The Skeptic's Guide to American History : The Great Courses: Modern History

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Mark A. Stoler
  • Series: The Great Courses: Modern History
  • 12 hrs and 1 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

To take a skeptical approach to American history is not to dabble in imaginative conspiracy theories; rather, it's to reframe your understanding of this great nation's past and actually strengthen your appreciation for what makes American history such a fascinating chapter in the larger story of Western civilization. And in this bold 24-lecture series, you can do just that.
Travel back in time and examine many commonly held myths and half-truths about American history and prompt yourself to think about what really happened in the nation's past - as opposed to what many believe happened. These lectures demonstrate how reconsidering some of the most popular notions of U.S. history can yield new (and sometimes startlingly different) interpretations of political, social, economic, and military events. But more than just debunking commonly accepted accounts, you'll be able to replace these misconceptions with insightful truths. Exploring both America's history and the verdicts that have been rendered about some of its most enduring figures - including George Washington, John Adams, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and many others - these lectures investigate a wide-ranging list of questions. What impact did other nations have on the American Revolution? Has George Washington always been revered as president? Do we now understand the true blunders in America's Vietnam policies and tactics?
In exploring these and other questions, these lectures prove themselves to be a delightful intellectual experience that will allow you to rethink not just the facts of U.S. history, but also their meaning.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Not much of a skeptic.

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Someone whose only exposure to history is what they 'learned' in public schools. For those with no additional exposure to history this would be an ok starting point, but his skepticism is borderline at best.

Has The Skeptic's Guide to American History turned you off from other books in this genre?


Did the narration match the pace of the story?


If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Skeptic's Guide to American History?

The idiotic explanation of the Great Depression

Any additional comments?

I found this book puerile at best. Professor Stoler has either never heard of, or is deliberately avoiding discussion of some of the most important aspects of American History to wit:
1. the role of the bankers and establishment politicians in destroying the anti-federalist papers, and forcing votes, including kidnapping representatives to obtain a quorum for votes during the constitutional ratification process
2. The extensive correspondence between Robt. E. Lee and Lord Acton concerning the need to rein in the US federal government and the dire consequences for the world if this was not done (how prescient of them!)
3. Anything other than warmed over Keynsian-light economics regarding the Great Depression e.g. Murray Rothbard's tome on that subject, or anything by Von Mises or Von Hayek.
4, the recently declassified documents showing that Roosevelt ordered a course that would force the Japanese to attack including firing all the commanders the month before Pearl Harbor because they objected to their forces being, 'sitting ducks.'

No, this is not a skeptic's history. This is a slight alteration of the standard government issued history.

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- P. Smith "ps"

Let Go of the Grade-School Storybook History

You do know all that stuff you learned about American history in school was simplified, right? And, in a certain sense, it was propaganda: a narrative intended, in this case, to give young people the feeling that they are heirs to a righteous cause, whether we were opponents of tyranny, barbaric natives, evil slave-owners, socialists, or you-name-it. We were always on the right side of history and history can be understood as an epic struggle between we good people and our evil enemies.

Furthermore, even as adults, we tend to look back on events of the past with our own understanding of what followed or the way things are now and assume that we are in a position to understand. (How many times in a given month do we hear two groups invoking the Founding Fathers, for example, drawing wildly different conclusions about what that means? Or, hear that appeasement is a terrible idea and as Chamberlain demonstrated with the Nazis, only gives the enemy time to amass strength for an inevitable conflagration?)

We don't necessarily bring any new knowledge when we draw these conclusions, but when they seem to match our beliefs about the world, we assume they must be accurate. Those mistaken conclusions (and assumptions) become difficult to let go of, even when we are presented with new opinions of working historians who find new, compelling information that contradicts us. This lecture series is for adults who are ready to let go of the storybook history in exchange for a more complex, nuanced understanding of history.

I loved this lecture series. I looked forward to the next time I could sit down and listen to one of them. Each one was full of the context I needed to understand why what I had always believed about American history may not actually be what historians, with the fullness of time, have come to believe about it. I also found the Professor's presentation enthusiastic and easy to follow. Excellent lecture series all around.
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Book Details

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