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Detail of Russian map of Alaska

[Detail] Rossiisko - Amerikanskie vladeniia

Lesson Overview

The 1867 Treaty of Cession, in which the United States purchased Alaska from the Russian empire, marked an unusually peaceful transition. The purchase of Alaska was done under amicable circumstances, and both Russia and the U.S. felt they gained from the Treaty.

In this lesson, students use primary sources from Russia and the U.S. to examine the respective Russian and American rationales for agreeing to the sale.


Students will:

  • Analyze primary sources and identify the point of view;
  • Articulate arguments for a specified position on the Alaska Purchase;
  • Present arguments in a debate.


Time Required

One week

Recommended Grade Level

  • 9-12


  • World History and Cultures


  • Civil War and Reconstruction


Adapted from a lesson by Roger Pearson