Lesson Plan 2: The Lincoln Douglas Debates of 1858: Interactive Map Activity

By Jennifer Erbach

PLEASE NOTE: The GIS/map resources that this lesson plan were developed for are not operational at this time. We hope to be able to fix this soon.

Students will utilize an interactive map to explore the 1858 Senate campaign in Illinois and how factors such as population, transportation, and party strongholds can affect campaign strategies.

Students will complete a worksheet and write an essay discussing their findings and considering how these factors relate to political campaigns today.

Prior to this lesson, students should have acquired a basic understanding of what the 1858 campaign was, who it involved, and its significance.


Think about political campaigns that you've seen or been involved in. What are some of the factors that have affected the strategy of the campaign (how and where you will present your platform to the voters)?

Part I:

Using the interactive map "Lincoln-Douglas Campaign of 1858", complete the worksheet.

Part II:

With remaining class time, or for homework, write a one page essay discussing how population, transportation, and party strongholds can affect campaign strategies. How important were these factors in influencing where a candidate campaigned in the mid-19th century? Are these factors still influential today? Why or why not? Besides making speeches, how else would Lincoln and Douglas have been able to present their platforms to voters?

State Standards Addressed:

16.A.5a Analyze historical and contemporary developments using methods of historical inquiry (pose questions, collect and analyze data, make and support inferences with evidence, report findings). 16.B.5b (US) Analyze how United States political history has been influenced by the nation's economic, social and environmental history.

Notes for the Instructor:

  • Time required for this lesson is about one 40-50 minute class period.
  • This activity requires the use of a computer with Internet access. If there are a limited number of computers available, students can work in groups to complete this activity.
  • To access the interactive map "Lincoln-Douglas Campaign of 1858" click or type the following URL into the browser:http://atlas.lib.niu.edu/Website/Camp_1858/. (NOT OPERATIONAL)
  • To give the students the maximum amount of work time possible, the map activity should be set up prior to their arrival.
  • Click or type the following URL into the browser to access the accompanying worksheet.