History of the United States, 2nd Edition

Course No. 8500
Taught By Multiple Professors
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What Will You Learn?

  • Survey the American revolution and the politics of our nation up until the Civil War.
  • Track the lead up to the Civil War, experience the Civil War itself, and follow the reconstruction of the nation.
  • Explore the rapid ascendance of our nation into a world power during the late 19th and 20th centuries.
  • Put the scope of U.S. history in a more visual context with over 1,500 historical photos and illustrations.

Course Overview

This is the story of a country in which immigrants of the late 19th and early 20th centuries huddled in cramped tenement apartments lit by hazardous kerosene lamps. And a country that, little more than a half-century later, renowned economist John Kenneth Galbraith described as "The Affluent Society."

This is the chronicle of a nation that enslaved a race of people. And of a nation that fought a Civil War that freed its slaves, and outlawed segregation and discrimination.

This is history shaped by Revolutionary War and Vietnam, Thomas Jefferson and William Jefferson Clinton, Puritanism and Feminism, Booker T. Washington and Martin Luther King, Jamestown and Disneyland, Harpers Ferry and Henry Ford, oil wells and Orson Welles.

This is a review of the extraordinary blend of people, ideas, inventions, and events that comprise The History of the United States. In this seven-part, 84-lecture series, three noted historians and lecturers—two of whom teach other popular Teaching Company courses—present the nation's past through their areas of special interest.

Three Outstanding Instructors in this Sweeping Series

This comprehensive presentation is provided by three award-winning professors:

  • Dr. Allen C. Guelzo is Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era, Professor of History at Gettysburg College, and former Dean of Templeton Honors College at Eastern University. He examines the beginnings of European settlement through the Great Compromise of 1850. His teaching awards include the Dean's Award for Distinguished Graduate Teaching from the University of Pennsylvania. His most recent book, Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President , won the Lincoln Prize and the Book Prize of the Abraham Lincoln Institute of the Mid-Atlantic.
  • Dr. Gary W. Gallagher is the John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War at the University of Virginia and a top Civil War expert. He presents the pre-Civil War period through Reconstruction. His teaching, which includes personal guided tours of major battlefields, has consistently won high praise from students, and he is a frequent lecturer and author. He also teaches the Great Course The American Civil War.
  • Dr. Patrick N. Allitt, Professor of History at Emory University, discusses 19th-century industrialization through the early 21st century. In 2000 he was appointed to the National Endowment for the Humanities/Arthur Blank Professorship of Teaching in the Humanities, and recently received the Emory Center for Teaching and Curriculum's Excellence in Teaching Award. He also teaches The Great Courses Victorian Britain and American Religious History.

With their guidance you will follow, as they unfold over time, the factors that have enabled the United States to become the largest, wealthiest, and most powerful democratic republic in history. These factors include its:

  • Sense of confidence, national destiny, and exceptionalism
  • Religiosity and belief in virtue
  • Abundance of natural resources and entrepreneurial talent
  • Ability to accept a diverse array of immigrants
  • Success in turning the theory of democracy into reality.

What You Will Learn: A Voyage of Discovery

In the opening lecture, Professor Guelzo describes the course as "a voyage of discovery. Not a voyage to another continent or another hemisphere or even a trip to another planet, but to something which may be even stranger, and that is the history of the United States."

You will explore a past America often very different from what you were taught about or have imagined.

You will understand historical fact versus fiction when it comes to figures as diverse as:

Jacques Cartier. As early as 1534, he was "surprised to sight Indians, along what he thought was an unexplored Atlantic coastline, waving furs on sticks as an invitation for the Europeans to come down to the beach and trade."

James Monroe and Robert Livingston . They made the Louisiana Purchase, the greatest real estate deal in history, without approval from then-President Thomas Jefferson (they had no time to tell him). Jefferson, in turn, had no constitutional authority to make the treaty of cession that finalized the purchase. He sent the document to the Senate with the comment, "The less we say about Constitutional difficulties the better."

Carrie Nation. The savvy temperance advocate hired a publicity manager to arrange media coverage before she invaded and smashed up a saloon. She even sold autographed copies of the axes she used.

Isaac Singer. The sewing machine magnate pioneered now universal business techniques such as installment plan payments and nationwide advertising.

You will learn:

  • The most influential novel in U.S. history (hint: its female author once met Abraham Lincoln)
  • Why the west side became the best place to live in many older U.S. cities (prevailing winds blew smoke and fumes away from you)
  • What the book The Wizard of Oz was really about (the election of 1896).

Reading History "Forward"

An additional benefit of this course is that, as they present U.S. history, Professors Guelzo, Gallagher, and Allitt also provide a mini-course on teaching and learning history in general.

They convey a variety of highly useful lessons on how to think about history, place it in a proper perspective, and understand it accurately. These include an emphasis on the social and political context in which vital decisions were made and events took place, and an ability to take both the short-term and long-term views of issues.

In his lectures on the Civil War and Reconstruction, Professor Gallagher warns that the fact that we know how history turned out, that we "read history backward," often distorts our understanding. Repeatedly, he reminds you to "read forward, not backward" to try to understand how people of the times experienced events as they unfolded.

Successes too Often Taken for Granted

Professor Allitt reflects on the aspects of U.S. history that make it unique and noteworthy, and that indicate the degree the nation has lived up to its ideals. He notes that America may fall short of its own high standards, "but compared to the other nations of the world, America was far more impressive for its successes than for its failings."

Some of these successes, Professor Allitt adds, are so obvious that we often fail to recognize them. The United States has achieved an exceptional degree of political stability and internal civil peace for a very long time. "We're so familiar with it that it's easy to forget how rare it is," Professor Allitt notes.

This is one of the many vital and often overlooked aspects of U.S. history that this course will help you to appreciate. Throughout the nation's existence, even during the Civil War, democracy has always worked. Elections have always taken place, the losers have always accepted that they have lost and left office, and the military has never tried to overthrow the civilian government.

Perhaps this is a legacy of the most popular and revered American ever, George Washington.

At the end of the Revolutionary War, some of Washington's officers suggested that the Continental Army should take over the country and make him the first King of America. Washington flatly rejected the offer, resigned his commission, and rode off to his home in Mount Vernon.

The notion that anyone could refuse power in this manner shocked Britain's King George III. "If this is true," the king said, "then he is the greatest man of the age."

