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This was a very worthy addition to the Great Courses, soberly teasing apart a complicated, multi-sided tangle of action, reaction, understanding, and misunderstandings. Its attention to the oft-neglected period between Pilgrims and Stamp Acts was especially welcome.
Mancall does an excellent job, too, of capturing how even individuals--such as Franklin, Adams, and Hutchison--could be divided in their own minds at a time when the right was not so clear and battle lines had yet to harden, as well as the familiar interpersonal debates. A testimony to the thoughtfulness exhibited on many sides of the issue of revolution.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?
I purchased this course because I felt the other major American Revolution courses (“The History of the United States” and “The American Revolution”) did not cover the major events preceding (the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, Lexington and Concord) and post (Creation of the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution) armed conflict in enough depth. When I saw that this course dedicated entire lectures to each event I thought I found my answer. Unfortunately, the opposite occurred: the pace of the course was too slow and the Professor spent too much time on the minutia detail of government proclamations and resolutions vs. the events themselves.
While there were good morsels of information presented, too often they were scattered across portions of the course that seemed to drag out. Portions that were too heavy with minutia such as the details (and wording) of government resolutions when the professor could have made his points in less time. For example the main theme of 7 early lectures was to express the idea that the colonies were self ruled and the system worked up until the 1760's because of the partnership between the British and the colonists led to economic successes. Did we really need 7 lectures to establish this?
An ideal course length felt like it should be 24 lectures. Combine that with the Professor staying away from reading all of the details of the various government proclamations and resolutions and this may have come out as a much more interesting and engaging course.
If you are extremely interested in the words of the revolutionaries (and the loyalists) themselves be it diaries, pamphlets, or government documents/resolutions then you may find this course worthwhile. If you are more interested in the events of this period and the general story they told then I would recommend “The American Revolution”.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
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“The American colonists believed that they, as British subjects, had a right for representation in any body that would to subject them to taxation.” Everyone knows this! Repeat this phrase over and over and you have this course. There is no attempt to seriously look at the conflicting ideologies that are at play here. The colonists are continually represented as a homogeneous block that have the same reaction to everything, as is the British government.
There were 20 British colonies in North America at the time- why did 7 of them not join with the 13? What did people living there think about what was happening? What was the thinking in colonies with a very different origin, such as the Floridas and Quebec? What did the citizens of the UK think? What was the rational for those in the UK who agreed with the dissent and spoke up? What debate was there in Parliament? What did the Government and King think about the direct appeals to them? Approx 20% of colonists were loyalists, who were they and what was their rational? Others were neutral, why is that? Why were troops from Hesse there, and what did they think? The French are mentioned, but essentially entirely from the point of view of Franklin, what were their ideologies and motivations? To have a lecture on ‘African Americans’, and yet not even mention the Dunmore Proclamation, or indeed the point of view of a single black person and instead solely focus on the rebel leaders’ views on slavery is completely unacceptable! All the above are excluded, apart from lone fleeting mentions of Hutchinson. Whigs and Tories are mentioned as terms, with no explanation of what these fundamental terms mean!
It's not just the views of groups external to the rebels that are completely ignored. What about other issues apart from taxation/representation? No mention whatsoever about the drive for westward expansion, or migration as motivators except when he reads them out as part of the Declaration of Independence! There's no attempt to look at different factions amongst the rebels: every colonist is presented as a rebel with exactly the same motivations and reactions, with a brief mention of Dickinson as exception. I give some kudos for going beyond the strict end date, but again we have the same wilful rejection of any wider view. The American Revolution was a direct precursor to the French Revolution, how did the ideas transfer and adapt? Similarly for the next 30 years of the Latin American Wars of Independence. The British Empire significantly restructured how it ran colonies as a result of the Revolution, how did the ideals influence this and impact on the thoughts of those living in other colonies? In fairness the lectures on women and native Americans are good, and do at least attempt to look at other views. But it is far too little too late.
What disappoints is the praise heaped in reviews on the content, with the criticism reserved for the fact that he spends too much time reading out texts; compared to the gaping holes in terms of subject matter this hardly matters! Every nation has its foundational myths and the Founding Fathers are, in US society, idolized to such an extent that any view other than theirs is unthinkable, as Prof Mancall admits. I hadn't expected an impartial discussion of the interplaying ideologies, but just that some analysis of them would be present. I expect this level of blinkered disinterest in the rest of the world or in any counter-narratives at high school level, I’m just amazed that such lazy academic thinking exists at alleged undergraduate level as well. The logic that history is written by the winners, so why bother to examine any other point of view?
5 of 5 people found this review helpful