American Revolution

Course No. 8514
Professor Allen C. Guelzo, Ph.D.
Princeton University
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Course No. 8514
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Course Overview

Has there ever been a more unlikely war than the Revolution that won America its independence?

Why did those 13 colonies, with nothing resembling a unified and trained army and with no navy to speak of, believe they could defeat the most powerful nation on the planet?

And why was Britain, no matter how powerful, confident that it could prevail, even though burdened with a 3,000-mile supply line for troops and provisions, a "circuit of command" for time-critical orders that could consume three months or more, and the constant need to divert its forces, whether to protect against slave uprisings in the Caribbean or against the looming threat of the French on both sides of the Atlantic?

Considerations like these are indicative of just how unlikely this conflict was, Professor Allen C. Guelzo notes in his gripping new course The American Revolution. And they are far from the only ones.

Why did the British fight the way they did, "served up by seemingly unthinking generals in solid rows of walking targets while the Americans crouched Indian-style behind rocks and trees"? Why did the Americans end up fighting this same way?

Why did George Washington, in an uncharacteristically fractious move, lash out angrily at his troops, labeling them misfits and mutineers?

What moved King George III, even after Cornwallis had surrendered at Yorktown, to ask his secretary of state for America to put on paper the "mode which seems most feasible for conducting the war," clinging to a belief that the Americans might yet be subdued?

And, finally, who really deserves the credit for defeating the British army?

Was it the Continentals, gamely overcoming all odds? Was it the French, entering on the American side not purely out of friendship but also as a first step in converting Britain's colonies into their own? Or was it perhaps both of these factors-along with weather, terrain, timing, and sheer luck? Above all, why was the American Revolution really won not in America at all, but in the Caribbean?

As Professor Guelzo explains the answers to these and many other questions, you find yourself gaining a fresh understanding of the factors that made America's victory possible.

You see how issues such as logistics and the human factor can influence strategy, tactics, and the course of battle. Or how happenstance can prove even more important than either of those key factors. And you gain an appreciation of how opposing sides can experience completely different perceptions of the same conflict-with key decisions influenced by those differing perceptions.

Beginning with a clear presentation of what Jefferson referred to in the Declaration of Independence as "the causes which impel [the Colonies] to the separation," Professor Guelzo presents a startlingly vivid narrative about the war for independence.

Although built on a solid foundation of the principles and politics underlying the conflict, The American Revolution is primarily about what Professor Guelzo calls the conflict's "actual mechanics as a Revolution-an armed uprising against the most dominant military power in the world."

