Historians use both primary and secondary sources to learn about history. For Vermont History Day, YOU get to be the historian who develops a thesis, analyzes primary and secondary sources, and uses evidence to support your argument.
For a topic inspired by current events but connected to the theme of “Debate & Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences,” you could explore Act 250, Vermont's significant land-use law. Passed in 1970, this law created a permitting process for certain types of land development. How did uncontrolled construction in ski towns in the 1960s influence the debates for and against the law? What diplomacy did Governor Deane Davis use to convince legislators to pass the law? What were the successes, failures and consequences of the law that has influenced Vermont land use for over 50 years? Why has Governor Phil Scott proposed changes to the law in recent legislative sessions?
For the larger overview, it can be helpful to start with secondary sources:
- Website article: History of Act 250, by State of Vermont Natural Resources Board (no date)
- Radio program & historical essay: Act 250, 1970 by Green Mountain Chronicles (1987, revised 2021)
- Newsletter article: We Are Living Someone Else's Future by Gregory Sanford (2007)
- Website article: Act 250, by Vermont Natural Resources Council (no date)
As you compare these sources, you might notice differences between a website from the government (State of Vermont) and an advocacy group (Vermont Natural Resources Council). And you might find some hints for places to look for primary sources. How did people understand Act 250 at the time the law was written? What is the impact of Act 250 today?
- Oral history interviews of Governor Deane Davis and Lillian Baker Carlisle (on the same webpage as other secondary sources)
- Farewell Address of Governor Deane Davis, 1973 (the hyperlink in the article no longer works, but the address is still available on the State Archive's website)
- A video called Choosing Our Tomorrows, 1971 (from the Vermont PBS Archives)
- Veto letter of Governor Phil Scott, 2020 (Current events can have primary sources, too)
- Act 250 Plans, 1972 (not fully digitized, but available at the Vermont Historical Society research library)
What are the successes, failures, and consequences? That’s for you to determine and to demonstrate using evidence from the primary and secondary sources that you can find online and in libraries and archives. Good luck choosing a topic and conducting your research!
See other Vermont history topic ideas: Debate & Diplomacy in Vermont History