    military occupation imposed upon an area when civilian resources have failed or collapsed

martyr    an individual who makes a great sacrifice to further a cause; one who chooses death rather than renouncing beliefs

materialism    a belief that the accumulation of possessions is more important that spiritual pursuits

matrilineal    relating to, based on, or tracing ancestral descent through the maternal line.

mercantilism    the belief that all economic activity should be for the good of the whole (country) rather than for the individual

mercenaries    foreign soldiers hired to serve in the military

Mestizo    a person of mixed racial ancestry, especially of mixed European and Native American ancestry

mobilization    government organization of the nation for war

mudslinging    unsubstantiated accusations and attacks on a political opponent

mulatto    an individual of African and European ancestry

nation-state    a political society that combines a central government with cultural unification

nationalism    devotion to the interests or culture of one’s nation

nativism    the policy of upholding the rights of native citizens over those of immigrants

naturalization    the process of immigrants gaining legal citizenship

nullify    to declare a law void

oligarchy    rule by a few

omnibus bill    a potential law that includes a variety of topics under one name

pacifist    an individual who is opposed to all war

pardon    the act of releasing an individual from responsibility for a crime

partisan    supporting a particular political party

patronage    the support of a cause through financial gifts

peculiar institution    a name given to slavery by Southern apologists

political machine    an organization controlled through spoils and patronage

poll tax    a tax levied on individuals before they are allowed to vote

pool    an alliance of competing companies to set prices and split profits by sharing customers

pork barrel    congressional appropriations for political gain in a particular constituency

precedent    a decision or action that establishes a standard for future instances

predestination    the doctrine that God has foreordained all things, especially that God has elected certain souls to eternal salvation

primogeniture    the right of the eldest child, especially the eldest son, to inherit the entire estate of one or both parents

proclamation    an official announcement

propaganda    information or materials provided by the proponents or opponents of an idea to influence public thought

proprietary colony    a settlement in a region granted by a king or queen to a legal owner

proviso    a clause within a document that stipulates an exception or restriction

pump priming    the increase in government spending to stimulate the economy

puppet government    a government that is controlled by outsiders

quota    a proportional share of something to a group or members of a group; an allotment

ratification    the act of approving and giving formal sanction of

recall    the act of removing a public official from office by a vote of a specified number of citizens

referendum    the submission of a law directly to the voters for approval or denial

reparations    money, goods, or services paid by a government for destruction and damage caused during a war

republic    a government whose power rests in a citizenry who is entitled to vote, is represented by those they vote for, and usually has a president rather than a monarch as head

Rustbelt    states in the Northeast and Midwest that were once prosperous steel producers

scabs    replacement workers during a strike

scalawag    a white Southerner who supported Radical Reconstruction

secession    the withdrawal from an alliance or association

sect    a group of people forming a distinct unit within a larger group by virtue of certain refinements or distinctions of belief or practice

secular    of the world rather than of the church or spirit

sedition    the act of incitement of rebellion against the government

segregation    the act of separating; usually regarding race and ethnicity

self-determination    the belief that people should have the opportunity to decide their own form of government

sharecropper    an individual who receives land on credit and pays back debt with a share of the crop yield

siege    the surrounding and blockading of a city, town, or fortress by an army attempting to capture it

socialist    an individual who believes that business and the economy should be controlled by the community, not individuals

soft money    plentiful currency with low value

sovereignty    power vested in an independent government

speakeasies    illegal bars and clubs where liquor was sold during Prohibition

specie    coined (gold, silver, or other metal) currency

speculation    risky business transactions on the bet of quick or considerable profit

sphere of influence    a region controlled by the influence of other powerful nations

spoils system    the practice of the winning political party rewarding supporters with jobs regardless of qualifications

stagflation    a combination of high unemployment and high inflation

stalwart    an individual who has unwavering support for a party or cause

strike    an action by organized labor to stop work in order to force management to negotiate

subversion    a systematic attempt to overthrow or undermine a government or political system by persons working from within

suffrage    the right to vote

Sunbelt    states in the South and Southwestern United States

tariffs    taxes placed on imported goods

temperance    the belief in moderation, particularly with regard to alcohol

tenant farmer    a person who leases land from a landowner

tenement    an urban multifamily housing unit

theocracy    a government by the church leaders

trust    an organization of corporations where stockholders have traded their stocks for trust certificates

tycoon    a wealthy and powerful businessperson

urbanization    the growth of cities

utopian    seeking perfection in society

vertical integration    a single company controlling all aspects of manufacturing

Vietnamization    President Nixon’s policy of turning over the Vietnam War to the South Vietnamese

virtual representation    the political practice of a small group of people being elected to speak for a larger group

wildcat bank    uncontrolled and unregulated Western banks of the 1800s whose speculation and unsafe practices helped spur the Panic of 1819

writ of habeas corpus    from the Latin “of the body,” a formal order requiring the presentation of the accused before a judge to be charged with a crime or released from custody

yellow-dog contracts    agreements that forced employees to promise never to join a union in order to gain or maintain employment

yeomen    non-slave-owning farmers

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