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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Everything You Need to Know about US History
- Deep Reader "Learn, understand, then decide whether you accept or reject."
A Wonderful Course on American History
Based on past experiences with the Teaching Company / Great Courses, I have come to expect quite a bit from their courses. With expectations high, I say this course through American history is a winner.
Let's face it: A course of 84 half-hour lectures is long and arduous. Even so, it is not much space and time in which to tell the wildly diverse story of the United States. This course, like most history courses of this scope, is an overview. Overviews, by nature, tend to be cursory and selective. Moreover, while I certainly would not call myself well-read in American history, I have read and taught through various courses/texts on United States history. Thus, even with the overview-type nature of the course and my familiarity with the material, there were *plenty* of insightful, detailed, and connective moments of teaching that were enlightening to me.
The lectures (both in content and selection of materials) betray a moralism that leans toward contemporary Western, liberal, enlightenment-rooted values. This is most evident in the selection and ordering of materials in the later lectures. As an example, here are some lecture titles: "76 - The Vietnam War; 77 - The Women's Movement; 78 - Nixon and Watergate; 79 - Environmentalism." Ordering American history in this way reflects the fragmentation of the history department into myopic partisan attempts at generating their own meta-narratives. This fragmentation seems quite prevalent in the institutions of higher education, certainly at my University. Even so, the professors (all of them) avoid being narrow and partisan (which is one of my expectations of Great Courses). The lectures specifically mentioned above were themselves quite helpful in developing my personal understanding of those particular issues not only by summarizing all the recent partisan historical scholarship (a very helpful thing of itself), but also by connecting the many particular groups and viewpoints with the broader American story. That is, these professors are gifted storytellers. They did a good job of telling all of these partisan stories within the bigger story of American history.
- Tim R. Prussic "I like books. I really like beer. I love Jesus."