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84 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Living Bravely
    Columbus's discovery of a New World allowed Europeans to, first, exploit natural and human resources, and later, to write new social, economic, and political scripts for their lives in a place where European ideas of society no longer applied. x
  • 2
    Spain, France, and the Netherlands
    The Spanish tapped sources of wealth in the Americas, displaying the most wanton cruelty in obtaining it. By 1600 they had evolved from an extraction society to a settler society. The French attempted extraction incursions and to settle in North America but did not succeed as the Spanish had in the South. x
  • 3
    Gentlemen in the Wilderness
    The English joined the great game of extraction and settlement last of all the major European nations. By 1680 settlements around the Chesapeake Bay achieved success with tobacco and the forced recruitment of a workforce of African slaves. Virginia worked its way through what became a typical English pattern: from company colony, to unstable free-for-all, to stable aristocracy. x
  • 4
    Radicals in the Wilderness
    If the southern English colonies were motivated by economic self-interest—be it piracy, tobacco, or slaves—the northern settlements were motivated by ideas. In New England's case, the ideas were religious. The "godly commonwealth" of the first Puritans was succeeded by the same slow tendency toward aristocracy, based on transatlantic commerce rather than commodities, that characterized Virginia. x
  • 5
    Traders in the Wilderness
    The broad stretch of coastal territory between the Chesapeake and Long Island had been settled by the Swedes along the Delaware Bay and the Dutch along the Hudson River. Dutch settlements (renamed New York) developed into a major commercial center. Quaker William Penn's Pennsylvania emerged, by the 1750s, with a commercial aristocracy similar to that of New England, centered around its principal city. x
  • 6
    An Economy of Slaves
    The transition of these settlements to stable commercial success would not have been possible without a source of cheap labor. America's immensity of land and lack of labor to develop it required forced migration of laborers: convicts, indentured servants, beggars. But a less expensive and more permanent source of labor was the 11 million Africans who were torn from their homes to be slaves. x
  • 7
    Printers, Painters, and Preachers
    Americans developed cultural forms in both music and art that were uniquely American. The most important cultural transition, part of the European Enlightenment, was from a religious to a scientific and secular understanding of the world. Three illustrative figures of this transition are Cotton Mather, Benjamin Franklin, and Jonathan Edwards. x
  • 8
    The Great Awakening
    The stresses of Colonial life—natural, social, economic, religious, and political— produced unusual social eruptions that were aimed at regaining some sense of control. The Great Awakening, a revival of radical Protestant religion across New England, helped people recover a sense of spiritual significance and moral direction; it also touched off violent religious controversy. x
  • 9
    The Great War for Empire
    By the mid-1700s, Britain and France were the two rivals for dominance of America. The war for empire, the French and Indian War, broke out in 1754, and at first went badly for England—but the British Empire had greater resources to draw on. The Treaty of Paris in 1763 forced the French to withdraw entirely from North America. x
  • 10
    The Rejection of Empire
    The Great War for Empire beggared the British economy. In 1765 Parliament moved to levy direct taxes on the colonies and to regulate colonial trade so that it profited Britain. The legislatures of the North American colonies protested. Americans insisted on "no taxation without representation." More protests led to outright conflict, the suspension of colonial governments by Parliament, the creation of a Continental Congress to speak for North America, and finally, an organized military confrontation at Lexington and Concord in April 1775. x
  • 11
    The American Revolution—Politics and People
    Parliament's responses to American protests increasingly alienated Americans. By the spring of 1776, the determination of the British and the agitation of pro-independence thinkers wore down resistance to independence in the colonies. In the second Continental Congress of July 1776, a resolution declaring independence was adopted by the Congress and framed by a Declaration of Independence composed by Thomas Jefferson. In the Articles of Confederation of 1781 a joint government for the United States was created. x
  • 12
    The American Revolution—Howe's War
    From a military viewpoint, the Revolution started well and spiraled downward. The Continental Army, under the command of George Washington, faced humiliating defeats, abandoning all of New York and New Jersey to the British. Lost more by British incompetence than won by American planning, victory at Saratoga in the summer of 1777 salvaged American hopes. x
  • 13
    The American Revolution—Washington's War
    The Saratoga victory and the diplomacy of Benjamin Franklin in Paris persuaded France ally itself with the United States. The money, credit, weapons, and French naval and military resources forced the British to shift the focus of their war. Field forces fell under a combined land-and-sea campaign conducted by Washington and the French at Yorktown, where the British surrendered. The Treaty of Paris in 1783 reluctantly conceded American independence. x
  • 14
    Creating the Constitution
    The Revolution was not even over before the ramshackle nature of the Articles of Confederation began to show at the seams. A convention assembled in Philadelphia in 1787 to construct a constitution, which proposed a single executive president, a bicameral Congress, and a judiciary. The Constitution was ratified by the states, and George Washington was inaugurated as the first president in New York City in March 1789. x
  • 15
    Hamilton's Republic
    For Alexander Hamilton, the first secretary of the treasury, the republic depended on keeping the jealous interests of the individual states at bay, and on developing the republic's systems of finance, manufacturing, and commerce. Opposing him were Thomas Jefferson in the cabinet and the southern agricultural interests in Congress, both of whom believed that the future of America lay in independent domestic agriculture. x
  • 16
    Republicans and Federalists
    The surprise development in the new republic's political life was the formation of political parties. The threat this posed to the Founders was that parties might thrive on sanctioning and perpetuating disagreements and disunion. James Madison became the organizer of the Democratic-Republicans, and Hamilton recruited his Congressional supporters into the Federalist Party. The Federalists only barely managed to elect their candidate, John Adams, as Washington's successor in 1796. x
  • 17
    Adams and Liberty
    Few people liked John Adams, so it was fortunate that the first major challenge of his administration involved a foreign policy problem, where few had more expertise than he. But Adams squandered all the political capital he accumulated. By persuading the Federalists to dump Adams before the election of 1800, Hamilton succeeded in dividing his party and guaranteeing that Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans would win. x
  • 18
    The Jeffersonian Reaction
    Thomas Jefferson proved incapable of creating a practical set of alternatives to Hamilton's hard-headed fiscal policies, particularly in defense and in foreign trade. He was also surprised by the activism of the federal judiciary, which under Chief Justice John Marshall, began to operate as a serious restraint on the scope of Jefferson's actions. x
  • 19
    Territory and Treason
    With renewed war in Europe on the horizon, Napoleon needed cash more than he needed Louisiana. In 1803, he offered to sell the entire Louisiana province—830,000 square miles—for $15 million. Jefferson asked Congress to finance a secret scouting party under Lewis and Clark. Vice President Aaron Burr, who attempted to set up his own independent republic, was thwarted and saved from a treason indictment only by Chief Justice John Marshall. x
  • 20
    The Agrarian Republic
    Jefferson was committed to keeping the American Republic an agrarian society, a culture of independence, nonmarket agriculture, and community. No regard was paid to the claims of the North American Indians. As Americans poured West in search of cheap land, disheartened Indians either accommodated, as with the Seneca and Cherokees, or resisted, as in the revolt of Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh. x
  • 21
    The Disastrous War of 1812
    In 1812, Madison sent a request to Congress for a declaration of war. The War of 1812 was a debacle. In October 1814, the Massachusetts legislature passed a peace resolution and threatened secession from the Union. Only the signing of the Treaty of Ghent at the end of 1814 ended talk of a New England separatist movement. x
  • 22
    The "American System"
    The War of 1812 collapsed the U.S. Treasury, bankrupted hundreds of businesses, and soaked up the tiny hoard of American financial capital by government borrowing. Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun became the principal spokesmen for rebuilding the infrastructure of the American economy after 15 years of Jeffersonianism. x
