America's Founding Fathers

In partnership with
Professor Allen C. Guelzo, Ph.D.
Princeton University
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106 Reviews
94% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 8525
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What Will You Learn?

  • Get a clear new perspective on the complex story of the U.S. Constitution.
  • Discover why we still argue over the meaning and interpretation of the Constitution.
  • Learn the important role played by often overlooked Founders including Elbridge Gerry and Aaron Burr.
  • Examine the fierce political arguments between Founders like Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton.
  • Understand the key role played by committees during the Constitutional Convention.

Course Overview

The story of America’s founding—great men who debated, argued, persuaded, and negotiated their way to the U.S. Constitution—is as dramatic and instructive as any in the nation’s history. And there is no better way to tell the story of the Founding Fathers than by pairing an eminent U.S. historian with the very institution that is most synonymous with American history, the Smithsonian.

These men —Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, and many others—are larger than life in our collective memory, having near-mythical status. Similarly, The U.S. Constitution is the oldest continually-operating instrument of government anywhere in the world serving as the backbone to the world’s most powerful democracy. Yet, few among us realize just how turbulent, contentious, even suspenseful the process was to draft and ratify it. That’s why The Great Courses and Smithsonian have joined forces to tell how this crucial drama in Western history unfolded.

Professor Allen C. Guelzo of Gettysburg College, whose Great Courses on U.S. history are among our most popular and highly rated, worked in close collaboration with the Smithsonian’s own curators of early American history to present a three-dimensional picture of the men who powered this unprecedented journey from colonies to nation and the resulting U.S. Constitution.

The truth is that the Founders were flawed, contradictory people with their own radical views on what America’s new government should look like. Through their lives, opinions, and deeds, one can see just how messy and rancorous a process was the formation of a “more perfect union.” By understanding this messiness, by seeing the creation of the Constitution as a process fraught with controversy and compromise, you can better appreciate just how much a miracle of government the U.S. Constitution is, and why we’re still arguing over it hundreds of years later. Now, more than ever, any well-informed citizen should understand how the Constitution lives, breathes, and endures.

America’s Founding Fathers is a deep dive into the creation of the U.S. Constitution as it actually happened – not as many are led to believe it happened. Professor Guelzo delivers 36 compelling lectures on the remarkable men who played their own unique role in the creation (and survival) of American democracy. Using the Founding Fathers as a lens through which to see powerful truths about the early political history of the United States, you’ll better understand both the document under which Americans live and the people who brought it into being.

Into the Forge of American Democracy

Designed as a chronological narrative and richly supported by images and artifacts from the Smithsonian’s unparalleled collections of historical Americana, giving you a multifaceted experience you can’t get without visiting the Smithsonian museums in Washington D.C., America’s Founding Fathers takes you from the closing days of the American Revolution to the opening decades of the United States under the newly created U.S. Constitution. While these 36 lectures are detailed, they are highly accessible for all learners, from high school students to retired history buffs.

Told like the dramatic, turbulent story that it is, each lecture uses an individual Founder as a doorway through which to examine the process involved in crafting the Constitution. Less a biography of individuals, Professor Guelzo’s course is instead a composite biography of one of the greatest political documents in history.

  • Struggling and Questioning: The Articles of Confederation, crafted during the chaos of the American Revolution, was fast becoming an out-of-touch document at the start of the American experiment. In a series of lectures on the men who questioned the Articles, you’ll learn how the Founders quickly understood just how untenable they were for solving serious crises facing the new nation, and how they worked both separately and in concert to replace the Articles with someone more solid and sound.
  • Convening and Ratifying: You’ll plunge into the forge of American democracy, namely the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Professor Guelzo helps you make sense of the tempest of arguments waged and committees established over representation, a new national executive, the issue of slavery, and human rights. You’ll also learn about the struggle for state ratification of the proposed constitution, in some ways an even more arduous task than drafting a new government.
  • Governing and Evolving: The story doesn’t end with the official ratification of the U.S. Constitution. The new government had to adjust to a new set of rules – and, in some cases, work tirelessly to change or adapt them. Once the U.S. Constitution was put into place, the nation saw the rise of political parties, the increasing connection of the new nation with Christianity, the dawn of a new national character, the creation of a national army, international conflicts, and domestic acts of treason.

