Origins and Ideologies of the American Revolution

Course No. 8520
Professor Peter C. Mancall, Ph.D.
University of Southern California
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Course No. 8520
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Course Overview

The years 1760–1800 rocked the Western world. These were the years when colonists on the eastern fringes of a continent converted Enlightenment thought first into action, then into government. Astonishing the world leaders of the day, they defied and broke away from their mother country, and then fashioned a republic capable of sustaining itself generation after generation.

Why this happened and how the colonists did it is the subject of Professor Peter C. Mancall's 48 lectures. It is a story of immense importance and rich discoveries.

The American Revolution began when British colonists first questioned the intrusions of Great Britain into their economic progress and civil lives. It erupted into armed conflict in 1775, but it did not end with the peace treaty of 1783. The Americans had yet to craft a government that brought into being new ways for citizens to relate to their government and for a government to relate to its nation.

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Presenting this momentous period is Professor Mancall, professor of history and anthropology at the University of Southern California. Throughout this course Professor Mancall does far more than recount events. He illuminates the words of the very people who struggled with the crosscurrents of those times. Professor Mancall brings to life both the famous and little-remembered colonists who were caught up in the debates over rights and power, liberties and empire. Because he presents original source materials as well as how events were reported and interpreted, we more readily understand the evolution of ideas, the competing pressures, and the misunderstandings.

Professor Mancall lays the foundation of the story by elucidating the roots of English colonization and the successes of the colonies, then introducing the explosive matter of who was to pay for the French and Indian War of 1754–63. He reads from the fiery 1760s arguments of the Boston lawyer James Otis, who wrote, "The very act of taxing exercised over those who are not represented appears to me to be depriving them of one of their most essential rights as freemen."

He reads from the reasoned pamphlets of John Dickinson, who worried "whether Parliament can legally take money out of our pockets without our consent. If they can, our boast of liberty is but ... a sound." He brings us into the life and views of the brilliant Bostonian Mercy Otis Warren, who fashioned one of the first histories of the American Revolution from her own observations.

And of course, he brings us closer to the extraordinary minds leading the colonies throughout the political tumult, including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton.

In Professor Mancall's lectures you learn the British side as well. You'll hear the opinions of loyalist Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson. And you'll hear the words of King George III, who declared himself "still hoping that my people in America would have discerned the traitorous views of their leaders and have been convinced that to be a subject of Great Britain, with all its consequences, is to be the freest member of any civil society in the known world."

Professor Mancall shines when revealing how ideas were formed in the minds of those affected by events, and how their ideas inspired so much that is familiar to us today.

Independence Was Just the Beginning

In achieving freedom from Great Britain, the colonists traded one set of problems for another. No country the size of the United States had ever successfully established a republic. Indeed, in the 1780s, the young nation could not pay its debts or craft an effective foreign policy. European monarchies expected imminent collapse. Instead, 55 men wrote a constitution for a national government, then asked for approval from the people. Debate raged, but owing to a pledge to add a list of guaranteed liberties, the United States Constitution became the nation's supreme law.

Still, no one knew whether the new governmental structure would work. It seemed to be an untried collection of compromises, checks, and balances. But the new country began auspiciously, led by the most revered American of the age, George Washington.

With Washington's voluntary exit from the political stage in 1796, political leadership fell to two Revolutionary comrades who developed different views for the young country's proper course. John Adams was devoted to a strong national government—Thomas Jefferson to individual liberties. Each was backed by passionate followers and believed he was working for the principles of 1775–76.

In the end, what may have done most to save the country from catastrophic failure was that Adams, though discouraged and angry after losing in a free election, passed power peaceably to Jefferson who, rather than seek political revenge, carried on much of what had been built up since the Constitution's inception.

The Meaning of the Revolution

The American Revolution was one of the great turning points in Western civilization. Anglo-American colonists, long loyal to the British monarch, thought that governments were meant to serve people rather than the other way around, and they struggled to establish such a government for themselves. They also struggled among themselves over how that government would relate to citizens and to their respective states, and how the government would be both powerful enough to do good for the people yet not so powerful as to abuse natural liberties.

Professor Mancall delves into all this. His course contains separate lectures on how the Revolution affected women, Native Americans, African Americans, and the balance of rich and poor. As Professor Mancall notes, the words, "All men are created equal" set in motion ideas and movements that went beyond the simple thought that a colonist is the equal of a Briton; they kindled a flame that began to light the world.