  • 23
    A Nation Announcing Itself
    By the 1820s, immigrants flowed through America's seaports from Europe; and with the clearance of Indian resistance, the Northwest Territory was opened by massive government land sales. Many emigrants chose to stay in the cities they first entered, and their numbers soon swelled the size of the American urban population. x
  • 24
    National Republican Follies
    The year 1819 blew up in the faces of the bankers, brokers, National Republicans, and everyone else who had leveraged themselves to the market system. It was the year of the Great Panic. The United States had to learn that committing itself to the world market system exacted a price in the form of the unpredictable cycle of boom and bust. Ultimately, the Supreme Court sat squarely in the path of an angered democracy. x
  • 25
    The Second Great Awakening
    Three factors played a role in creating a Christian America: the resiliency of revival, the absorption of virtue, and the substitution of millennialism. x
  • 26
    Dark Satanic Mills
    The Industrial Revolution involved the invention or reinvention of machines, power, labor, and capital. But industrial growth could not go on forever without serious social consequences, manifested in the first labor strikes, union organizations, and workingmen's political parties in the 1830s. x
  • 27
    The Military Chieftain
    By 1824 Jefferson's Republican Party was, in fact, becoming two parties, the National Republicans and the Democratic-Republicans. John Quincy Adams, the heir apparent, was unmistakably a National Republican. The most unpredictable candidate was Andrew Jackson of Tennessee. Jackson swept the popular vote, but his 99 electoral votes did not constitute a majority of the 216 electoral votes cast. x
  • 28
    The Politics of Distrust
    Starting in 1824, Adams's presidency was one of the worst political disasters in the history of the American presidency. Jackson gathered his forces for 1828, and won by a staggering landslide in the first popular election of a president. It showed a shift in American political consciousness and the movement of the United States from its original shape as a republic toward the newer shape of popular democracy. x
  • 29
    The Monster Bank
    The Second Bank of the United States regulated the economy by controlling the money supply and by promoting national investment. In 1831, Second Bank director Nicholas Biddle applied to Congress for rechartering; Jackson vetoed the bill. Clay believed that the veto would help elect him president in 1832 on an anti-Jackson backlash, but he was badly defeated by Jackson. Biddle now began shortening credit and triggered a major economic depression. x
  • 30
    Whigs and Democrats
    The Whigs were committed to economic dynamism, social moralism, and national union. Jackson's Democrats thought of freedom as the privilege to be wealthy, and that liberty was a negative, not positive, idea. Blaming Martin van Buren for the depression, voters elected William Henry Harrison as the first Whig president. But Harrison died a month after inauguration; his vice president, John Tyler, was an old-line Democrat who promptly reinstalled the Jackson agenda. x
  • 31
    American Romanticism
    From the 1820s, Americans embraced the appeal of Romanticism. In literature, it was manifested in the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Transcendentalists, Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville; in religion, it was illustrated by the Mercersburg theology; and in politics, it was reflected in the rhetoric of Whigs and Democrats and the argument over passion. x
  • 32
    The Age of Reform
    The sense that the American Republic represented the vanguard of a new age of freedom spawned campaigns to advance American perfection and freedom. Their common message was one of optimism, but it carried the threat that a democracy would find itself incapable of achieving stability. The French observer Alexis de Tocqueville, in Democracy in America, gave a favorable reading to the American future, perfectionism and all. x
  • 33
    Southern Society and the Defense of Slavery
    Declining profitability before 1800 suggested that slavery would gradually die out, as it did in northern states where immigrant labor made slave labor unprofitable. But the success of cotton agriculture and the labor needed to sustain it resurrected slavery. Northern abolitionists gathered force in the 1830s; southern demands for protection and extradition of runaways led to mob violence and aggressive antislavery organizing in the North. x
  • 34
    Whose Manifest Destiny?
    Americans swarmed into the Louisiana Purchase territories triggering three major conflicts: with the Plains Indian tribes, with Mexico over the province of Texas, and the third over the admission of slavery into the Louisiana Purchase. x
  • 35
    The Mexican War
    James K. Polk's election was the signal for the renewal of Jacksonian expansionism and the use of expansionism to serve the interests of slavery. Polk aggressively pushed American claims to territory along the southern border with Mexico and the Canadian border with Great Britain. The latter was resolved diplomatically; the former started war against Mexico. The United States gained all of what is now the American Southwest, from the Rio Grande River westward to the Pacific. x
  • 36
    The Great Compromise
    The wrangling over whether to allow slavery in the territories gained from the Mexican Cession led to southern threats of disunion and was aggravated by the sudden death of President Taylor. Henry Clay took the floor of the Senate to shape his last Union-saving compromise, which looked as if it would permanently dampen the slavery agitation. x
  • 37
    Sectional Tensions Escalate
    This lecture surveys manifestations of sectional animosity, especially regarding slavery, and gives attention to the brief history of the American, or Know-Nothing, Party. The lecture also stresses the idea that, whatever the real divisions between them, Northerners and Southerners increasingly proved willing to believe the worst about the other. x
  • 38
    Drifting Toward Disaster
    This lecture continues with the story of sectional turbulence. It highlights the failure of national institutions to push compromise on slavery and its extension into the territories. The lecture also emphasizes the Dred Scott case of 1857, debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas, and the impact of John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859. These controversies helped set the stage for the breakup of the Union in 1860–1861. x
  • 39
    The Coming of War
    This lecture discusses the impact of Lincoln's election. Deep South states seceded in response to the Republican victory, but only the crisis at Fort Sumter in April 1861 convinced the Upper South to secede. A range of opinion existed in most slaveholding states regarding secession. It describes the formation of the Confederate States of America. x
  • 40
    The First Year of Fighting
    This lecture stresses that either side could have won the war and offers a careful analysis of the strengths and weaknesses each brought to the conflict. There was early strategic planning on both sides; the lecture discusses some crucial battles of the first year's fighting. The conflict mushroomed from a limited military contest at the time of First Bull Run in July 1861 into a massive struggle by the time of Shiloh and the Seven Days battles in the spring and early summer of 1862. x
  • 41
    Shifting Tides of Battle
    The year between the summer of 1862 and the summer of 1863 convinced Americans on both sides that the war would be long and bitter. This lecture traces some of the major military campaigns of this year, underscoring the enormous swings of morale behind the lines in the North and South as each side won victories and suffered defeats. x
  • 42
    Diplomatic Clashes and Sustaining the War
    This lecture shifts from the battlefield to the home front. We look at diplomacy and the blockade. The lecture examines the difficulty and cost of fielding and maintaining large armies. We discuss Union and Confederate conscription, the ways each side raised money, and the production and delivery of military supplies. x
  • 43
    Behind the Lines—Politics and Economies
    This lecture compares politics and economics in the United States and the Confederacy. Almost all military campaigning occurred in the Confederacy, dealing severe blows to industrial and agricultural production and material hardships to its population. The North proved able to produce guns and butter, and the Republican-dominated Congress passed legislation designed to make the nation a great industrial and commercial power. x
  • 44
    African Americans in Wartime
    The war brought seismic changes for African Americans. Slavery—under which more than 4 million black people lived and suffered when the war erupted—ended. This lecture examines the experiences of African Americans on both sides, addressing, among other topics, black soldiers in U.S. military forces, the experience of hundreds of thousands of black refugees in the South, the weakening of the bonds of slavery in much of the Confederacy, and Confederate debates over emancipation late in the conflict. x
  • 45
    The Union Drive to Victory