The 36 Men Who Made America

What makes America’s Founding Fathers such an interesting way to probe the story of the U.S. Constitution is Professor Guelzo’s use of the perspective of these historic figures as fresh angles on unknown or often unconsidered perspectives. Familiar or unfamiliar, these 36 individuals were each, in their own way, integral to what makes the Constitution the complex document it is today. Each profile of these significant figures and their contributions is supplemented with images from Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of American History, giving a human dimension to near-mythic figures such as:

  • Thomas Jefferson: Enlightenment philosophers like Locke, Montesquieu, and Adam Smith were crucial to the political ideology of Thomas Jefferson, and helped him see the glaring inadequacies of the Articles of Confederation.
  • Elbridge Gerry: As head of the Constitutional Convention’s Grand Committee, Elbridge Gerry helped to settle the question of what America’s new Congress would look like and how representation would be distributed among the two branches.
  • Alexander Hamilton: The Federalist Papers were so named by Alexander Hamilton as a daring act of aggression to give him the high ground over the anti-Constitutionalists, who saw themselves as defenders of federalism.
  • John Marshall: A veteran of the Continental Army, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall did not hesitate to use the federal judiciary, in landmark cases like Marbury v. Madison, to save the republic from the dangers of Republicanism.
  • James McHenry: As Secretary of War under John Adams, James McHenry put the nation’s army and navy into play for the first time. His aim was to dispel the fantasy that professional armies were the enemy of the republic and militias its only salvation.
  • Aaron Burr: The case that resulted from the “assassin” Aaron Burr’s infamous duel with Alexander Hamilton (in which the latter was killed) actually highlighted the willingness of the Constitution to protect the liberties even of those who meant it harm.
  • James Madison: The last Founder to serve as president, James Madison’s tenure was subsumed by the War of 1812, a national catastrophe that history now looks on as an obscure conflict for which the United States of America was ill-prepared.
  • Alexis de Tocqueville: In his Democracy in America, the French writer Alexis de Tocqueville found that the glue holding the American republic together was not virtue so much as self-interest (which also made equality more important than liberty).

A Battle Still Being Waged

Professor Guelzo is acclaimed by Great Courses customers for his engaging, dramatic delivery. And as a New York Times bestselling author whose books have won numerous awards, including the Lincoln Prize, he knows how to craft a story. One of our most highly rated professors, he transforms stories of meetings, arguments, and committees into a grand narrative of political intrigue, philosophical dilemmas, and international tension.

Professor Guelzo’s lectures are packed with information and insights you won’t find in a cursory reading of a history textbook. And this course offers something few other historical surveys can: the combination of a dynamic professor with the unrivaled American history collections and expertise of the Smithsonian. Thanks to unprecedented access to their archives and expert guidance, the video version of this course features historic portraits from the National Portrait Gallery, important historical documents and artifacts from the National Museum of American History, and highlights some of the most eminent quotes in American history.

Free government, according to Professor Guelzo, is an awkward, constantly-adjusting dance between liberty and power that doesn’t take efficiency into account. “But the Founders were not concerned with efficiency,” he says. “They were concerned with liberty. And they knew that its life was always precarious.”

