Lesson One (three activities): Retracing Tocqueville’s journey

1. The teacher can model how historians interpret and learn from primary source maps. Either reproduce the map of Tocqueville’s journey (as handout or overhead) or link to it on computer

Questions to consider include:

  • What is different about this map and a map of the United States today?
  • How is information organized? What do the red lines indicate? (At this point it might be helpful to have the students compare the itinerary with the map and trace the course of Tocqueville’s journey.)
  • How long did the trip take? Why did it take so long? Does the course of the journey make sense to you?
  • What would it be like to travel in America in 1831? What would you bring with you? Where would you stay?
  • What methods of transportation did Tocqueville use? How would you pay for your trip?

You may want to use the Digital Classroom's Map Analysis Worksheet for map exercises. You can look at History Matters' Making Sense of Evidence materials on working with maps as historical evidence.

2. Have students pick five or six stops along Tocqueville’s and Beaumont’s journey and read the journal entries. Students may do this at home or at the library, if the classroom does not have full computer access. If the teacher has the proper technology, he or she may do this step with the whole class by using a computer and digital projector or may download, print and distribute maps. Teachers and students may find it useful to consult a contemporary map of the United States to make comparisons.

Students should write a brief comparative paragraph about the two maps for later reference in the activity. Students might want to construct a chart before they write their paragraph; they could create their own list of items they would need for their trip, referring to Tocqueville and Beaumont’s journal entries and the OSV Web site for more information about life in the 1830s.

3. Ask students to pull together the information they have learned from looking at the maps and journal entries. Then have students go to the OSV Web site for more information about life in America in the 1830s. Have the students brainstorm together as if they were preparing for a journey that would encompass a portion of Tocqueville’s trip.

Some information will be available on the OSV site, but students will have to do independent research about travel in the 1830s to accurately be able to re-create the trip.


Student re-creations of Tocqueville’s journey may be assessed in a variety of ways. Possibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Creating a journal detailing their trip through 1831 America, using artifacts, documents and maps as visual aids to the journey
  • Creating an oral report on their trip using a poster board to display artifacts, maps and other documents
  • Creating a PowerPoint demonstration of their journey