North and South - A History Lesson Plan

North and South

North and South is the title of three American television miniseries that aired on the ABC network from 1985 to 1994. The miniseries took place before and during the American Civil War, and was based on a trilogy of novels written by John Jakes in the 1980s. The books were popular with children and young adults alike, and have since become an international bestseller. The television series was a hit, and has continued to be a popular source of teaching materials for many students.

Lesson plans

In a textbook or lesson plan for North and South, teachers can use the 180 Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) to assess student comprehension of the novel. They can be used as quizzes or homework assignments and come in different lengths, with some focusing on more difficult topics than others. The MCQs are divided into several sections, focusing on different chapters of the novel. Each section has a different number of questions, ranging from five to fifteen.

The first part of this lesson plan focuses on the Civil War. Students read the account of a young man named William Henry Singleton, who was born a slave and survived the war as a Union soldier. They analyze how culture affected his writing and analyze how it changed his life. The next section uses another primary source from the Documenting the American South collection. In the last section, students write a point of view piece based on the story they read.


The concepts of the 'North' and the 'South' are often paired to describe different regions of the world. While they represent geographical divisions, the terms are not strictly delineated, and most of what we think of as 'the South' lies north of the Equator. However, many highly industrialised countries in 'the South' are also situated close to the Tropic of Capricorn.

Gaskell's novel takes place during the Industrial Revolution, which was marked by the advent of machines, steam power, and the factory system. Many of these innovations were born in Great Britain. By the time Gaskell wrote North and South, Manchester was a cottonopolis, and the city was experiencing an explosion of commercial activity. Although a landed aristocracy ruled England for centuries, wealthy industrialists were increasingly rising to prominence.


Critics have often discussed Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South as a social problem novel, and this work has been interrogated in both feminist and Marxist contexts. Marxist critics praised the novel for focusing on the working class and addressing class conflict with personal solutions. Feminist critics accused previous criticisms of the novel of a gendered double standard, and explored the meaning of Gaskell's fiction in a feminist context.

The novel is about the 1860s, and was originally published in Household Words magazine. Charles Dickens, the editor, decided on the title, and North and South is now considered one of Gaskell's best-known novels. The novel was the subject of some criticism, as a radical weekly newspaper called The Leader claimed Gaskell made errors about the cotton industry and Lancashire. The novel is widely considered a classic.


During the 1800s, the difference between the North and the South grew and culminated in a war. The Northern cities were centers of commerce and wealth that attracted skilled workers. In contrast, the South focused on agriculture. Its plantations grew rice, cotton, tobacco, and sugarcane, which were exported to Europe. The slaves worked on the plantations. The war lasted over six years, and it was still unclear what the outcome of the war would be.

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