America’s Founding Fathers invites you to experience this precarious, tense battle between power and liberty – a battle that’s still being waged, and that will be waged for decades to come.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 29 minutes each
  • 1
    George Washington's Doubts
    Could the American experiment succeed? George Washington, one of the most iconic Founders, had strong doubts. After explaining the importance of getting a well-rounded understanding of the Founders, Professor Guelzo explores Washington's fears about post-Revolutionary America and his concerns about how people could administer their own affairs. x
  • 2
    Thomas Mifflin's Congress
    Before the ratification of the Constitution, there were presidents not of the United States but of the Congress created by the Articles of Confederation. As you'll discover, the failures of one president, Thomas Mifflin, offer a window into the potent problems facing the United States of America in 1783. x
  • 3
    Robert Morris's Money
    Money issues abounded in the new United States. Why was the abundance of land (and the lack of hard coin) such a problem? What compelled states to print so much of their own unsecure paper money? How did Robert Morris attempt to restore the links between commerce, agriculture, and government finances? x
  • 4
    Benjamin Franklin's Leather Apron
    No one in the 1780s defined the idea of an “American” as much as Benjamin Franklin. Here, explore the many roles Franklin played in the formative years of the republic: as independent printer, public “gentleman,” nobleman of nature, and tradesman cynical of the wealthy and powerful. x
  • 5
    Thomas Jefferson's Books
    Explore how books by Enlightenment thinkers like John Locke and Adam Smith influenced Thomas Jefferson's political philosophy. Also, consider Jefferson's fierce critiques of religion and commerce, and the ways he nevertheless betrayed (as a large-scale slave owner) the Enlightenment principles he held so dear. x
  • 6
    Daniel Shays's Misbehavior
    Shays's Rebellion would spark unease not just about tax increases and their impact on landowners - but on the entire Confederation. As you follow this dramatic insurgency and its fascinating leader, you'll learn how Shays's Rebellion prompted many to consider a strong government as essential to liberty and property. x
  • 7
    Alexander Hamilton's Republic
    Professor Guelzo takes you inside Alexander Hamilton's views about the American Republic: the fictions of hierarchy and aristocracy; the voluntary compact between rulers and ruled; the division of power into small packets; and his suspicions of the behavior of the Confederation Congress. x
  • 8
    James Madison's Conference
    How did James Madison become the prime mover of the United States Constitution? The key, it turns out, is a 1786 conference he organized between several states. Originally intended to discuss commercial regulations, the assembly would transform into a deliberation over how to put the Confederation out of business. x
  • 9
    Patrick Henry's Religion
    Come to see Patrick Henry in a new light: as the most self-contradictory—and most often defeated—Founder. Topics include the influence on Henry of the Reverend Samuel Davies, how the Awakeners shaped his brilliant oratorical skills, the public funding of Christianity, and his unremarkable accomplishments as governor of Virginia. x
  • 10
    James Madison's Vices
    In a private study, James Madison detailed what he called “the vices of the political system of the United States.” Here, explore these vices, including state failure to comply with constitutional requisitions and the provincial nature of state legislatures. Also, examine his most important suggestions for a new frame of government. x
  • 11
    Edmund Randolph's Plan
    Go inside the start of the Constitutional Convention, where you'll learn how and why the Founders assembled to craft a new, improved system of government. Central to this was the plan set out by Edmund Randolph, which aimed at stopping a jealous Congress or greedy state legislatures from destroying it. x
  • 12
    William Paterson's Dissent
