Unit 5 in the APUSH Exam

This time period extends from 1607 to 1754 and counts for 10% of recommended instructional content for an AP class. There are two key concepts for this time period.


The United States became more connected with the world, pursued an expansionist foreign policy in the Western Hemisphere, and emerged as the destination for many migrants from other countries.


Intensified by expansion and deepening regional divisions, debates over slavery and other economic, cultural, and political issues led the nation into civil war.


The Union victory in the Civil War and the contested reconstruction of the South settled the issues of slavery and secession but left unresolved many questions about the power of the federal government and citizenship rights.


AP U.S. History Period 5 focuses on the social and political effects of the antebellum period, the Civil War, and Reconstruction.

During this period, the United States also experienced a wave of immigration from western European countries, especially Ireland and Germany. The “Know Nothing Party” and other nativist groups used anti-immigrant rhetoric to try to influence the power of these new immigrant groups.

American history in the middle of the nineteenth century was dominated by a push to expand the country from “sea to sea” under an ideology called Manifest Destiny. The discovery of gold in California in the late 1840s caused hundreds of thousands of people to rush to the west coast.

The expansion into new territories intensified the tension between free and slave states in the Union. While the United States was able to maintain a rough balance for much of its history, by the 1850s, the balance was tipping toward free states. Political tensions came to a head with the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. President Lincoln came to power without a single Southern vote. Almost immediately after his election, the Southern states voted to secede from the Union.

While slavery was a major issue dividing the North and the South, there were also other factors that served to divide the two parts of the country. The North and the South had very different economic landscapes. They also had different value systems and ideas about states’ rights.

Many of these tensions were still unresolved when the Civil War officially came to a close. The period after the war was called “Reconstruction” because the goal was to “reconstruct,” or “rebuild,” the Union that had been broken by the war. The initial goal of Reconstruction was to guarantee rights for African-Americans, a goal that came to fruition in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments.

In 1877, however, Reconstruction was abandoned. Almost all of the social improvements made in the lives of African Americans were eliminated as Southern politicians began the process of reversing the federal guidelines implemented during Reconstruction.


1850 The Compromise of 1850 admitted California to the Union. Part of this compromise imposed the Fugitive Slave Law on northerners.

1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe published Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

1857 The Dred Scott decision ruled that slaves were not considered citizens and did not have the right to sue in federal courts.

1860 Abraham Lincoln elected president of the United States. Almost immediately, South Carolina seceded from the Union.

1863 President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves in the states currently in rebellion against the Union.

1865 Union soldiers led by General Gordon Granger are able to overcome southern rebels still resisting emancipation laws. General Granger announces federal orders that all people held as slaves in Texas are free.

1867 Congress gained greater control over the South through the Reconstruction Acts of 1867.

1877 The Compromise of 1877 withdrew federal troops from the South in exchange for electing a Democratic leader to the president’s Cabinet.


Nativist A native born person or group that opposes immigrants.

Manifest Destiny The belief that Americans were destined to spread the United States from coast to coast.

Abraham Lincoln The 16th president of the United States who was determined to preserve the Union at all costs; his election set in motion the Civil War.

Reconstruction The period after the Civil War during which Northern political leaders imposed strict regulations and governance on the South so that the South could rejoin the Union.

The best way to get better at something is by practicing.

That’s why it’s so important that you take practice tests to help you get better at the AP European History Exam. Only then can you expect to get a good score—and even improve your score.

Download your free AP® European History practice test HERE.

Download your printable study guides for all of the units for AP European History HERE.

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