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    The Imperial Crisis, 1763–1773
    Driven close to financial collapse by the French and Indian War, England turns for help to the colonies that had fought at its side. The new taxes—imposed without representation—outrage a people who had considered themselves fully English. x
  • 2
    The Ancient Constitution
    Britain's understanding of its ancient—although unwritten—style of government places it at odds with that of its colonists, who see in John Locke's theories not a hypothetical "thought experiment," but an argument for autonomy. x
  • 3
    "A Soldier What's Fit for a Soldier"
    What were the typical British soldier and officer like? How were troops organized and equipped? You meet the forces expected to maintain order in the increasingly rebellious colonies. x
  • 4
    "How the British Regulars Fired and Fled"
    As tensions escalate and the first Continental Congress convenes, King George III finally heeds a request for reinforcements. Nevertheless, the British sorely underestimate American militia and suffer a humiliating defeat at Lexington and Concord. x
  • 5
    Standoff in Boston, 1775
    As Benedict Arnold helps win a key victory at New York's Fort Ticonderoga, the Second Continental Congress authorizes a new army under George Washington, a soldier and gentleman farmer well aware of the implications of the conflict, including the risk of potentially rebellious slaves. x
  • 6
    Bunker Hill
    Could rebel militia stand up to British regulars? The answer comes at a brutal battle where the British pay dearly for their "victory." Nevertheless, Washington arrives to find disorganization, overconfidence, and a reluctance to set aside regional differences in favor of a national army. x
  • 7
    The King, the Conqueror, and the Coward
    Ignoring the reconciliation implied by the colonies' Olive Branch Petition, the king and Parliament effectively declare war. On either side of the Atlantic, British leadership believes the many Americans still loyal to the Crown will bring victory. x
  • 8
    Conquering Canada, Reconquering Boston
    An American plan to conquer Canada nearly succeeds and costs Britain half its regulars. But even after the arrival of British reinforcements, American forces pull off a stunning improvisation: the overland transport of critical artillery, captured at Fort Ticonderoga, to Boston. x
  • 9
    Common Sense
    While poor communication, unclear objectives, and the uncertainty of participation by southern Loyalists hamper Britain's strategies, another force comes into play—an extraordinarily popular pamphlet that helps turn the tide of American opinion toward the independence made official on July 4, 1776. x
  • 10
    An Army Falls in Brooklyn
    The optimism of July 4th proves short-lived. Washington's army is poorly manned, poorly supplied, and poorly trained, and his officers have little practical experience. Even worse, an incorrect reading of British intentions leads to a disastrous defeat and a retreat to Brooklyn. x
  • 11
    "A Glorious Issue"
    With New York occupied by the British, Nathan Hale captured and hanged as a spy, and Washington's troops on the run, Thomas Paine provides inspiration with a new pamphlet, The American Crisis, and Washington provides further hope with a surprise victory at Trenton. x
  • 12
    Joy in Princeton
    After additional successes—again at Trenton and then at Princeton—a break in combat gives Washington time to reorganize his army, by building on a touching appeal for reenlistments. Britain, meanwhile, learns the Loyalists and fence sitters are badly shaken. x
  • 13
    "Congress Are Not a Fit Body"
    In March 1777, the Continental Congress faces new tasks, including establishing, outfitting, and managing an army. Unable to solve these challenges, the delegates blame the costly army—and Washington—and move to ally with France. x
  • 14
    "America Is Not Subdued"
    News of Trenton and Princeton forces an unwelcome reassessment by Parliament of the requirements for victory. British Major General John Burgoyne is put in charge of his own strategy of invading from Canada, but things do not go according to plan. x
  • 15
    "A Day Famous in the Annals of America"
    Burgoyne suffers a series of defeats and surrenders near Albany. The news energizes parliamentary opposition to the war, but the king is unmoved. Then comes more bad news: The Americans have signed a treaty with the French. x
  • 16
    "Not Yet the Air of Soldiers"
    General William Howe, British commander in chief in America, sails from Staten Island, intent on reaching Philadelphia. Washington blocks his way but suffers a series of defeats. Even news of a great American victory by Horatio Gates at Saratoga carries rumors of threats to Washington's command. x
  • 17
    With Washington at Valley Forge
    Washington settles in for the winter of 1777–1778. Although there are no battles, he must deal with shortages of clothing, housing, and food as well as attempts by Gates and others to undermine his authority in Congress. There is one victory—new treaties with France. x
  • 18
    The Widening War
    For the British, the possibility of French intervention heightens costs and logistical strain and requires a redeployment of naval forces to protect its West Indies interests. x
  • 19
    The French Menace
    With efforts to create an American navy stymied, the bulk of the French intervention will be carried by her navy, which proves a distraction to the British. x
  • 20
    Vain Hopes in the Carolinas
    The British believe victory might lie southward, but they cannot depend on the Loyalists. x
  • 21
    "The Americans Fought Like Demons"
    Nathanael Greene is appointed to take over the southern army after Gates's defeat at Camden. His innovative strategies are successful, ultimately forcing British general Cornwallis to admit that the Americans can "fight like demons." x
  • 22
    The Reward of Loyalty
    Indian tribes loyal to Britain suffered the worst. On the American side, there was mutiny by the Pennsylvania Continentals and the betrayal of Benedict Arnold. x
  • 23
    A Sword for General Washington
    Cornwallis moves into Virginia to cut off Greene's supply and recruiting and to establish a naval station. But he underestimates American and French strength. x
  • 24
    "It Is All Over"
    The course concludes with the fates of the war's major figures and a summation of what the conflict meant to most Americans. x

