Rated 5 out of 5 by Challenger Interesting historical perspective
As the title promises – this course surveys history from a very particular perspective: foreign policy and foreign relations. Professor Liulevicius’ course “War Peace and Power: Diplomatic history of Europe 1500-2000” is the only other course I found in TGC that is interested in this particular angle, but for Europe – and I enjoyed it tremendously. Nearly all other TGC courses on American history focus on the internal dynamics of North America, or more particularly the United States. Even “American Revolution”, “Before 1776: life in the American colonies” devote almost of the time to the internal dynamics in North America although the relationship with Britain is of central importance for the historical narrative of both of these topics. In this sense the course provides a valuable and interesting perspective that complements many of the other courses. Not surprisingly, many of the lectures cover military conflicts and diplomatic maneuverings either for avoiding conflict or for laying the ground for it. Personally, I found the lectures covering the era after the war of 1812 to the beginning of WWI to be the most interesting part of the course, and the part that held the most insights that were new to me. This part covers the concept of “manifest destiny”, the genocide of the native Indians, the Monroe doctrine, the war with Mexico, the war with Spain and the new imperialism.
I enjoyed Professor Stoler’s presentation of the material and found his analysis to be fair-minded and reasonable. He does occasionally express his own opinion, as other reviewers have mentioned, but I did not feel that this was detrimental to the course or created a bias. He was very clear in these cases that he was simply expressing his own opinion and it is no better than anybody else’s opinion.
October 17, 2016
Rated 5 out of 5 by Alabama Excellent overview course
Diplomatic history is one of those areas of American history that is often overlooked or not given the attention or detail, as, for example, political history, military history or social and economic history. Prof. Stoler's course is really excellent, well-delivered and very thorough. Prof. Stoler "ties-in" those loose ends of historical knowledge that may be superficially known, but not with much detail, such as the Louisiana Purchase. While the American negotiators initially only wanted right of passage on the Mississippi River and full access to New Orleans, and were prepared to pay $12 million for that, the events in Napoleonic Europe lead Bonaparte to essentially give-away the entire French held lands in North America for $15 million. In the diplomatic history of the Civil War, Prof. Stoler discusses British and French economic and social policy and the effect on why the European powers essentially took a "hands-off" approach to U.S. and Confederate sides. It is these nuggets of historical fact that makes this course so interesting. Really a good course and well-worth the purchase.
August 28, 2016
Rated 5 out of 5 by TheWaywardAugustine Just a Political Slant shy of Excellence
This is a great course, and one could say that it borders on excellence, but its one great flaw materializes right as it reaches its most relevant part. Professor Mark Stoler has a slant. Its not a big one, and it is one that he makes every effort to hide. It does, however, bleed through at the end. This is not the Professor's fault, however. It is commonly believed in recent circles of international relations academia that Gorbachev was just as important, if not more so, to the collapse of the Soviet Union. In fact, this is fast approaching a position of dominance. No, one cannot blame Stoler. The blame seems to rest entirely upon the shift in politics and new hands at revisionism that has steadily been chipping away at Ronald Reagan and salvaging Jimmy Carter since Bill Clinton left office. It is with that in mind that I ask you not to hold too harsh a judgment on Stoler.
However, one should not take a bias that only really manifests itself in the last two lectures and that never intentionally attempts to manipulate the students as a reason to abandon this course. In fact, even if you had cut this course in half, it would still have been well worth the price. Too often we are given only a generalized view of our nation's diplomatic history, and Professor Stoler goes at length describing the evolution of our nation's international policies in conversation with the broader world. Stoler has a careful and easy way of speaking that allows for his words to sink into you as you go about your day. It is something of a vogue with these courses that quotes are brought forward to illustrate a point, but the selections Stoler chooses are among the most eminently quotable I have ever heard.
So where do we go from here? Well, it ultimately depends on your reasons for purchasing this course. If you desired to learn more about politics and the development of foreign policy, the Great Courses seems to be more than a little short in that regard. However, there are a couple worth mentioning. War, Peace, and Power: A Diplomatic History of Europe is the most directly related course. It is not as good as this one, but it is nonetheless a powerful course. If you were looking more into the evolution of the United States, then the Great Courses is overflowing with resources. The History of the United States is monumental, yet accessible. If you are interested in the conservative tradition, american religious history, or cycles in american political thought, there are courses on them as well. Or, perhaps you'd like a step back and take a look at the big picture? In that case Foundations of Western Civilization II is a fantastic course.
August 9, 2016
Rated 1 out of 5 by Sherri Like sitting in a courtroom
I bought this because of the high reviews and my desire to become more informed about the topic. Maybe my opinion of this lecturer is tainted by the fact that I listened to two other courses by two other lecturers before listening to this one, and both of them were fantastic. It could be that the material would be great (I gave it 3 stars to try to be fair), but the presentation is terrible. He really sounds like he is arguing a case to a jury - about 10% of the time he drops into a mode where for 5 - 10 words he pauses substantially after every word, as if he thinks we'll listen more closely because he is pausing. For the other two courses, I couldn't wait for my next 30 minute car ride to squeak in another lecture, but after the first lecture from this course, I was so disappointed that I did something else for the next few car rides to avoid having to listen to the guy again. After a few days, I gave the second lecture a try, and I found myself watching the clock to see how much longer until the end. When I found that I was dreading having to listen to third one, I decided to cut my losses and just dump this one (hence the low score on value). i guess if you prefer lawyer-style presentation to conversational presentation, this might be a good one.
June 8, 2016