Why the Revolution Worked

As Professor Mancall makes clear, the success of the Revolution was never assured. The leading resistors were fallible men, and the current of events so swirled about them that it could easily have swept them aside. Yet the Revolution of 1760–1800 did work.

One reason was effective patriot propaganda. Paul Revere deftly crafted an illustration of the Boston Massacre that inflamed Americans against British soldiers. Thomas Paine brilliantly expressed the rationale for independence in his pamphlet Common Sense.

Another reason for American success was the flawed strategy and tactics of the British. During 1776 to 1778, British and Hessian soldiers so plundered families that Americans resolved the more firmly to separate from Britain. Even in the South where slaveholders might have worried over the "equality" language of the Declaration, the British discovered most Americans thought of themselves as American rather than British.

Then the Americans realized they needed a new constitution and wrote one so well that it has remained virtually intact after 220 years.

The election of 1800 placed a capstone on the success of the Revolution. Against a backdrop a French Revolution sinking into military dictatorship, Adams stepped aside. Jefferson understood the significance of the moment and asserted that despite political differences of party, nothing was more important than the continuation of the Revolutionary ideas of liberty, citizens' rights, and responsible self-government.

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48 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Self-Evident Truths
    The American Revolution was fought on battlefields during 1775-1783, but it began in 1760, when colonists began to question the motives and authority of Great Britain, and it continued until 1800, when it became clear that the republic would survive. x
  • 2
    Ideas and Ideologies
    The Revolution generated many ideas. The most convincing were organized and spread through specific media, especially pamphlets, that created a new ideology—a way to understand and ultimately shape events in the messy, real world. x
  • 3
    Europeans of Colonial America
    Elizabethan England had much to do with setting the future direction of the colonies. It saw America as a resource for raw materials, a market for British manufactured goods, and a place to challenge the spread of Catholicism. By 1700, Germans and Scots-Irish made up a significant portion of the population. x
  • 4
    Natives and Slaves of Colonial America
    The natives succumbed to disease and warfare, plunging to only one-tenth of the number living in 1492. Meanwhile, colonial land ownership, and participation in self-government, was spread more widely in New England than in the Mid-Atlantic; conversely, slavery was most economically feasible in the labor-intensive plantations of the Chesapeake Bay region and points farther south. x
  • 5
    The Colonies in the Atlantic World, c. 1750
    By 1750, the colonists had created a successful economy and could do as they pleased as long as they remained loyal to their king. They sent raw materials to Great Britain and the West Indies and lived under light taxation in the form of levies on transatlantic shipping. The population grew, a fact noted with satisfaction by Benjamin Franklin. x
  • 6
    The Seven Years' War
    The expanding colonies came into armed conflict with the French to the north and west. Britain and France fought into the 1760s; as a result Britain won Canada and territory stretching to the Mississippi River. But the tremendous war debt was one that Britons could not pay alone, and by war's end there were thousands of British soldiers in the colonies. Irritations festered. x
  • 7
    The British Constitution
    The "unwritten" British Constitution, much cherished by Britons and colonists, was thought to balance three "natural" orders of society: king, aristocracy, and people. Each checked the potential abuses of the others. Important political writers of the period—most famously, Locke and Montesquieu, but also Trenchard and Gordon—examined natural rights and how people related to their rulers. x
  • 8
    George III and the Politics of Empire
    George III, who ascended the throne in 1760, believed that the king's place in the British constitution had diminished over time. Moreover, he was facing crises: both political challenges at home by John Wilkes and the great debt from the Seven Years' War. He felt he had to steer the ship of state with a firm hand. x
  • 9
    Politics in British America before 1760
    From 1750 to 1763, colonists had become used to self-rule, particularly to petitioning. If they wanted change, they would petition their legislative bodies. These bodies, made up of colonial freeholders, were generally obliging. Britain did not mind this degree of self-rule; it concentrated on the revenues of transoceanic trade. x