    One speech by William Paterson, a member of the New Jersey delegation, halted the Randolph Plan from sailing smoothly to adoption. What were Paterson's arguments? Why did he support a simple amendment to the Articles of Confederation instead of a rewrite? What did his alternative plan look like? x
  • 13
    Roger Sherman's Compromise
    Turn to a moment of great exhaustion at the Constitutional Convention: a deadlock between the New Jersey and Virginia plans for a national government. Roger Sherman's compromise of two branches of government (one equal, one proportional) would play an important role in moving the debate forward. x
  • 14
    Elbridge Gerry's Committee
    Discover how the report by the Convention’s Grand Committee, chaired by Elbridge Gerry, ended the first great battle over the U.S. Constitution. As you’ll find out, it settled for good what the American Congress would look like – but also raised an issue that would soon dominate the debates: slavery. x
  • 15
    James Wilson's Executive
    Turn now to the next great issue facing the Convention: the shape of the new national executive. After pondering some of the concerns and fears the delegates had about executive power, you'll focus on James Wilson's argument for the need of an executive chosen not by Congress but by national election. x
  • 16
    John Rutledge's Committee
    John Rutledge’s Committee of Detail answered the call to help answer unresolved questions about the role of the national executive. Here, learn how “Dictator John” helped develop a working document that included a number of features now seen as the cornerstone of American constitutionalism. x
  • 17
    Rufus King's Slaves
    It was Rufus King who, at the debates, questioned the admission of slaves into the rule of representation. First, explore the dissonance between liberty and slavery in the new United States. Then, come to see how Rufus King predicted the angry tiger slavery would become in America. x
  • 18
    David Brearley's Postponed Parts
    The Committee on Postponed Parts, headed by David Brearley, was the Convention's most effective committee. Its business, as you'll learn, was to reconcile demands about the shape of the new national president. You'll also learn about the Committee on Style, whose sole task was to wordsmith the Convention's agreements into a single document. x
  • 19
    John Dunlap and David Claypoole's Broadside
    One day after the Constitutional Convention ended, the document was printed in 500 copies by John Dunlap and David Claypoole and shared with the general public. What happened next? How did George Washington use a cover letter to mitigate shock? How did the Founders brace themselves for the inevitable state conventions? x
  • 20
    Alexander Hamilton's Papers
    Chief Justice John Marshall would call the Federalist Papers the “complete commentary on our constitution.” Here, Professor Guelzo explains the daring act of aggression these lanmark political writings were, and outlines the six themes Hamilton (under the pseudonym “Publius”) believed would demonstrate the indispensability of the new constitution. x
  • 21
    Patrick Henry's Convention
    The fate of the new constitution depending on the state ratifying conventions. And because Virginia's consent was necessary to make the overall ratification process work, neutralizing Patrick Henry was the Federalists' most important task. Go inside the battleground of the ratifying convention at Richmond on June 2, 1788. x
  • 22
    George Washington's Inaugural
    First, examine hurdles to electing George Washington as the first president of the United States. Then, follow the story of how the Constitution finally got its bill of rights, and how this task was undertaken by the one man who most vehemently opposed such a bill: James Madison. x
  • 23
    Alexander Hamilton's Reports
    As the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton had the responsibility of handling the new nation's foreign, state, and domestic debts. In this lecture, learn how Hamilton saw debt not as a problem but an asset, and discover how he argued for the establishment of a national bank. x
  • 24
    Thomas Jefferson's Party
    In the past, Thomas Jefferson denounced political parties. Now, after the ratification of the Constitution, he began to form the nation's first political party. Discover how he did this by assembling allies, appealing selected individuals to run for Congress, and playing for control of the media. x
  • 25
    William Findley's Whiskey
    Whiskey, on the frontier of the early Republic, was a major business. So when the national government proposed an excise tax on whiskey, it led to the Whiskey Rebellion. Go back to the summer of 1794 and meet William Findley, a self-styled republican who saw Republican societies as vehicles for political strategy. x
  • 26
    Benjamin Banneker's Survey
    How was the location of the nation's new capital decided upon? How were the streets of Washington organized? What happened when Washington asked Congress for money? It all started, as you'll learn, with Benjamin Banneker's surveying mission of the iconic site on the eastern branch of the Anacostia River. x
  • 27
    John Jay's Treaty
    With a new nation came new international crises. In this lecture, go inside the 28 articles of John Jay's eponymous treaty with Great Britain, which addressed unfinished business from the Treaty of Paris, and the subsequent uproar that gave a boost to polarization between America's political parties. x
  • 28
    John Adams's Liberty
    According to Professor Guelzo, if George Washington was the heart of republic, John Adams was its brain. Follow the Founder as he becomes the first vice president, then the second president of the nation, where he suffers catastrophic blunders that sap him of any political advantages he once had. x
  • 29
    Hector Saint John de Crèvecoeur’s Americans
    Crevècoeur’s Letters from an American Farmer presented Americans at the end of the 18th century as a people unlike any other nation. From this starting point, explore the demographics of the early United Sates, witness the early stirrings of abolitionist and women’s suffrage movements, and probe America’s cultural fear of strangers. x
  • 30
    Timothy Dwight's Religion
    Timothy Dwight, a president at Yale University, played a pivotal role in cementing the early nation's ties with the Christian faith. Come to see how Christianity, when defined and defended as a virtue, was seen by Dwight and others as a necessary component of republican government. x
  • 31
    James McHenry's Army
    Meet another often-overlooked Founder, Secretary of War James McHenry, who was responsible for putting the nation's army into play for the first time. Despite political backstabbing, and against the backdrop of the Quasi-War with France, McHenry brought about military changes still with us today. x
  • 32
    Thomas Jefferson's Frustration
    Focus on some of the many conflicts between Thomas Jefferson’s political philosophies and the reality of American life. Chief among these was his belief that an economy based on the virtuous independent farmer had no need of imports or exports – which led to the controversial Embargo Act of 1807. x
  • 33
    Aaron Burr's Treason
    Aaron Burr's duel with Alexander Hamilton, resulting the latter's death, is one of the most infamous chapters in the history of the Founding Fathers. But, as you'll learn, what's equally important is what happened next: that the Constitution protected even the liberties of someone like him, who meant it harm. x
  • 34
    John Marshall's Court
    Explore the court of Chief Justice John Marshall. In major court cases like Marbury v. Madison and McCulloch v. Maryland, Marshall would devise a national judicial sovereignty to match the constitutional and economic sovereignty envisioned by Madison and Hamilton, and to save the United States from Jacobin Republicanism. x
  • 35
    James Madison's War
    The “age of the Founders” ends with the War of 1812 and James Madison at the helm of government. You’ll learn why the United States was disastrously unprepared for war, and you’ll get a closer look at the state of the nation as it was bequeathed to Madison’s successor, James Monroe. x
  • 36
    Alexis de Tocqueville's America
    In the first part of this last lecture, learn the fates of each of the Founding Fathers discussed in this course. Then, close with a look at Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, which suggests the new nation's focus on self-interest instead of virtue (as well as a lack of art and culture). x

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  • 36 lectures on 6 DVDs
  • 328-page printed course guidebook
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  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 328-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos and illustrations
  • Suggested reading
  • Foreword by David C. Ward, Senior Historian, National Portrait Gallery

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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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America's Founding Fathers is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 106.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another winner by Prof. Guelzo. Another winner by Prof. Guelzo. One of The Great Courses gems, Professor Guelzo, delivers another course full of information given with humor. I have listened to many courses on our founding fathers by some of the leading historical authors of our day yet Prof. Guelzo still conveys information I had not heard with the typical clarity and perspective I have come to expect from the good professor. While I am writing let me heartily reccomend all of his courses with a special endorsement of his course on Abraham Lincoln.
Date published: 2019-06-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting Info for American Revolution Politics This is some solid background information on the political climate and key players of the American Revolution (before, during, and after). It tell us about events shaped by personal ambition as well as individual state/colony ambitions. This means that everyone was not always on the same page, especially when it came to their own interests, and that everyone involved was not as virtuous or well meaning as we have been taught in today's school system let alone the school system I went through in the 50' and 60's. If you just want to know names and dates, avoid this course. If you want to know the real reason things happened the way they did, why they did, and who made them happen both overtly and covertly (using real historical documents and not revisionist opinions), THIS IS THE COURSE FOR YOU. For myself, 36 lectures got a little long, but they were not dry, droning, or boring.
Date published: 2019-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another superb by Prof. Allen Guelzo! I purchased this course because Professor Allen Guelzo's courses are ALWAYS terrific, and I learn innumerable interesting facts and stories. Dr. Guelzo has a very unique style of teaching which really holds one's attention. I can recommend this course without reservation. He presents unique insights about each of the "Founding Fathers" and "Founding Mothers." This is not a standard rehash of facts we all think we know about this generation of colonists.
Date published: 2019-05-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Comprehensive discussion An excellent review of a subject that is of interest to most Americans. It should be a part 0f many High School programs.
Date published: 2019-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Guelzo Guelzo is the best! I buy his courses because of him.
Date published: 2019-04-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Insightful Bios The lecturer is both knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the subject. He deftly conveys the context of the events in a way that is factual and entertaining.
Date published: 2019-03-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very thorough treatment of the subject matter. This course is great to review classes from many years ago. The presentation is very well organized and the professor easily held my attention. I binge watched several hours at a time and loved every minute of it. I plan to go through it again fairly soon.
Date published: 2019-02-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Informative I have had this for a few weeks and I am a good part of my way through it. It is formative but I think it could be made much more interesting by including many more personal aspects of the subjects so we feel that we get to know the personalities better. I think that this would make an immense difference.
Date published: 2019-02-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from unique presentation I've viewed 14 of the DVD lectures and though it took me a couple of lectures to get used to Professor Guelzo's presentation style, I'm now a big fan; history meets drama, this could easily be a one man stage piece on the people and events leading from The Articles of Confederation to the drafting of the American Constitution; even those with a strong knowledge of the period may find something new here, but what I find that sets the professor's lectures apart is the reliving of the clashes between the founders over the rights of the states to that of a federal government, large states vs small states, whom to count as "inhabitants", when we think of today's political intransigence, well, it couldn't be greater then what's seen in 1787 and they came out of it with what most of us would say was a pretty good result, so I'd say there's hope for us now in 2019.
Date published: 2019-02-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The History We Ought to be Teaching I have now viewed the first four lectures of the series. Despite my holding myself as an amateur historian of early U.S. government, I find myself surprised and impressed by the organization and value of the material put forth. Any student of the U.S. beginnings should take this course. It is as much a treatise on the philosophical history of the men who created our country as it is the history of their deeds.
Date published: 2019-02-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from How to Look at and Understand Great Art This course is taught by a master teacher, Professor Sharon Latchaw Hirsch, who truly is a gifted and inspirational teacher ! She not only knows HOW to teach but is an EXPERT in her field. The DVDS are addictive and we are enjoying going to museums to use the "tools" she provides to approach and appreciate art.
