This comprehensive series of 84 lectures features three award-winning historians sharing their insights into this nation's past - from the European settlement and the Revolutionary War through the Civil War, 19th-century industrialization, two world wars, and the present day.
While American history spans not much more than two centuries, it is filled with a wealth of leaders, wars, movements, inventions, and ideas - each of which contributed in its own unique way to America's transformation from 13 disparate colonies on the east coast of North America into a global superpower.
These lectures give you the opportunity to grasp the different aspects of our past that combine to make us distinctly American, and to gain the knowledge so essential to recognizing not only what makes this country such a noteworthy part of world history, but the varying degrees to which it has lived up to its ideals.
The lectures chart the five predominant themes that run throughout the chronicle of U.S. history:
The American passion for freedom-including religious, political, and economic freedom.
The pursuit of education, which has been the quintessential way for Americans to invent (and reinvent) themselves.
The unquestioned faith in the value of popular government.
The willingness of Americans to experiment with and adapt to new environments and situations.
The belief that the United States is a "city on the hill," a country the likes of which the world has never seen before.
Placing familiar historical events in the context of these overarching themes will help you see American history less as a series of separate events and more as a mosaic in which everything is interconnected.
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Had its Ups and Downs
It is hard to review this course in whole since the three professors’ styles are so different but while I was hoping for more (the treatment of some events felt lacking) the course certainly covers other areas very well.
Professor Guelzo (Lectures 1-36) - Colonization to mid 19th century
Professor Gallagher (Lectures 37-48) - American Civil War era
Professor Allitt (Lectures 49-84) - Late 19th century into the 21st century
- It felt like almost no detail of American history was left out in his comprehensive and expansive survey; Surprisingly it did not start with England’s colonial expeditions but the expeditions of Europe, in general, of North and South America
- The Professor was passionate about the content, had a fondness for the characters, and could tell a good story/successfully leave you at a dramatic cliffhanger
- Lecture 9 on the French and Indian War
- While Professor Guelzo is a great story-teller and cliff-hanger master, at times his penchant for dramatizing just about everything and using longer than usual sentences made it difficult at times to follow certain points without rewinding; There were times I’d rather the professor had stated straight facts about an event or results of an event vs overdramatizing since it seemed like certain facts were either missing or got lost in the “story”
- He is one of my favorite lecturers in the Great Courses stable (along with Professor Vandiver) and delivered an excellent detailed narrative of the origins of the Civil War, the military history of the war, and study into non-military events such as the emancipation, life on the home front, the diplomatic front, etc.
- Lecture 46 on Reconstruction after Civil War
- He provided a great detailed narrative that is pretty straight forward making it easy to understand
- The professor had a habit of modulating his voice between speaking really low to really loud; He’d start a sentence too loud and end it too low; This made it very difficult at times to select a volume that would prevent me from having difficulty hearing him without being annoyed by the loud bursts
- Professor Allitt did a good job of articulating the evolution and transformation of society from an isolationist, primarily agricultural country to the highly industrialized world power the US had become
- Lectures 62-63 on World War I
- Lecture 84 Reflections and main themes (this course had one of the best concluding lectures I've listened to)
- For the most part I couldn’t get into his lectures: I was hoping he’d provide more background or facts around certain historical events (vs. in some cases treating events in passing like the Spanish-American War)
- He concluded his lectures in a somewhat abrupt manner: there wasn’t much summation of the key points of the lecture or a preview of what the next lecture had in store so there were times when the professor would make a point and suddenly there’d be applause to mark the end of the lecture without any warning that it was winding down!
Overall: I found "Turning Points in American History" a much better course on U.S. history but I also can't say this was a bad course. Was it worth my time? I'm still sort of undecided. There certainly was good but when it is dispersed among 42 hours and there is also alot of other time when I felt myself zoning out, I'm not too sure of my final feelings on this course.
- Tommy D'Angelo