  • 10
    James Otis and the Writs of Assistance Case
    Colonists were used to bribing officials to avoid taxes on imports. A law called the Writs of Assistance allowed government agents to board ships they suspected of harboring contraband. Boston merchants hired James Otis to argue that the Writs law violated the British constitution because it wrested a property right from property owners. He lost the case, but stirred colonists to consider the reach of the British government in North America. x
  • 11
    The Search for Order and Revenue
    In the mid-1760s Parliament passed a series of acts intended to raise revenues and keep order in the colonies. One act prevented colonists from living west of the Appalachian Ridge. Another quashed paper currency in the colonies, and another taxed transoceanic trade goods. Americans saw them as intrusions on their rights and liberties and objected to being treated differently from the king's subjects in Britain. x
  • 12
    The Stamp Act and Rebellion in the Streets
    In 1765, Parliament passed the Stamp Act, which would have imposed significant taxes on Americans. Enraged by its provisions, colonists protested in the streets and threatened violence against Stamp Act agents. They organized bands of resistors called Sons of Liberty. x
  • 13
    Parliament Digs in Its Heels, 1766–1767
    Parliament repealed the Stamp Act to show it was responsive to the colonists' complaints and that the colonists had "virtual representation" in Parliament. But they followed with the Declaratory Act, saying Parliament had firm jurisdiction over the colonies and, in 1767, the Townshend Acts, which taxed consumer goods. Colonists saw the second as more of a threat than the first because it hurt their economic well-being. x
  • 14
    The Crisis of Representation
    Americans scrutinized British actions and rethought their relationship with Britain. They questioned whether the process of petitioning they were used to in the colonies could work with a government across an ocean. x
  • 15
    The Logic of Loyalty and Resistance
    Americans protested "taxation without representation," but they continued to petition the king for change, showing no interest in independence. They were interested in a more responsive government and supported the views of John Wilkes who urged Parliament to publish its debates and make other changes. Many American colonists gravitated toward the resistance movement in the hope that it would convince the British to abandon their recent policies. x
  • 16
    Franklin and the Search for Reconciliation
    Benjamin Franklin moved to London to help smooth relations between the colonies and the Crown. Many of his sympathies lay with the British government, but he was also a sort of "man of the people." As tensions rose, Franklin incurred the wrath of the British ministry. x
  • 17
    The Boston Massacre
    The Boston Massacre of 1770 was tragic and unpremeditated. It inflamed the colonists' anxieties about standing armies, which some political theorists asserted were agents of potential tyrants. Boston silversmith Paul Revere made an engraving that, widely circulated, helped fan the flames. Speeches reinforced the notion that the British were committed to wresting liberties from Americans. x
  • 18
    The British Empire and the Tea Act
    The British repealed many taxes but kept one on tea in hopes of raising revenues for the East India Company. Again colonists saw the move as imposed without their consent. Many colonists became increasingly suspicious of the British government. x
  • 19
    The Boston Tea Party and the Coercive Acts
    A crowd of Bostonians destroyed a shipment of tea in December 1773. Parliament passed legislation Americans called the Intolerable Acts, which closed the port of Boston until the tea damage was paid for, suspended the colony's regular government, reorganized much of the American interior, and allowed British soldiers to quarter themselves in Boston. x
  • 20
    The First Continental Congress
    Colonists organized an extra-legal Continental Congress in 1774 to discuss common problems and to stimulate sympathy for occupied Bostonians. They urged the king to return to the familiar system of rule in effect before 1760. x
  • 21
    Lexington and Concord
    Fearful of a standing army in Boston, Massachusetts farmers armed themselves. British soldiers, threatened, marched from Boston to Lexington and Concord to seize a store of gunpowder. Armed Minutemen refused to disband, and the British responded with gunfire. By the end of the day more than 300 men had fallen in battle. x
  • 22
    Second Continental Congress and Bunker Hill
