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Introducing a free online U.S. History resource for high school students

BRI's Landmark Textbook Resource

Introducing our free online U.S. History resource for high school students! Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness is designed to meet the course needs of a yearlong U.S. History or AP U.S. History class. The history of the United States is presented through a series of narratives, primary sources, and point-counterpoint debates that invites students to participate in the ongoing conversation about the American experiment. The content is coupled with rigorous assessments that help students to develop historical thinking skills and reasoning processes.

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Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Happiness Overview

Learning about history helps people—teens in particular—develop a sense of identity. Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Happiness is an online digital U.S. History textbook for high school students that is based on compelling stories that bring American history to life. This resource is:

Click here to see the Table of Contents

Click here to see the full list of scholar contributors

The text is divided into chronological units. Each unit is divided into chapters that contain components critical to understanding each time period. Each component includes review and stimulus-based (primary and secondary source) multiple-choice questions. In addition, each unit has a summative essay activity. The components included in each chapter are as follows:

  • Inquiry Organizer

    Inside the Inquiry Organizer, students will find the learning objectives for the unit and chapter, as well as any resources needed to complete assignments.


  • Chapter Introductory Essay

    Each chapter has an introductory essay which gives an in-depth overview of significant events in a particular time period. This essay is in narrative form which helps students understand the human experience through story and assists in placing important turning points and events during that time period.


  • Narratives

    Throughout the chapter, shorter narrative stories further an understanding of history as the connection of people and events in a timeline affected by experiences.


  • Decision Points

    These decision points are pulled out for students to study more closely as narratives that fit into the bigger stories they’ve been reading about. Each decision point is an excellent way to help students understand actions, consequences, and a chain of events.


  • Point-Counterpoints

    Here students will find differing sides of an argument presented by scholars. Practicing debate or written argument is an excellent way for students to prepare for AP tests and to develop their own belief systems.


  • Primary Sources

    Look no further to fill out your curriculum with primary sources for students to study. Here students will be able to easily click on primary sources to use for building out background or facts for an argument.


  • Lessons

    Instructions and handouts can be found in each of the lessons. They are designed to engage students and get them to understand the context of events and people in history, as well as develop their own knowledge base.


  • Unit Essay Activity

    Each unit has a culminating activity designed to assess chapter objectives. These are perfectly aligned to students on an AP track, but may also be very useful for differentiation in a college prep high school history course.

  • My district chooses my textbook for me. How can I still use Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Happiness in my classroom?

    This resource is designed so that it can serve as the primary textbook for a U.S. History classroom or as a supportive resource. It is also fully aligned to the College Board’s AP U.S. History framework.


  • Who wrote the content for this resource?

    Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Happiness was written, edited, and reviewed by distinguished scholars from nearly 100 universities and historical organizations, including Yale, Stanford, the University of California-Berkeley, Notre Dame, and Georgetown. Experienced teachers have piloted and helped create the textbook’s content and assessments.


  • What makes Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Happiness different from other textbooks?

    This digital resource invites students to investigate the text as a secondary source. The diverse scholars and types of narratives mean that each component is an opportunity to question and to learn. We want the student to be in a constant mindset of historical investigation. In addition, the resource provides a wealth of supplementary materials and is fully adaptable and customizable to the needs of your classroom. As a teacher, you can choose the appropriate assignments and assessments that fit your classroom and pacing, and you can review student and class learning metrics in real time. Students can also see their own learning metrics and practice questions that align to their weakest topics. These tools allow students to take ownership of their own learning and instructors to teach more efficiently.


  • How much will this resource cost my district?

    This textbook is the first entirely free U.S. History resource that aligns with AP standards. It is available to any student or educator, and it’s also openly licensed for use. Plus, since it’s digital, it means no more heavy books to carry around!

Scope and Sequence

Bill of Rights Institute has developed a scope and sequence using Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness content to cover a one school year U.S. History or AP U.S. History course.

See our sample scope & sequence

Two Ways to Explore

Option 1: Read the content right here on BRI's web site.

Option 2: Sign up for OpenStax Tutor to use the content and adaptive courseware features.

The Content