Date published: 2019-02-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good Speaker While I am only halfway through the course, a couple things have come to mind. This is lecture format with presenter using the same background for each subject. That can get monotonous.The professor has a good voice, knows the information, and presents it in a digestible manner using expression and hand gestures for emphasis. However, for those who are more visual learners as myself, I would like to have seem some graphics added to complement the oration. Timelines and charts would help me gain more perspective. When one person is introduced after another, and another, it becomes difficult to remember who impacted what event, who were allies and foes, and the time-frames and how they overlapped. Perhaps all the connections will come out at the end. I felt as though I should have taken notes so I could connect the dots. All in all, I'm learning from this couse.
Date published: 2019-02-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I only completed three lectures to date and am very pleased. Kept my interest up each lecture.
Date published: 2019-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Presentations The courses have encouraged me to continue to learn and enjoy acquiring more knowledge. I am now retired and have some time to take on new things. Thanks for making the courses available and affordable. The presentations of Professor Allen C. Guelzo are great.
Date published: 2019-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting and informative Very interesting lectures on American History and Professor Guelzo gave a great insight into not just the founding fathers we all know such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, etc but also others who played such an important role who I never knew about such as Daniel Shays, John Jay, and so on!
Date published: 2019-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Educational Much better that what is on regular tv--I forgot most my history-This should be required before being allowed to vote
Date published: 2019-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enthralling Great presentation in an entertaining manner. I love it
Date published: 2019-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent lecturer He covers more than the usual suspects and has some unusual information
Date published: 2018-12-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Everyone Should Have to Watch America's Founding F I watched this course on The Great Courses Plus and was so pleased with it that I purchased it for my son. What a fabulous course taught by a wonderful presenter. He made it all so interesting.
Date published: 2018-12-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An era brought to fascinating life I thought I knew a lot about the Founding Fathers and the early days of the Republic, but Professor Guelzo brought the whole period to life with a wealth of always interesting detail, including people I had never heard of but who played critical roles in the development of the United States, mostly for better, sometimes for worse. His dramatic presentation makes this course far more than a recitation of names and dates, although there are plenty of those. Instead he gets inside the skins of the many characters, making them real people and using their actual words to illustrate all sides of the major issues involved, One aspect that I had not considered was the role of religion in the formation of the country, not just the Deism of Franklin and Jefferson but the fervent faith of men like Patrick Henry and Timothy Dwight. Every lecture brought new and fascinating information. One demerit was the rather inadequate treatment of the Judiciary and the development of the Supreme Court, in particular the case of Marbury vs. Madison, where he barely scratches the surface. He also doesn't really address the significance of the peaceful transfer of power after the 1800 election. And occasionally the drama he recreates edges across the line into melodrama. But all in all, I was extremely satisfied with the course and would recommend it highly -- if not 5 stars, then 4.8 or 4.9.
Date published: 2018-12-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating course I found this course very fascinating. Dr. Guelzo's teaching style keeps you engaged. His mastery of the subject matter leaves you wanting for more after the lecture ends. His lectures not only take you into the room where our founding fathers debated but also into the minds of those men who would ultimately shape this country.
Date published: 2018-10-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course! I received this course about one week ago and have so far watched 8 lessons. I am very satisfied. The instructor is interesting and engaging. The information is something you'd be hard-pressed to find on your own without a lot of effort. In each session, I feel as if I have gotten to know the character in question. I highly recommend this course if you are at all curious about all of the dynamics that led to the formation and founding of our form of government.
Date published: 2018-10-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I bought this course and I am happy to say it's money well spent.
Date published: 2018-09-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Entertaining I really liked the biography format that was used to move the listener through the events leading up to the writing and adoption of the constitution. I listen while commuting too and from work. The pace and flow of this lecture worked well for that use case. The only thing I didn't like was the assertion in the opening lecture that there was something wrong with the way our constitution evolved. That bothered me at the time and was never really resolved during the lecture series. At the end of the series I felt I'd learned something and was entertained at the same time.
