Document Analysis and Historical Perspective
Elementary, Middle, High
Students will read and analyze articles from an eighteenth-century newspaper in order to explore how a single event in one Virginia community helped to turn people against Great Britain as the Revolutionary War approached.
Standards of Learning:
Virginia SOL: VS1.a; VS1d; VS1.h; VS5.a; US1.1a; US1.1d; US1.6a; US1.6b; VUS.1a; VUS.4c; English 4.7; English 5.8
National Standards of History: Historical Analysis and Interpretation
Materials Needed for Activity:
Student Handout – Excerpts from The Virginia Gazette, November 24, 1774
Student Handout – Why were the American colonies unhappy with the British government?
Student Handout – Newspaper Article Format
Student Handout – Excerpt from The Virginia Gazette, May 6, 1775
Students will read and analyze articles from The Virginia Gazette describing the Yorktown Tea Party. They will then write a newspaper article from the British point of view.
Step 1: Review with students the many ways we learn about the past. We study artifacts and primary documents including letters, journals, diaries, and newspapers. Tell students they will be learning about an incident that took place in Yorktown, Virginia in 1764 by reading several newspaper articles from that time.
Step 2: Give each student a copy of Excepts from The Virginia Gazette, November 24, 1774, describing the Yorktown Tea Party. Explain that this incident took place after the Tea Act was passed by Parliament. See Tea Overboard! background essay for details.
Step 3: After the students have had an opportunity to read the article, have them turn to a partner and discuss their reactions. Have them answer the following questions:
• What happened with the ship Virginia?
• How did the York and Gloucester committees respond?
• Are the articles written from a specific point of view?
• Were the colonists’ actions justified? Why or why not?
Step 4: Distribute copies of the student handout, Why were the American colonies unhappy with the British government? Ask the students to highlight reasons for disagreement between the colonies and Great Britain as they read the article.
Have students write a newspaper article or editorial about the Yorktown Tea Party from the British point of view. Provide students with the Newspaper Article Format handout to use as a reference. Students may also want to draw a political cartoon to illustrate their article.
Hand out the Excepts from The Virginia Gazette, May 6, 1775. Have students read it and discuss the following questions:
• What new information does John Norton add to the story of the Yorktown Tea Party?
• How does John Norton, an English merchant, view non-importation?
• What factors might influence his point of view?
Other Helpful Resources:
Masoff, Joy. Chronicle of America American Revolution 1700-1800. New York: Scholastic, 2000.
Moore, Kay If You Lived At the Time of the American Revolution. New York: Scholastic, 1997.
Lesson plans made possible by Archibald Andrews Marks.