    The outcome of the war remained uncertain as late as the summer of 1864. Successes turned the tide decisively in favor of the Union. This lecture examines the final year of military action, highlighting the roles of Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, and Grant and Robert E. Lee at Appomattox. The lecture also describes Lincoln's assassination and gives a reckoning of the war's cost. x
  • 46
    Presidential Reconstruction
    Debates in the North over how best to bring the Confederate states back into the Union began while the war still raged. This lecture examines the wartime context and continues through Johnson's early presidency. By the end of 1866, the stage was set for a final showdown between the president and Congress in the fight over Reconstruction in the South. x
  • 47
    Congress Takes Command
    Congress took control of Reconstruction policy in early 1867. Ulysses S. Grant, who supported Congress, won the presidency as the Republican candidate in 1868. This lecture examines the struggle between Johnson and Congress, analyzes Reconstruction legislation, describes the state governments set up under that legislation in former Confederate states, and assesses the meaning of the election of 1868. x
  • 48
    Reconstruction Ends
    Reconstruction improved many aspects of black Southerners' lives, at least for a number of years, and left deep scars on a white South that labored diligently to project an image of Northern oppression. The lecture closes with an assessment of whether Reconstruction should be judged a success or a moment of lost opportunity for African Americans in the United States. x
  • 49
    Industrialization
    In the late 19th century, the scale of American industry increased dramatically. John D. Rockefeller in the oil industry and Andrew Carnegie in iron and steel built massive corporations and dominated entire sectors of the economy. With brilliant inventors, including Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, and a succession of improvements in manufacturing, the United States became one of the three world leaders in industry by 1890, rivaling Britain and Germany. x
  • 50
    Transcontinental Railroads
    The first transcontinental railroad was finished in 1869. Builders had to overcome horrific obstacles; tunneling through the Sierra Nevada Mountains took three years. Completion cut travel time from the Mississippi to the West Coast from three months to about one week. The line was joined by other transcontinentals; a national network facilitated settlement in the plains and mountain states that had been too remote. x
  • 51
    The Last Indian Wars
    The coming of settlers with the railroads made continuation of the Indians' independent life impossible, in addition to the near extinction of the buffalo and gold rushes. Plains tribes were warrior societies that lived to fight and ought not to be romanticized. After the Battle at Little Bighorn in 1876, the U.S. Army intensified its campaign against them and broke all resistance within a year. x
  • 52
    Farming the Great Plains
    The Homestead Act encouraged farmers to acquire land at almost no cost, and those who could overcome the loneliness, prairie fires, insect infestations, extremes of climate, and incessant winds were able to build prosperous lives. By 1890 they were growing massive annual surpluses, driving down the cost of food throughout the Western world and eliminating the danger of famine in America once and for all. x
  • 53
    African Americans after Reconstruction
    When Reconstruction ended in 1876, southern "Redeemers" took political control of the South, passing legislation enforcing racial segregation. There were periodic lynchings. The federal government's decision to withdraw from the area meant that the white elite ruled unchallenged for much of the next 80 years. Most African Americans lived by sharecropping, condemning many of them to a cycle of debt and dependency. x
  • 54
    Men and Women
    Middle-class American men and women emphasized differences between the two sexes and believed that each had its proper sphere of activity. Doctors said rigorous education for women would lead to hysteria and that political rights would make them mannish, threatening differences embedded in nature itself. Early advocates of suffrage, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, argued that women, with their nurturing virtues, would purify and ennoble the political world. x
  • 55
    Religion in Victorian America
    Victorian religion in America was less doctrinal and more sentimental than its Puritan antecedents. Traveling revivalists and preachers tried to help the poor and reform grim urban conditions and worked to outlaw alcohol. America's principle of religious freedom and church-state separation allowed other religions to flourish and showed doubters the nation could accommodate religious pluralism. x
  • 56
    The Populists
    Southern cotton sharecroppers, black and white, and Midwestern farmers were falling into debt. They tried cooperative marketing schemes but decided to turn to politics to legislate for better conditions. The Populist Party enjoyed local and state-level successes in the early 1890s, but were unable to build a stable party structure nationally. x
  • 57
    The New Immigration
    Late 19th-century Europe was full of stories about America, and bad conditions for farmers prompted many of them to emigrate. Parents found that, with hard work, they, or their children, could climb to American prosperity and respectability. Fears of "race suicide" in the 1920s gave rise to an immigration restriction policy. x
  • 58
    City Life
    American cities grew rapidly. They were often badly planned and became overcrowded with ethnic and linguistic neighborhoods. Cities were severely polluted with smoke and ash; contaminated water supplies, poor sanitation, and large numbers of horses worsened public health conditions and shortened life expectancy. Reformers tried to Americanize urban immigrants and campaigned for city government reform. x
  • 59
    Labor and Capital
    Hoping to improve their wages, job security, and working conditions, many workers turned to trade unionism. The great railroad strike of 1877 showed that strikes could succeed if they enjoyed community support but would fail if business owners used their political influence and court injunctions against the unions. Bitter union-management confrontations punctuated the 1890s. Railroad leader Eugene Debs and others created the American Socialist Party in 1900. x
  • 60
    Theodore Roosevelt and Progressivism
    Progressive reformers in the early 1900s tried to increase honesty and efficiency in business and government, to forestall monopolies, and to Americanize immigrants. Theodore Roosevelt, the first president to embrace the Progressive outlook, established the principle of presidential initiative in progressive legislative programs. He created the National Forest Service and led a trust-busting campaign against abusive monopolists. He created a template for his successors, notably Woodrow Wilson, who continued to increase federal government power over the states. x
  • 61
    Mass Production
    Manufacturers began to mass-produce products they could sell cheaply and in large numbers through nationwide advertising campaigns. In Chicago slaughterhouses, animals on overhead conveyors were systematically killed and dismembered, which gave Henry Ford the idea for a moving line on which automobiles could be assembled. He perfected the line in 1914, reduced the price of cars, and raised his workers' wages, which increased their loyalty and made them potential buyers. x
  • 62
    World War I—The Road to Intervention
    When Europe went to war in 1914, America stayed aloof. But sympathy for Britain was strong among President Wilson and his cabinet. The German decision to declare unrestricted submarine warfare against American ships in the Atlantic led him to declare war against Germany. America's previously small army grew rapidly in 1917 and trained hard, taking the field in large numbers in 1918 under the leadership of General Pershing to forestall a German assault on the western front. x
  • 63
    World War I—Versailles and Wilson's Gambit
    German military successes helped precipitate the Russian Revolution of 1917. President Wilson traveled to Versailles for the 1919 peace talks to discover that victorious English and French leaders wanted vindictive reparations. Hoping to rectify the treaty's worst features through the League of Nations, Wilson was thwarted by the Senate's refusal to join the League. The Russian Revolution prompted a Red Scare, and many Socialists, anarchists, and Communists were deported. x
  • 64
    The 1920s
    In the 1920s, Protestants' hopes for the Prohibition Amendment soon soured. Prohibition created ideal conditions for organized crime; the alcohol ban became unenforceable. The revival of the Ku Klux Klan targeted Catholics and Jews as much as African Americans. A brighter side: high levels of employment; rising real wages; improving city conditions; the rapid spread of cars, refrigerators, and radios among ordinary families; and the maturing of the movie industry (silent until 1927). x
  • 65
    The Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression
    Minimal government regulation of the stock exchange and unsound financial practices created unrealistic expectations among speculators. The collapse of share prices on Wall Street in the fall of 1929 ruined many and destroyed the savings of thousands more. From 1929–1933 a downward spiral of economic shrinkage, bankruptcies, factory closings, and rapidly worsening unemployment occurred. Drought in the Great Plains states added the Dust Bowl to this catalogue of woe. President Hoover, elected in 1928, became the scapegoat for these disasters. x
  • 66
    The New Deal
    President Franklin Roosevelt, elected in 1932, experimented with political reforms immediately after his inauguration. His efforts to prevent cutthroat competition among businesses, and his creation of federal agencies to oversee relief and regulatory tasks, marked a dramatic shift of power out of the states and into the federal government. Roosevelt, re-elected in 1936, tried to safeguard his political innovations by enlarging the Supreme Court with pro-New Deal justices. Widespread resistance to the plan showed that, for all his popularity, he had overstepped his mandate. x
  • 67
    World War II—The Road to Pearl Harbor
    Hitler's rise to power in Germany caused growing alarm in America. His successful attacks on his European neighbors in 1939 and 1940 and his vicious anti-Jewish policies caused many Americans to seek intervention on behalf of Britain. Roosevelt committed America to full-scale war only after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. America's military forces, small and unprepared, expanded rapidly, but victory appeared remote in early 1942. x
  • 68
    World War II—The European Theater
    Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin determined how to engage their forces over Europe and North Africa. A year of hard campaigning led to the defeat of Germany, a junction with Soviet forces in central Europe, and discovery of the Holocaust's full horror. America itself was transformed into a high-wage, high-employment economy, with women taking on jobs previously reserved for men. x
  • 69
    World War II—The Pacific Theater
    Aircraft carriers became the crucial weapon of the Pacific war. American seaborne forces seized a succession of Pacific islands from which aircraft could bomb the Japanese mainland. By mid-1945, Allied victory in the Pacific was assured. Japanese refusal to surrender and the prospect of a costly and difficult invasion of Japan prompted the new president, Harry Truman, to approve the use of the war's greatest secret weapon, the atomic bomb. x
  • 70
    The Cold War
    World War II did not end with a general peace treaty. The principal victors, America and the Soviet Union, disagreed over the future of eastern Europe. A temporary dividing line drawn through Europe became permanent. Soviet possession of nuclear weapons by 1949 created a geopolitical stalemate. The proliferation of nuclear weapons to a point of mutual assured destruction caused anxiety and an intense moral debate about their legitimacy inside the United States. x
  • 71
    The Korean War and McCarthyism
    Espionage cases in the late 1940s heightened fears of Communism. The Truman administration began to investigate the loyalty of federal employees. Many businesses, including the Hollywood film industry, conducted anti-Communist purges. Anti-Communist fears allowed Senator Joseph McCarthy to exploit irrational public fears. Post-war Korea and Berlin remained potential flash-points. x
  • 72
    The Affluent Society
    World War II caused a dramatic redistribution of income throughout society. Consumer-goods manufacturers and advertisers took advantage of steady rises in available discretionary income. America sprawled in the 1950s and became the wealthiest society in the history of the world. The Soviet Union's surprise victory in the space race led to a new American dedication to education in science and technology. x
  • 73
    The Civil Rights Movement
    The Supreme Court's decisions in the Brown case (1954) and the Montgomery bus boycott (1955–1956) inaugurated the activist phase of the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King, Jr., and other movement leaders used the style and idiom of evangelical clergy. Disputes over busing and affirmative action clouded bitter political disagreements. The interracial civil rights coalition broke up in the face of militant Black Power. x
  • 74
    The New Frontier and the Great Society
    President John F. Kennedy brought charisma to the White House in 1961. His escalation of the Cold War, apparent in the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban missile crisis, and expansion of the American role in Vietnam, was offset by a new concern for legislating on behalf of the poor and minorities. After his assassination in November 1963 his successor, Lyndon Johnson, pursued antipoverty, antidiscrimination legislation and further expanded the federal government. x
  • 75
    The Rise of Mass Media
    Thousands of newspapers in 20th-century America, with radio stations, television, and the world's strongest movie industry, informed citizens well about their surroundings and about political and social questions. The computer revolution added further sophistication to this process, while the Internet of the 1990s created a "global village." Media power transformed the nature of politics, lobbying, and even the military, as the armed forces discovered to its detriment in Vietnam. x
  • 76
    The Vietnam War
    The French Empire in Vietnam ended in 1955. In support of the non-Communist southern half of the country resisting reunification, by 1968 half a million American soldiers were fighting there. Casualties and TV footage of troops persecuting villagers or accidentally bombing children with napalm turned public opinion against the war. President Johnson abandoned his re-election plans because of it. The last Americans withdrew only in 1973. The Vietnam syndrome constrained American military actions for decades. x
  • 77
    The Women's Movement
    In the late 1960s, as an outgrowth to the Civil Rights and antiwar movements, women's liberation movement came into being. The National Organization for Women campaigned successfully for the abolition of gender discrimination in employment. Attacks on sexism in advertising and media, and criticism of gender bias in society and law gave rise to radical feminism. Women campaigned in vain for the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. x
  • 78
    Nixon and Watergate
    In 1968 President Richard Nixon, accepting the largely bipartisan Cold War consensus, continued the American role in Vietnam. By the standards of his later Republican successors, Nixon was a center or even liberal Republican. Nixon won easily in 1972 against George McGovern, but was ruined by revelations over the next two years that he had known of a break-in of McGovern's campaign headquarters and had tried to orchestrate a cover-up. He resigned in disgrace in 1974. x
  • 79
    Environmentalism
    The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, the year the Environmental Protection Agency was created. Endangered species, wild rivers, and scarce water resources all became issues of government concern, as did the cleanup of toxic chemical sites. Environmentalists in the 1980s and 1990s alerted the nation to further resource shortages and potential threats to Earth's welfare. x
  • 80
    Religion in Twentieth-Century America
    America is a far more religious society than other Western industrial nations—another example of its exceptionalism. It also tolerated an exotic array of sects and cults, from hippies to the followers of Jim Jones who committed mass suicide in 1978. Religious groups also played a role in the moral-political debates over civil rights, feminism, abortion, homosexuality, and nuclear weapons. x
  • 81
    Carter and the Reagan Revolution
    Jimmy Carter won the 1976 presidential race but was presented with an ugly combination of economic stagnation and inflation (stagflation), the Iranian revolution, and the Teheran hostage crisis. He lost to a right-wing Republican, Ronald Reagan, in 1980. Reagan escalated the Cold War by planning space-based weapons, and aimed to diminish the reach of the federal government. His masterful use of the media made him a popular president, even when sordid aspects of his foreign policy were exposed during his second administration. x
  • 82
    The New World Order
    When the Soviet Union went through a peaceful transition to democracy, the United States was left as the world's one great superpower, able to preside over the creation of numerous new nations with more or less democratic and America-inspired political systems. In the 1990s the absence of Communist repression permitted old ethnic and religious animosities in Eastern Europe to resurface. In spite of hideous "ethnic cleansing" campaigns, America was reluctant to become involved for fear that Bosnia would become another Vietnam. x
  • 83
    Clinton's America and the Millennium
    Bill Clinton's eight-year administration was a period of economic growth, but his failure to create a national healthcare system underlined the difference between America and other Western nations that had created cradle-to-grave social welfare states. Continued turbulence in the Middle East made America a devil-nation to the Arab world. This judgment confronted America in the starkest possible way in September 2001 with the al Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. x
  • 84
    Reflections
    The immense vitality and diversity of American life have been sustained by several recurrent themes. Compared to its high ideals, America always fell short. Compared to the other nations of the world, however, America was far more impressive for its successes than for its failings. x

