Great Presidents : The Great Courses: Modern History

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Allan J. Lichtman
  • Series: The Great Courses: Modern History
  • 24 hrs and 41 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

The creation of the executive branch of government was one of the most audacious decisions in American history. The story of our greatest presidents create a narrative as compelling as an historical novel, and these 48 compelling lectures look at the lives, the achievements, and the legacies of those generally considered our 12 greatest presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Ronald Reagan.
Drawing on a wealth of revealing anecdotes and inside stories, Professor Lichtman sheds new light on how the individual characters and historic decisions of each president made a major contribution to shaping our developing nation. You'll study the critical role these men played in America's founding years, Westward expansion, the struggle over slavery and the Civil War, the Great Depression, World War II, the perils of the atomic age, and more. These 12 leaders can be seen as giants of the most powerful elective office in the world. But through Professor Lichtman's eyes we see them as they really were, contradictions and paradoxes included.
These lectures give the "inside stories" from our highest office, and they reveal 12 leaders with varying styles, personalities, and beliefs, but they all had in common an unsinkable ambition, a deep affinity with the American people, and a strong inner core of guiding values and principles.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

I'm clearly in the minority here...

I hate to diss someone else's hard work, but out of concern for other Audible shoppers, I have to say: this guy's delivery is beyond irritating. He has adopted the most random, choppy and hard-to-listen-to rhythms I've ever experienced in an audiobook. He clearly has enthusiasm for the subject matter, and believes that by inserting dramatic pauses at certain points he is increasing the sense of wonder and amazement at what he is revealing about notable presidents. But it doesn't work. It just irritates -- me, at least.
As for the subject matter, it's pretty good. It's what you'd expect out of a history course at a good private high school. No problem there, but...well, see above. I thought I'd get used to it after a while, but I'm on chapter six and that hasn't happened yet.
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- J. Houghton "Dead Man Dancing"

Great info but at times lacking a unifying story

Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor Allan J. Lichtman?

Overall: A really good source of information for the lives of 12 Presidents (not just their time in office but the Professor also covered their childhoods, accomplishments prior to being elected, and the remainder of their lives post-Presidency); The selection also allows for a lot of interesting history to be covered throughout the various eras of the country’s history; However, the criteria for “great” wasn’t clearly defined leaving me somewhat perplexed as to why some Presidents (Jackson, Polk, Truman, and Johnson) were selected as “great” and at times I felt like the professor struggled with tying a slew of historical facts into a unifying story or common theme of the President’s greatness

Pluses:
• Good listening included:
o Examples of how these Presidents expanded the power of the presidency beyond what the founding fathers intended and at times the challenges they encountered by the checks and balances system of the U.S. government (such as the Supreme Court)
o The narrative of the U.S.-Mexican War under Polk
o Origins of the various political parties in U.S. history (Federalists, the Democratic Republicans, the Whigs, Democrats, and Republicans)
o The Lyndon B. Johnson lectures
• A really good source of information for the Presidents’ entire life since the lectures didn’t focus just on their time in office but the Professor also covered their childhoods, accomplishments prior to being elected, and the remainder of their lives post-Presidency
• The professor brought a lot of passion to the lectures; It is apparent how much he admires these Presidents

Minuses:
• No clear consistent criteria for defining what makes a President “great”; I understand such a designation is subjective but for argument consistency sake it would’ve been good if the Professor had a set of criteria and rated each President against them (this isn’t to say all great Presidents should have the same specific characteristic since there are different ways to be considered “great”; Indeed I’d imagine if there was a set of say 5 criterion, some of the Presidents would ace some but fail others but at least there would be a more defined way to differentiate Great presidents and other Presidents); For example Polk was included apparently for being one of the few Presidents who was able to achieve everything on his policy agenda (without regard as to whether they were the right policies) and for expanding the territory under US control (even though it was accomplished under rather dubious means); Perhaps “Most Impactful Presidents” or “Presidents of Great Significance” or “Most Studied” would’ve been better titles
• Some of the lectures felt more like a narrative of history of what occurred during the President’s term vs. an attempt to tie it all together in a unifying story to illustrate a common theme about what made that President great


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- Tommy D'Angelo

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-08-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses