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In this lesson plan, you will engage your students in a Socratic Seminar-style group discussion about the cause and inevitability of the American Civil War.

Few people dispute the influence of the major events from 1850 to 1861 on the outbreak of the Civil War. Yet, historians offer different interpretations of why war occurred and whether it could have been avoided. 


Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

Learning Objectives
  • Students will review the growth of slavery from the ratification of the U.S. Constitution to Election of 1860 and examine four different historical interpretations of the cause(s) of the Civil War.
Guiding Questions
  • What caused the Civil War?
  • Was the Civil War inevitable?
Prepared By Grade Length
Sean J. Smith and Don Benson, (Weston High School, Massachusetts) High School