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Your professors

Gary W. Gallagher Patrick N. Allitt Allen C. Guelzo

Professor 1 of 3

Gary W. Gallagher, Ph.D.
University of Virginia

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Patrick N. Allitt, Ph.D.
Emory University

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Allen C. Guelzo, Ph.D.
Princeton University
Dr. Gary W. Gallagher is the John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War at the University of Virginia. He graduated from Adams State College of Colorado and earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in History from The University of Texas at Austin. Prior to teaching at UVA, he was Professor of History at The Pennsylvania State University. Professor Gallagher is one of the leading historians of the Civil War. His...
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Dr. Patrick N. Allitt is Cahoon Family Professor of American History at Emory University, where he has taught since 1988. The holder of a doctorate in history from the University of California, Berkeley, Professor Allitt-an Oxford University graduate-has also taught American religious history at Harvard Divinity School, where he was a Henry Luce Postdoctoral Fellow. He was the Director of Emory College's Center for Teaching...
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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

History of the United States, 2nd Edition is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 127.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a real education for history lovers We are just into the lectures. On lecture six now. The explanations of the roles played by the European countries in exploration of America and their motivations for doing so are very well integrated in the lecture. It enhances ones understanding of this country's development in those early years.
Date published: 2016-08-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very well done I teach US History and Government in New York State and this course follows very closely with our curriculum. I find that it provides me with great background info and great stories that students really like. I would recommend this course to anyone.
Date published: 2016-08-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Freshman History Level The enthusiastic lessons are interesting and engaging. I found that some of the material was presented in ways that are different from what I had studied and considered. The scope of a course presentation like this cannot cover all those different interpretations and perspectives of historic events and occurrences. Overall, I found this course contemporary, refreshing, and enlightening.
Date published: 2016-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engaging We listened while driving to Washington D.C. and back home to Arkansas. The engaging presentation by the professors kept us excited about what we were seeing and interested in how America came to be. The words created great pictures in our minds. The great differences that Americans would have with each other at different points in history was explained and very carefully worded so that I could not say for certain the true leanings of the professor himself. It seemed very balanced to me. I'll admit that we have not listened to all of them, but we are looking forward to hearing the rest of the lectures.
Date published: 2016-06-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Let Gallagher teach all of it Despite my disagreements about interpretation and focus in some cases, this survey of American history is as solid and substantive as one could expect for a survey course. I most enjoy listening to Gallagher, an expert in the Civil War era, who unfortunately has the fewest lectures of the three professors. His course on the Civil War should not be missed. The first lecturer here, Guelzo, is, like the others, knowledgeable and well organized, but strains to be dramatic in his delivery in every sentence, which is grating and can even make it hard to follow him (since he has a terror of plain 'the cat is on the mat' exposition). Guelzo could take lessons from Gallagher on how to be forceful and engaging without affectation.
Date published: 2016-06-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Excellent Overview I've taken a number of Great Courses but I found this one to be among the best. Each professor (Guelzo, Gallagher and Allitt) did an excellent job of presenting the subject matter. Guelzo focused much on the political intrigues and philosophical considerations of the founders through the beginnings of the Civil War. Gallagher was brilliant (in his own unique style) in presenting the political and social background of the North and South at the time of the civil war as well as some of the backlash following the conclusion of the civil war. Patrick Allitt then provided his overview of post-civil war times to the time of the lectures being taped. Allitt has an interesting delivery style and I particularly appreciated his sense of humor which clearly showed during some of his lectures. His content differed somewhat from the earlier lectures in that he focused more on the social history than the political history. A nice perspective. Overall this was an excellent course presented by three excellent Professors.
Date published: 2016-05-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from This course does an excellent job of covering American history from the Native Americans and European empires to the present. Professor Guelzo is very knowledgeable with the pre-Civil war era, professor Gallagher is an expert on the Civil War, and professor Allitt is well-versed in the Reconstruction to present era. Many documentaries bring history to life, such as Ken Burns or the History Channel, but this video is a good source for learning American history as well.
Date published: 2016-03-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Enjoyable Stroll Through US History The entire history of the United States of America is a veritable labyrinthine patchwork of different threads that need to be ordered and pulled in just the right sequence to present an overall impressionable introduction to the history of my homeland. The three professors accomplished this with remarkable success. Really, the largest complaint I had walking away from this course was "why can't they do something like this for other countries?" For the most part, no reviewer has any real complaint about Guelzo or Gallagher. I will not retread old ground telling you that they were good (for that goes without saying at this point), and instead I will seek to address some criticisms of Professor Allitt. He has been accused of putting forward right wing propaganda. This is not true, at least not in an explicit way. Allitt is a proponent of human actors in history, and not individuals above reproach. As such the more saintly figures seem a little more human, and the more demonized figures likewise get the same treatment. Martin Luther King is made a little more cunning with respect to media handling, but so is conservative hero President Reagan. President Nixon is represented in a grayish light, but this is actually indicative of a larger trend whereby his legacy is being salvaged with time. His first series of lectures were also more general remarks on social trends that set the stage for the twentieth century, mirroring the general lectures that Geulzo made before getting into the narrative of the revolution. However, this represented a break in the narrative after Gallagher, and did leave some individuals somewhat starved for facts until the narrative kicks off again. Also, since this represents an area of time that is far more well known (since many of us lived through it), there was a greater demand on issues and facts that are personally important that simply fell through the cracks. Furthermore, his desire to show two sides of an issue, such as with the League of Nations, the Feminist Movement, and the broader Civil Rights, sometimes makes him seem like he is defending things that are out of step with reality. These issues are not quite dead enough to be relegated to the purview of academia, and can inflame tensions when people do not see heavy doses of criticism poured on top of those who represent the dustbin of history. Ultimately this reveals some flaws that should be addressed upon the third edition of this course in the next decade. When this course was published there were relatively fewer courses on the history of the United States and the Bush presidency was still not out of his first term. This course should be updated, and its timeline extended to the conclusion of Obama's presidency and the beginning of whoever succeeds him. Easily another 12 lectures should be added, and perhaps Professor Allitt can pass the baton over to another professor at the end of the Cold War. Along the way, customers should be referred to courses that explore their particular topics in more detail so that they can satisfy their curiosity without feeling as though their particular passionate issue is not getting the attention it deserves. Reminding us that this is merely an introduction, and that for more details there are readily available routes to travel down. Gallagher's Civil War Course, O'Donnel's Progressive Era and Gilded Age, Mancall's Origins and Ideologies of the Revolutionary War, and others. The time between now and then should also be used to fill in more updated and streamlined courses on those spaces of US history that remain unilluminated by the Teaching Company. In the mean time, I recommend this course to anyone who wants to take a walk through the history of the United States of America.
Date published: 2016-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exceptional Course, US, Maybe video download version A theme of this survey of United States history is American exceptionalism (there are others of course). It may be my bias but that term as always bothered me, as I think it offensive to the rest of the world. Perhaps in this I may be too political correct, but in any case I listened to these parts of the lectures with an open mind (I hope) and found that perhaps I am a bit too sensitive. Professor Allitt, the only non-American of the group, explained this concept very well in summing up the course in his last lecture, coming close to convincing me that there may well be something to the concept. In any case a hard course to review. It covers history from Columbus to the 21st century using three different professors. The first 36 lectures are given by Dr. Allen Guelzo who is everything you want in a presenter He is a dynamic speaker, clearly enthused about the subject matter and obviously an expert in his field. One of the very best I've heard while listening and watching the TC courses. The Civil War period is given by Dr. Gary Gallagher, not so dynamic as professor Guelzo, but equally expert and mostly engaging. Dr. Allitt has been given low marks by many reviewers, both for his presentation and according to some his political bias. I would concur with those who feel his presentation is a bit lacking in style, but I found him to be often amusing in his understated delivery. And as to his bias I found that at lease one reviewer thought his views were too conservative while another (perhaps in the question section) objected to his strong liberal bent. No doubt it is easier to accept an academic approach to earlier history than it is to more recent events (e.g. Vietnam). Also professor Allitt's approach is not fact and date driven, as he spends quite a bit of time discussing cultural and literary outcomes and commentaries on the events as they unfold rather than giving a list of presidential races and outcomes. If this method of presenting history is not to your liking you will not care as much for Allit's style as do I. Overall, the course brings to life many of the persons and personalities and their influence on American history and development. And also the consequences of such concepts as an Agrarian Republic or Manifest Destiny. 84 lectures is too many to cover in detail, but for those who wish a great view of the development of the United States, this course is for you. Highly Recommended.
Date published: 2015-12-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from US History Course Covering Topics Not Taught in Sc This US history course is taught by Professors Guelzo, Gallagher, and Allitt and each of these professors is lecturing on their specific areas of expertise. The use of three professor has resulted in an excellent quality course and probably has a higher quality than if it had been taught by only one instructor. Professor Guelzo lectures are the first 36 lectures in the course and cover the early settlers, the American Revolution, and the Mexican War. In lectures 37 through 48, Professor Gallagher provides a very good summary of the Civil War, its causes, and its immediate consequences. Professor Allitt presentation is contained in lectures 49 through 84 and spans from the start of industrialism in the US to modern times. All three professors make excellent use of visual aids to augment their lectures. The maps, diagrams, photographs, etc. are very helpful on demonstrating the points being presented. As I mentioned in the title of my review, this course covers topics that were not taught in my formal schooling. My formal schooling focused on events and dates but very little else. While this course does mentions the dates and events, it more importantly focuses on the causes, the social and political environment, the economic conditions, and the consequences associated with the various dates and events of US history. This course is highly recommended to obtain a much broader understanding of US history.