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What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Download 24 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
Instant Audio Includes:
  • Download 24 audio lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 160-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 160-page printed course guidebook
  • Maps and Battle Plans
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider

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Your professor

Allen C. Guelzo

About Your Professor

Allen C. Guelzo, Ph.D.
Princeton University
Dr. Allen C. Guelzo is the Senior Research Scholar in the Council of the Humanities and Director of the Initiative on Politics and Statesmanship in the James Madison Program at Princeton University. He holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Pennsylvania. Among garnering other honors, he has received the Medal of Honor from the Daughters of the American Revolution. He is a member of the National Council on...
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Reviews

American Revolution is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 133.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative. I recently finished Rick Atkinson's excellent "The British Are Coming", volume one in his planned trilogy, so I thought Professor Guelzo's course would add some additional insight. I wasn't disappointed because I think the course is terrific. I was taken aback by some of the overly harsh and condescending negative reviews. I guess that some reviewers are just trying to show how smart THEY are.
Date published: 2019-08-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Subject You Think You Know... But, trust me, you don't. It's like a great mystery you know the ending to but just how do they get to that Great Ending. That's the great story.
Date published: 2019-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thank you, Professor Guelzo! An actor/educator, who portrays Abigail Adams, I continually study the best materials, to help excite the public about our country’s history. This superior video lecture series is relayed with passion, by Professor Guelzo. His style is engaging, and the course is jam packed with detail. Educational, enjoyable, excellent!
Date published: 2019-06-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from absolutely first rate, Great overall concept. would definately reccommend
Date published: 2019-05-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Good Course I am not done with it yet, but so far I am very happy with what I've seen so far....
Date published: 2019-04-27
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointed First off, I want to thank The Great Courses for all the courses they offer. I am highly appreciative of the continued opportunity to learn. I have ordered from them multiple courses, enjoyed them all, and have not reviewed...but I am prompted to do so now. So, here is my personal review of this particular course. I have read most of the previous critical reviews, and found them to be mostly in line with my views. My biggest complaint would be with the Professor himself. I did not care - at all - for his manner of reiteration of events, not the material he presented. I felt as if I were a young child being told a bedtime story. I also felt the most enjoyment gained was that of the Professor listening to himself as he spoke. I was hoping for a matter-of-fact approach. The professor would emphasize almost every sentence and attach his own importance to what he was speaking about. I had difficulty maintaining my focus on the material. Anyway, I will leave it at that. This was my first time to really learn about the American Revolution. So I was ready to absorb all that was going on in the colonies during this time: the planning, strategies, tactics, battles won and lost, etc. However, my expectations were not met. After Lecture 14, I have come away thinking this course is for someone who already has a good working knowledge of the American Revolution, who is more interested in knowing that the debts of a British commander was paid off (years prior to the Revolution) by his father-in-law, what ship carried a letter from England to America, what ship this commander stepped off of upon his arrival back to America, the brigade numbers that fought under various commanders, etc... I felt some of the Lectures did not advance my knowledge at all of the events of the Revolution...hence my disappointment so far. In my opinion, there are too many side stories being told about the various British players which I felt was not needed. I am hoping Lectures 15 to 24 can offer a more focused and factual information as it relates to the meaningful events of the Revolution, without the Professor going off on tangents with what I consider superfluous information. Unfortunately, I don't believe I would buy another course presented by this particular Professor.
Date published: 2019-04-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from American Revolution Always enjoy Professor Guelzo. Learned a few things I didn't know.
Date published: 2019-04-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Encyclopedic in scope I wanted to gain a better understanding of early American history. This series definitely fit the bill. My only reservation is that I wished it had more pictures. I played 3 lessons at a time, and the paucity of illustrations was ok, since I sewed while “watching.” In a short time, I will re-watch the videos, one at a time. By so doing, I hope to pick up on more details than I absorbed the first viewing.
Date published: 2019-03-18
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