    The fever of rebellion ran high. A band of colonists seized Fort Ticonderoga from the British. The colonists called for another Continental Congress to meet in Philadelphia. Men flocked to Boston and fortified Breed's Hill. The British prevailed in the Battle of Bunker Hill, but only after they suffered a large number of casualties. x
  • 23
    Thomas Paine and Common Sense
    King George believed that Americans had been misled by evil men. Then early in 1776, Thomas Paine published Common Sense. It presented logical arguments why the colonies should be independent of Great Britain, and it became wildly successful. Read in every colony, perhaps in every household, its arguments resonated deeply with and inspired the Americans. x
  • 24
    The British Seizure of New York
    The British came to believe that the occupation of Boston was counterproductive and relocated their armed forces to New York where they thought they would receive a better reception—and did. They were right. But the move signaled an expansion of the war and their exodus from Boston suggested that the British were already conceding defeat in the war of words. x
  • 25
    The Declaration of Independence
    During the troubled occupation of Boston and then of New York, Congress debated and voted for independence. Thomas Jefferson articulated the reasons why. x
  • 26
    The War for New York and New Jersey
    British General William Howe defeated the Americans outside New York, occupied the city, then pursued the Americans through New Jersey. But the Americans won decisive battles at Trenton and Princeton, boosting their cause. British and Hessian soldiers pillaged and raped during the campaign. x
  • 27
    Saratoga, Philadelphia, and Valley Forge
    The Continental Army defeated the British at Saratoga. But the British took Philadelphia, and at Valley Forge the American army was sorely tried. Many Americans nonetheless embraced the cause of the rebellion, cherishing their fight for liberties, and held hope for independence. x
  • 28
    The Creation of State Constitutions
    In one of the most creative acts of the revolutionary times, the Continental Congress called on the states to write constitutions. Americans thus set out on an uncharted exercise in self-government, writing constitutions based on the notion that government exists to serve the people's interests. x
  • 29
    Jefferson's Statute for Religious Freedom
    Jefferson crafted a law for Virginia, especially radical at the time, in support of freedom of thought, not only in religion, but also in a more general sense. It was perhaps the greatest state government document of the 18th century. x
  • 30
    Franklin, Paris, and the French Alliance
    Franklin used his celebrity with the French and hints of reconciliation with Britain to move the French into commercial and military treaties with the United States. Once these treaties were signed, printers in America gave them wide circulation. x
  • 31
    The Articles of Confederation
    The Continental Congress adopted a frame of government drafted by John Dickinson of Pennsylvania. Under the Articles of Confederation, a government came into being with representatives from 13 sovereign states, each state having an equal vote in the national government. Ratified in 1781, the Articles were a success, but the central government eventually proved ineffective after the war ended. x
  • 32
    Yorktown and the End of the War
    The British moved into the South, hoping to pick up support of slaveholders troubled by the language of the Declaration. But although the British could win military victories, they could not pacify the South or win the hearts and minds of the people. Their army surrendered at Yorktown. x
  • 33
    The Treaty of Paris of 1783
    The British declined to continue the war. The Treaty of Paris defined the boundaries of the new country and banned reprisals on Tories. By surrendering his commission, George Washington demonstrated that the people would rule the military in the new nation. x
  • 34
    The Crises of the 1780s
    The new nation had problems. Its central government was not strong enough to tackle piracy and foreign trade, or deal well with a tax revolt in western Massachusetts called Shays' Rebellion, or raise funds to pay off the debt from the war. By 1786, many Americans realized they needed to meet to revise the Articles of Confederation. x
  • 35
    African Americans and the Revolution
    After the rebels signed the Declaration of Independence, many came to realize that the continued existence of slavery was a contradiction to the principles of universal human equality defined in it. Residents of northern states soon abolished the institution, but it clung to life in the Chesapeake states; only in the Deep South did some offer spirited defenses of slavery. x
  • 36
    The Constitutional Convention