Date published: 2018-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific course! I have long been a fan of Prof. Guelzo and have purchased nearly all of the courses he has presented for the Great Courses. America's Founding Fathers ranks among his best efforts. He traces the development of our constitutional system through an examination of a large number of founding fathers, and through that device brings an interesting and fresh perspective to the creation of the American republic. Prof. Guelzo goes into extraordinary detail in this course, examining committee and floor debate at the constitutional and ratifying conventions, and making plain that many of the debates that challenged the founding remain with us in varying degrees today. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2018-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from enjoyable This is the best of over 30 courses that we have purchased. The instructor is phenomenal, making you feel like you are in a conversation and not a lecture hall. The material is incredibly informing and presents pros and cons of all arguments in a balanced fashion . It also recognizes and highlights the humanness of the actors in the story. No deifying of the founding fathers as their feet of clay are on display as well, yet the importance of the people and the impact of their thoughts and actions are presented artfully and enjoyably.
Date published: 2018-09-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from America's Founding Fathers This course is excellent and one can learn a lot relative to our current political climate as to the mistakes our founders made as well as the initiatives they got right. Will watch it over again as it is a lot to absorb.
Date published: 2018-08-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I am very pleased with this purchase. It is enriching to add a little detail to the facts, dates and geography we learned in school.
Date published: 2018-08-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent!! A thirty-six lecture TC course can be a challenging trip, depending for success upon not only the subject but also the professor. Professor Guelzo carried me along throughout with his fine delivery and always interesting insights. A good deal of the success of this course for me is how Professor Guelzo seamlessly weaves in quotes from contemporary sources, sometimes at great length, as well as his excellent descriptions of people and events and top-notch graphics/illustrations. The success of this country in its founding and early years comes across appropriately as a near-run thing, not the sure thing that the perspective from some two hundred years on gives it. I could not wait until the next lecture and wished it to go on further. This is among the very best of my nearly one hundred TC courses, and I am fortunate to get it through the Great Course Plus. I am fairly familiar with the subject/period through graduate studies and research some decades ago. It was good to revisit through this course the people and events which used to be so familiar to me. But you need no such a background, however, to appreciate the course. Professor Guelzo supplies all you will need for understanding. Perhaps the most significant takeaway from this course for most will be that our Founders were not perfect, and the era often rivals our own in the levels or anger and violence over the issues of the day. Moreover, Professor Guelzo uses biographies to illuminate those many and varied issues. Though this course is about the Founders, it goes beyond the usual suspects to include, for example, a free black mathematician who played a key role in surveying/laying out the new capital in the District of Columbia. In fact, there is a good deal of very interesting information on social and cultural matters, not just the usual political/military themes. I am particularly appreciative of how well Professor Guelzo handles the Constitutional Convention, being in awe with how he deftly moves through the debates involving so many contending interests and concerns. These lectures confirm the sense that the Constitution is indeed a marvel and our firm foundation. There are a lot of issues, activities and events covered in this course, often in significant detail, on the new republic. Throughout, however, Professor Guelzo never lets us forget the presence of slavery and its relation the Founding Fathers. Not all those treated as Founding Fathers in this course were stellar individuals. The most significant example in this regard is Aaron Burr, today best-known for his duel with Alexander Hamilton, but involved also in a lot of shady activities, including treasonous conspiracy with the British. Though not a thorough-going debunker, Professor Guelzo does illuminate a good deal about other more highly esteemed Founders that serves to qualify one’s assessments. Most notable here is Thomas Jefferson, valued for intellect and role in writing the Declaration of Independence, but in Professor Guelzo’s estimation accomplishing little: “He had been governor of Virginia during the Revolution and failed to keep the British from chasing him out of office; he had been minister to France and Washington’s secretary of state—mostly without distinction. Jefferson’s electoral victories were due more to ‘the popularity of his doctrines, than by his strength of personal character, or by the practical wisdom of his public measures.’ Now, as president, the pattern repeated itself” (Page Course Guidebook, Page 258-259). Interestingly, Professor Guelzo ends the course by considering observations on the new nation by a French visitor in the 1830’s, Alexis de Tocqueville. From Tocqueville he takes aim at the still present tension in the United States between liberty and a push for equality that often seeks conformity/levelling, noting that misuse of power in such circumstances is not just a traditional top/down matter, but works the other way as well. We have our work cut out for us today. If you want to learn about the founding and early years of the United States, this 2017 TC course is the one for you. It is accompanied by a handsome 309-page course guidebook replete with many illustrations, good lecture summaries, and an annotated bibliography.
Date published: 2018-08-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Lecture Content Did Not Relate Well To The Title While the content of this course is quite extensive and the lecturer tries to bring the subject matter to life, my basic comment is of not having the lecture material adhering more to the person who is the subject of the lecture's title and, instead, bringing in extraneous material that, I felt, was not that pertinent and not what I expected the lectures would be about. For example, the lectures concerning Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton should have touched more on these statesmen's lives, not discussing side issues of minor importance.
Date published: 2018-07-28
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