Date published: 2015-07-19
Rated 2 out of 5 by from 2/3 Excellent, 1/3 Ridiculous I have bought a number of Great Courses, and this is the first one that I have been truly disappointed in, and the first one that I have reviewed. The first 2/3 of the course – up to and including the Civil War era – was excellent. But the modern era as taught by Professor Allit was truly pathetic. I can’t quite imagine how he passed the screening process for Great Courses. His presentations were stiff and simply read from paper, but that wasn’t the problem. The conservative bias he presented throughout went beyond being merely a point of view, and became a kind of revisionist history that would fly well on Fox News. He even referred to the Vietnam War (in which 2 million Viet Namese people died) as the “Viet Nam Conflict”. Towards the end he even went so far as to read a quotation from a book by Dinesh D’Souza. Come on Great Courses, you can do better than this – way better. I’m sure that there are many history professors out there who could do an excellent job on 20th century U.S. history. Professor Allit’s version is pitiful.
Date published: 2015-04-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Presidents Glad I have a chance to present this course to my students. I regret that extra copies of the teachers guide are no longer for purchase. They are a helpful adjunct to the DVD course.
Date published: 2014-10-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Strong Course A wide ranging, highly interesting overview of U.S. history, presented by three professors with different areas of expertise and different perspectives.
Date published: 2014-10-13
Rated 2 out of 5 by from My second return - out of DOZENS purchased "The History of the United States" - a topic so broad in scope and depth that a middle-school Civics class would have no trouble coming up with audio and visual - still and video - supplemental material to make a series of lectures on the topic absolutely "bristle" with captivating viewing. Instead, the viewer is presented with REPEATED, soporific visuals, and no supporting audios that I recall - - to accompany pretty stilted lectures on what should be an exciting string of topics. Professors Guelzo and Gallagher - clearly - know their respective topics - and even manage some animation in front of the camera. But Professor Allitt was as stiff and unexciting a lecturer as I have ever encountered in my 71 years - - and he wasn't at all successful in disguising the fact that he was largely READING his lecture! THAT is an unforgivable sin in my book! I can't believe that any of these three professionals present THESE lectures in their "real life" environments - without supporting materials. They would be run out of town (in the college towns I've spent my entire adult life in) on a rail! I suspect that their lectures have been "dumbed down" to be compatible with audio-only requirements and that makes their DVD presentations - - - BORING!! They're not entirely at fault though. Great Courses has a long way to go in helping presenters NOT look like they are talking to a camera. Some presenters never know which camera they're talking to. Most seem to need a GUN shot to alert them that another camera has been activated. And, if dancing back and forth between two or three cameras is all the animation we're going to see, it would be just as effective for them to stand behind a lectern and wave their hands in the air. At least let the lecturer switch his/her direction of presentation (and which teleprompter is being used) and make it the video director's responsibility to switch cameras to keep pace!! And - while I'm at it - forget the gratuitous mannerisms - such as reading meaningless "quotations" - as attempts to make presentations interesting. True interest on the part of the viewer comes from interesting material being presented in an interesting manner - not from any kind of "fakery". OK - I'm finished ranting. I found this course to be a major disappointment and am returning it for credit. I'm about to start on The Civil War - - and am wary of a repeat performance.
Date published: 2014-08-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I started with the last 25 lectures I took this course out of order, starting with the last 25 lectures, since I was most interested in learning about the 20th Century topics. My rearrangement of the sequence did not alter my learning or enjoyment in any way. I found the lectures engaging and insightful, and I commend the lecturers for being able to be neutral or apolitical while discussing topics that are somewhat polarizing and quite political. I also followed a one-lecture-per-day schedule with this course, which was just the right amount of content to keep me focused and to keep me returning the next day! I would recommend this course to anyone who is interested in US History.
Date published: 2014-05-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from As good as it gets As others have noted, there are some gaps in coverage and lags in quality of presentation. But the quality bar is set so high at the beginning of the course, it really is unrealistic to expect everything to remain consistent throughout 84 lectures and three different professors (with very different teaching styles). For what it is--a survey course--and what it proposes to cover--the entirety of US history from pre-founding to late 20th century--it does a remarkably good job of keeping a balance in perspective and coverage. It takes a long time to get through, but by the end you definitely feel your perspective on US history has been made clearer.
Date published: 2014-04-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must-see course on US History This is one of the longest of the Great Courses, and one of the most rewarding to watch. The three professors bring totally different styles and approaches to the subject to the course. Each one, in his own way, is an excellent teacher. Guelzo is very polished and urbane, with a sharp wit that keeps your interest in what is already a fascinating subject, early American history. His insight into the events of this period and their implications for later events in American history make his lectures outstanding. Gallagher has the events of the Civil War and its aftermath totally at his fingertips, and makes even the course of the bloody battles fascinating. Again, he is outstanding at helping you see the implications of the events of the Civil War for America's future. Allitt takes a different approach to the vast expanse of his subject area, focussing on general trends and social and cultural issues rather than on specific events. There are times that you would like to see more detail given, but even though this course is long, there just isn't time to adequately cover the specifics.
Date published: 2014-03-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The American Story - Our Heritage I've just completed the 42-hour video version of this course. It's an excellent survey. The presenters are three of my favorite TGC professors. I've had a number of courses from them, and I have only praise. Each has his own sometimes varying style - dramatic, understated, nuanced, or plain and to the point. The variety is refreshing. I'd guess each has his own political perspective as well. But in their lectures they are objective and without annoying partisanship. The visuals are an appealing and helpful embellishment that work well with the lectures. The breadth of knowledge of each professor is impressive. I feel sure they could go on for another 84 lectures without much overlap. But as a survey it is comprehensive enough. More depth would have made the length unwieldy. Other courses can supplement the subject matter well if you care to drill down. I believe this would be an excellent course for new Americans or for those who want to refresh with added detail the knowledge they gained in school in years past. For the price it is an excellent bargain. It's a flagship of TGC, very well done.
Date published: 2014-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 3 Profs Carry a Nation Through 84 Lectures Have you ever had the experience of completing one of these Great Courses, and you want to go right back and start listening to the lectures all over again? Well, that was my reaction to this remarkable series on the history of America. The course brings together three distinguished scholars in their respective fields. Each speaker does a masterful job in presenting the epic sweep of American history. Each has a unique lecturing style, which adds to the enjoyment of the course as a whole. Professor Allen C. Guelzo anchors the first portion of the course on early American history. Professor Guelzo is a careful scholar who works closely to source documents. In his presentations, he adds great flair to his readings in dynamic interpretations of the citations. ************************WARNING!!! SPOILER ALERT!!!!************************* In Lecture #30, Professor Guelzo delivers a terrific reading of the famous slogan from the presidential campaign of 1840: “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too! Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!” This was the motto of the presidential ticket of William Henry Harrison and John Tyler. The slogan is made even more memorable with the professor’s colorful interpretation. **************************END OF SPOILER ALERT******************************** For the section on the Civil War, the baton is passed to Professor Gary W. Gallagher, who offers a compelling overview of the major events and battles of the Civil War. He provides especially detailed biographical portraits of the key historical figures, including President Lincoln, the politicians, and the respective generals of the Union and the Confederate armies. Throughout this compact sequence of lectures, the story of the Civil War is framed in the context of the social and political developments of the mid-nineteenth century. For America in the post-industrial age, the extremely congenial lecturer is Professor Patrick N. Allitt, who approaches modern American history in a thematic, as well as a chronological, survey. Professor Allitt is skillful in incorporating into the lectures short readings from literature and anecdotes about famous (and infamous) Americans. The story of Sunday school teacher Lizzie Borden and her acquittal of murdering her father and stepmother with as many as eighty-one “whacks” from an axe were dramatically conveyed by Professor Allitt. And he vividly recounted the saga of 200-pound Carry A. Nation (apparently, this was her given name), a leader in the temperance movement, who wielded an axe in her efforts to demolish saloons through incidents of vandalism. It is fair to say that both Lizzie Borden and Carry Nation had an axe to grind against stern, Victorian-minded parents and that greatest of nineteenth-century social evils, the den of iniquity, and the “offspring of hell”: the American tavern! The best way to summarize this experience of eighty-four lectures on American history is: entertaining, enthralling, and educational! As a whole, the series offers a panorama of the historical events, great lives, and memorable moments, as recounted by three gifted lecturers who really make history come alive….Now, if you will forgive me, I must abruptly end this commentary and get back to viewing this series all over again, starting with Lecture 1 and forty-two hours of pure enjoyment!!! COURSE GRADE: A
Date published: 2014-02-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Big bite Yes it's a long slog. Slow at times. Shallow in some places. But overall, quite good; if not quite up to 5 star level. Dr. Gueizo is excellent. Speaks in prose, great at explaining complex concepts. He reminds me strongly of the actor Kelsey Grammer. This includes his looks, voice, and manner. I was disappointed in Dr Gallagher. Not that he was bad, but I have seen such strong reviews of this Civil War courses that I expected more. Dr Allitt was quite good. He called recent American history, politically down the middle. Avoiding the liberal, left wing bias, that seems to be required in so many college history departments. Overall, a very good survey of the subject. k