    Leaders from the states gathered in Philadelphia to craft a new government in 1787. They had learned much during the process of writing state constitutions and hoped to establish a more effective central government. They struggled with the notion of how to represent the states as well as the people and how state governments could coexist with a powerful national government. x
  • 37
    The United States Constitution
    The framers of the Constitution outlined a government deriving its power from the people. The Constitution created a powerful executive branch and laid out the operations of the two branches of the national legislature. The founders hoped that this new government could handle the kinds of problems that had been so vexing during the middle of the 1780s. x
  • 38
    The Antifederalist Critique
    Antifederalists, those opposed to the Constitution as it emerged from the Philadelphia convention, worried about the new government's extensive powers and potential for abuse. They bemoaned the lack of a bill of rights. They thought the executive might be too strong to be kept in check. They published their arguments in hopes of thwarting ratification. x
  • 39
    The Federalists' Response
    In response, the Federalists, particularly James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, argued powerfully in print that the proposed government had enough checks and balances to preserve liberty and avert abuse. Nevertheless, they agreed that the Constitution should be amended with a bill of rights. x
  • 40
    The Bill of Rights
    Many in the states called for a bill of rights as a quid pro quo for approving the Constitution. James Madison drafted such a bill, and 10 of its items were adopted by 1791. They explicitly stated the rights of the people that could not be limited by the judiciary or the federal government. x
  • 41
    Politics in the 1790s
    The 1790s were a Federalist era, with the first president, Washington, vowing to work for all the people and not factions. But a growing Republican group led by Jefferson touted agrarianism and independent farmers, while a Federalist faction led by Hamilton promoted manufacturing and efforts to develop the nation's economy. x
  • 42
    The Alien and Sedition Acts
    By the middle of the 1790s, many Americans were concerned about the French Revolution, which had spun in unpredictable directions after its start in 1789. Republicans saw much of value in France, while the Federalists found allies in Britain. John Adams, the second president, signed the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798, calling for the arrest of some critics of the government. Republicans, following the lead of Jefferson and Madison, protested these statutes as infringements on the right of free speech. x
  • 43
    The Election of 1800
    In 1800 President Jefferson had the opportunity to take political revenge but instead used his inaugural to confirm his faith in the Constitution. The country would not descend to such divisiveness as the French Revolution produced. In 1803 the Supreme Court asserted itself as the final arbiter of law and defender of the people's interests. x
  • 44
    Women and the American Revolution
    The liberties and equalities in the Revolution's documents remained distant dreams for women. Women could aspire to the position of "republican mother," educating their husbands and sons in the virtues needed for the self-governing nation. Yet women lost some of their rights under common law and did not gain appreciable political or divorce rights. x
  • 45
    The Revolution and Native Americans
    Some Native Americans supported the rebellion, but more believed that an alliance with the British was in their best interests. By war's end, many victorious Americans believed that all Natives had supported the British and such views supported the exclusion of Natives from the United States. x
  • 46
    The American Revolution as Social Movement
    Despite bearing the brunt of the fighting, lower-income men typically did not benefit financially. Tens of thousands of loyalists emigrated, sometimes to England, often to Canada. Notions of deference declined, and many had expanded opportunities after the war. x
  • 47
    Reflections by the Revolutionary Generation
    Those who experienced the Revolution differed over what it meant: a world gone mad; a success story for the ages; the crucible for creating a new type of person; a movement for liberty that had been partially repudiated. x
  • 48
    The Meaning of the Revolution
    Some of the Revolution's ramifications took decades to materialize—the end of slavery, rights for women—and some continue work themselves out. But the Revolution left posterity with the transforming idea that the people are the sovereigns, at least in America, and as sovereigns, each has the responsibility to participate in and shape public life in the United States. x

