Historical articles & exhibits

Articles, slideshows, and exhibits on various historical topics. Written primarily for K–12 and college students, but also for general readers.

The Battle of Guilford Courthouse (slideshow)

The story of the Revolutionary War battle, fought in 1781 near present-day Greensboro, North Carolina, is told through photographs of a 2008 reenactment at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park.

Criminal law and reform

In the early nineteenth century, North Carolina had more than two dozen crimes punishable by death, and the state kept a variety of physical and humiliating punishments on the books as well. Reformers tried to make the criminal code clearer and more humane, but they made little progress before the Civil War.

Culpeper’s Rebellion

In the 1670s, the British government insisted that exports from Carolina be taxed, but a group of settlers in the Albemarle region rebelled against what they saw as an unreasonable burden. The Lords Proprietors eventually regained control of the colony, but in the meantime, colonists set a precedent for governing themselves.

Civil War casualties

Historians estimate that about 620,000 Americans died in the Civil War — almost as many as have died in all other U.S. wars combined. This article explains why.

Disease and catastrophe

Of all the kinds of life exchanged when the Old and New Worlds met, lowly germs had the greatest impact. Europeans and later Africans brought smallpox and a host of other diseases with them to America, where those diseases killed as much as 90 percent of the native population of two continents. Europeans came away lucky — with only a few tropical diseases from Africa and, probably, syphilis from the New World. In America, disease destoyed civilizations.

The Dismal Swamp Canal

Transportation in northeastern North Carolina was extremely difficult in the eighteenth century. The Dismal Swamp Canal, which opened in 1805, enabled passage between the Pasquotank River in North Carolina wih the Elizabeth River in Virginia. Over time the canal was rebuilt and expanded, and today it is part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.

The fate of North Carolina’s native peoples

After the Tuscarora War (1711–1713) and Yamasee War (1715–1716), only the Cherokee among North Carolina’s native peoples remained intact. The Coastal Plain and Piedmont were effectively cleared for European settlement.

From proslavery to secession

Between 1830 and 1860, as abolitionism grew in the North, southerners largely stopped questioning the wisdom of slavery and argued strongly for extending it.

Land and work in colonial Carolina

This article explains the key elements of feudalism, including its hierarchy of personal relationships and system of landholding, and how those elements evolved into the systems of labor and land ownership seen in colonial North Carolina.

A little kingdom in Carolina

The original vision for Carolina was a feudal province in which eight “Lords Proprietors” would have nearly royal power, but with an elected assembly and guarantees of religious freedom.