Date published: 2013-09-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The American Story told as it Unfolded There is some revisionism in the retelling of all History. But in this course Professors Guelzo, Gallagher, and Allitt do a fine job of telling the history of the United States in a historical context which they support with facts. Dr. Guelzo sets the stage by explaining that the American story has several recurring themes: a passion and search for freedom, the pursuit of education, faith in the value of a popular government, willingness to experiment with new things, and a belief in exceptionalism. The student will gain much from this course by looking for examples of these themes as the lectures proceed through time. If the student is looking for this course to tell the history from the perspective and context of those past times as I was, you will not be disappointed. If on the other hand, you are looking for the course to justify a modern political or economic ideology, you may be disappointed. The history that the professors present covers the gamut of political, economic, social, cultural, religious, and technological environments of the various times and their transitions. The course is not a blow by blow policy account of each of the presidential administrations as this is the history of the United States, not the government alone. I found this refreshing as the American Story is much more than the story of the government. Presidents are given more or less air time in these lectures based on how they influenced or how they were influenced by their historical environment. The course covers some of the history of several ethnic groups such as African-Americans and Native Americans, but does so in the context of the complete history not just as independent ethnic studies. The course also covers the major wars in which America was engaged. They do not all get equal billing and the Civil War gets the most focus. Given that the Civil War was fought exclusively by Americans on American soil, was the bloodiest war for Americans, and was a conflict over specific American ideas of freedom vs. slavery, it is entirely appropriate that this war is given more emphasis than the others. There are several interesting historical facts presented which are somewhat contradictory to modern perceptions of the past. For example, the original colonization and settlement of North America was driven largely by entrepreneurs via joint stock companies vs persecuted religious groups. Also, during the Civil War time, the people did not perceive the Battle of Gettysburg as a "turning point" as the war was very much still in doubt through the following year of 1864 and the South's strategy was "not to lose" vs trying to win; a stalemate to them was a satisfactory outcome. All three professors have different presentations styles. Dr. Guelzo is an outstanding lecturer who moves easily from being eloquent to vernacular as it suits the material. He is a very good storyteller who always ends his lectures with lines that make the audience anticipate the next lecture. He uses non-verbal communication of body language and facial expressions as effectively as words. Dr. Gallagher speaks with energy and puts strong emphasis on his main points. Dr. Allitt uses a bit more humor than the other two and several asides. He stands behind the podium which crimps his effectiveness. Dr. Allitt doesn't always back his conclusions with as much fact as the other two. The course guide is very good with a complete annotated bibliography, historical timeline, biographical sketches, glossary and maps. I purchased the transcript book as I suspected there would be lots of information I would want to look up later (which I have). I recommend this course for anyone who wants an overview of American History and wishes to get a perspective of what life and popular thinking was like for the past American people and their leaders (inside and outside of government).
Date published: 2013-09-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great topic, uneven, right wing bias in last third I am not actively recommending against this lecture series - but you need to know what you are getting. It works best for someone who already has some familiarity with American history, so as not to get lost in the details. Also, the last part of the course (1880 to 2000) is marred by right-wing political bias.Please find a more fair-minded lecturer for this last third. The course is divided into three parts, each with different characteristics. Rate them 4, 5 and 2 respectively. The first part (beginning through 1850, Guelzo) is often fascinating, but it sometimes gets lost in details. He does best when he takes the time to tell what feels like a complete story - the lectures on, the presidency of John Adams and the Compromise of 1850 (among others) had me caught up in the drama.. The second part (Civil War era, Gallagher) was fantastic. It avoids the temptation to name-drop every battle, but provides an excellent picture of the broader flow of the war and the politics before and after. This also was the part that provided the most surprises in comparison to my learned-in-school history. He insists that the war was about slavery, nothing else - not tariffs or states rights - and backs it up with facts. Same for Reconstruction - his fact-based view, contrasts with the Southern myth. The third part (1880-2000, Allitt) is more like a series of editorial lectures on the period rather than as straight history. It is most disturbing that he makes no attempt to separate his opinions from the consensus among historians. In Allitt's view: Richard Nixon was a "tragic hero", FDR and Martin Luther King are skilled media manipulators, and John F. Kennedy a major supporter of McCarthyite witch hunts; and Norman Podheroltz and Dinesh D'Sousa are "insightful" commentators. His prejudice extends backward in history: the failure of the League of Nations was the fault of Woodrow Wilson, who created and fought for it, rather than Henry Cabot Lodge, who blocked it. Unlike many right-wingers, he is rarely "counter-factual", but he continually emphasizes minor matters, and omits more important events. All in all, this is a partisan Republican view of a historical period (1912-1980) during which mainstream history would present Democrats often as heroes, and Republicans (Herbert Hoover, Joe McCarthy, Nixon) mainly as villains. If you are already familiar with the period, this counter-narrative is maybe ok. Otherwise it is seriously misleading.
Date published: 2013-07-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Essential if one wants to homeschool If you want to homeschool,this course is an excellent choice. Of course, this could be a course longer than the present volume given. But, the overview is great. Alot of the information could be looked at from various angles. But, its not as bias as I thought it maybe. This course should be taught along side of history itself.
Date published: 2013-06-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful but not too deep The professors were engaging, interesting, knowledgeable and enjoyable. My only criticism is that even in 42 hours you can only be very superficial about American History. I would love to have greater depth, but that would require easily double the time. If you have done much reading, study on the topics, the superficiality is aggravating. At least many of the professors have more detailed courses in his area of expertise. An excellent survey, but really only the equivalent a single semester of study.
Date published: 2013-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from History of the United States I decided to try your courses for our homeschool. Wanted to see if I could had content and variety to my sons learning (ages 14 and 11). We are going through the lectures for the third time. The boys love history so they listen to all the lectures but prefer Prof. Guelzo's presentation and "the funny twists he adds in his lectures". As for content, I'm happy to see their use of a wider view of area History. We've ordered 4 more courses. Thank You.
Date published: 2013-03-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Listen The combination of three styles, one after the other, worried me at first, but with each transition I got into the flow. I have listened to this course twice, and expect to do it again every three years or so. I learn something new each time.
Date published: 2013-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the top courses, highest recommendation The first lecture is an absolute MASTERPIECE by Professor Guelzo, the son of a career U.S. Army officer. It lays perfectly the necessary groundwork, providing the background for the entire run of 84 lectures. I was bowled over by its majestic sweep; a wonderful experience, truly. Dr Guelzo is a platinum "find" for Great Courses; I look forward to seeing him again. I was already familiar with Professors Gallagher (middle 12 lectures) and Allitt (final 36 lectures) from other courses; they strove to maintain the extremely high authoritative standard set by Dr Guelzo in the first 36 lectures. Dr Gallagher seemed to be rushing through his material covering the Civil War period; Dr Allitt has an English accent (Derbyshire) that North Americans may find difficult at times; of course, some Britishers may find Dr Gallagher's accent a challenge! Very amusing that Professor Guelzo pronounces "Whig" as "HWIG", much as Stewie on TV's Family Guy pronounces "Cool HWIP"! In addition to his Masters and Doctorate in history, Dr Guelzo also holds a B.S. in Bible and an M.Div. degree. I must add that in his survey of early American history, he had to deal with some dry material (e.g. lecture 18 Jeffersonian Reaction... streams of facts, figures, names, places, dates), yet he made it as interesting as possible. This 2003 course is a large, bold undertaking; with these three professors, all firmly established experts in their fields, the endeavour has paid off handsomely. I recommend that as you go through the lectures, you earmark several for repeat viewing/listening. I prefer to purchase DVD versions; I believe that seeing the lecturer aids hugely in understanding and absorbing ~~ it certainly focuses one's attention! I would never try to listen to one of these courses while driving, though I gather some purchasers do this regularly. Buy and enjoy this superb set, it's a big hit for Great Courses and a treasure for us. I wish it could somehow be a "required course" for everyone!
Date published: 2012-09-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from American History Dr. Guelzo is the best history teacher I've ever heard. He lives the story.
Date published: 2012-06-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Mixed Bag Kudos to Professor Guelzo, an unqualified 5-star performance. Professor Gallagher is earnest and seemingly able, but has an annoying habit of taking 2 steps from his notes on the lectern, turning and immediately taking two steps back to his notes. It's like the classroom is underwater and his notes are his air supply. Professor Allitt, who takes responsibility for our edification in the 1870's never even mentions the administrations of Presidents Hayes, Arthur, Cleveland, Harrison, Cleveland again or (for the most part) McKinley. He just drifts through the latter part of the 19th century discussing generalities. I was starved for facts: names, dates, places. And this trend continued for the rest of the course. I understand that he had a lot of ground to cover and only so many lectures in which to cover it, but I wanted a bit more namedateplace and a little less warm and fuzzy. So, in short, 5 stars to Prof. Guelzo, 4 stars to Prof. Gallagher and 2 stars to Prof. Allitt. Overall, a qualified positive recommendation.
Date published: 2012-05-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent Long Overview of American History I enjoyed this rather long overview course in U.S History. Professor Alan Guelzo takes you through the first 36 lectures from early exploration of the New World to the beginnings of the Civil War. Professor Gary Gallagher follows with 12 excellent lectures on the Civil War, and Professor Patrick Allitt finishes with the final 36 lectures taking you through the Clinton administration. Both Professor Guelzo and Professor Gallagher used a roughly chronological approach to their survey whereas Professor Allitt chose a topical summary. They all did their job well, but I sensed I was missing more with the topical approach as some presidential administrations were barely mentioned. Maybe I am too much of a facts and dates learner for his style. Many may find it quite enlightening. It may be hard to imagine that after 42 hours and 84 lectures there is still much more left to tell about U.S. History, but there is plenty. This course provides a broad overview and a great start but, of necessity, still leaves much detail behind. There are a variety of other Teaching Company courses which can provide more of that detail on aspects of U.S. History not covered here. Among those worth a look are “Before 1776: Life in the American Colonies”, “American Revolution”, “American Civil War”, “Great Presidents”, and “Turning Points in American History”. It would have been great to have had this audio course available back in 1974 when as a high school senior I was studying for my AP exam in U.S. History!
Date published: 2012-03-24
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