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Peter C. Mancall

About Your Professor

Peter C. Mancall, Ph.D.
University of Southern California
Dr. Peter C. Mancall is Professor of History and Anthropology at the University of Southern California and Director of the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute. He earned his A.B. from Oberlin College and his master's degree and Ph.D. from Harvard University. Before taking his position at USC, he held teaching positions at the University of Kansas, the University College Galway in Ireland, and Harvard University....
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Origins and Ideologies of the American Revolution is rated 3.7 out of 5 by 78.
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Educational but... My history classes in school taught me the reason for the AR was "taxation without representation " but these lectures showed me that there were many more causes for the AR. The lectures on the lead-up to the war demonstrate why many Americans were willing to fight to the death for their cause. However as previously pointed out by other reviewers the lecturer reads way too much. He would read long passages of material then have to explain what it meant. I also believe he should have include some more information on the actual battles during the war. But I feel the information gained by watching this out weigh the negatives.
Date published: 2019-03-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great content! This course offers a very thorough and effective examination of the Revolutionary era. The professor is passionate and knowledgeable, and the topic selections are comprehensive and well chosen. The major drawback, as others have noted, is the professor's penchant for speaking extremely fast. Some reviewers have also complained that the professor reads too extensively from original source documents, but I disagree and think that is a course strength. All in all, a solid but not outstanding course.
Date published: 2018-05-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from origins and Ideologies of the American Revolution bought this course a few months ago. The speaker was very knowledgeable but a very poor speaker. used the " UH " a lot. Also had trouble reading his notes. Had to repeat words. Lost my interest. My wife could not stand him using his hands.
Date published: 2018-02-12
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Too long This program was twice as long as it needed to be. The lecturer kept reading long exerpts from documents rather than summarizing them.
Date published: 2018-01-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Really enlightening I learned a great deal from this course and it made the history come to life like an adventure story. My only criticism is that the lecturer speaks to quickly , especially when reading from source material
Date published: 2017-12-09
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Blinkered “The American colonists believed that they, as British subjects, had a right for representation in any body that would to subject them to taxation.” Everyone knows this! Repeat this phrase over and over and you have this course. There is no attempt to seriously look at the conflicting ideologies that are at play here. The colonists are continually represented as a homogeneous block that have the same reaction to everything, as is the British government. There were 20 British colonies in North America at the time- why did 7 of them not join with the 13? What did people living there think about what was happening? What was the thinking in colonies with a very different origin, such as the Floridas and Quebec? What did the citizens of the UK think? What was the rational for those in the UK who agreed with the dissent and spoke up? What debate was there in Parliament? What did the Government and King think about the direct appeals to them? Approx 20% of colonists were loyalists, who were they and what was their rational? Others were neutral, why is that? Why were troops from Hesse there, and what did they think? The French are mentioned, but essentially entirely from the point of view of Franklin, what were their ideologies and motivations? To have a lecture on ‘African Americans’, and yet not even mention the Dunmore Proclamation, or indeed the point of view of a single black person and instead solely focus on the rebel leaders’ views on slavery is completely unacceptable! All the above are excluded, apart from lone fleeting mentions of Hutchinson. Whigs and Tories are mentioned as terms, with no explanation of what these fundamental terms mean! It's not just the views of groups external to the rebels that are completely ignored. What about other issues apart from taxation/representation? No mention whatsoever about the drive for westward expansion, or migration as motivators except when he reads them out as part of the Declaration of Independence! There's no attempt to look at different factions amongst the rebels: every colonist is presented as a rebel with exactly the same motivations and reactions, with a brief mention of Dickinson as exception. I give some kudos for going beyond the strict end date, but again we have the same wilful rejection of any wider view. The American Revolution was a direct precursor to the French Revolution, how did the ideas transfer and adapt? Similarly for the next 30 years of the Latin American Wars of Independence. The British Empire significantly restructured how it ran colonies as a result of the Revolution, how did the ideals influence this and impact on the thoughts of those living in other colonies? In fairness the lectures on women and native Americans are good, and do at least attempt to look at other views. But it is far too little too late. What disappoints is the praise heaped in reviews on the content, with the criticism reserved for the fact that he spends too much time reading out texts; compared to the gaping holes in terms of subject matter this hardly matters! Every nation has its foundational myths and the Founding Fathers are, in US society, idolized to such an extent that any view other than theirs is unthinkable, as Prof Mancall admits. I hadn't expected an impartial discussion of the interplaying ideologies, but just that some analysis of them would be present. I expect this level of blinkered disinterest in the rest of the world or in any counter-narratives at high school level, I’m just amazed that such lazy academic thinking exists at alleged undergraduate level as well. The logic that history is written by the winners, so why bother to examine any other point of view?
Date published: 2017-03-14
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Could not get engaged I really wanted to like this course. The other course offerings on the American Revolution have its up's and down's so I was hoping this course would provide that full experience I'd been searching for but, unfortunately, it did not. I had a hard time getting engaged. There were way too many times I found myself zoning out while listening. The main reason was likely the amount of time the professor spent reading detail after detail of historical documents or proclamations by a legislative body. He would get lost in the minutia of the documents vs. explaining the general spirit of story behind them or the events they described. Based on other reviews I wasn't the only one left with this impression. I purchased this course because I thought the "American Revolution" course was lacking in detailing the causes of the conflict and some of events leading to the military battles. These included the Boston Massacre and Boston Tea Party. However, this course didn't discuss these events in the capacity I would've thought. It was more focused on documents. If you are very interested in the old proclamations, treaties, historical documents or laws then this may be your course. If you are interested in the actual events of the Revolution I would recommend "American Revolution".
Date published: 2017-02-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good content marred by subpar presentation Very in-depth coverage of an important period in American history, with concentration on several figures who typically receive little attention in standard accounts (e.g., James Otis). Much use of original sources. It is evident that Professor Mancall knows his material, but he constantly makes speech errors that require him to correct and repeat phrases, occasionally several times in a row, and that becomes very distracting and it detracts from the viewer's confidence in the quality of what is presented. I am not unsympathetic, having a mild speech impediment myself, but I would expect someone who lectures for a living--and a company that produces academic lectures for popular consumption--would make a better effort.
Date published: 2016-11-22
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Presentation could stand a lot of improvement. This is not only an interesting subject but also a very important one. I recently watched a TV reporter asking college students questions on American History, and one young man guessed that the Declaration of Independence had been signed in 1984!! The professor could have made the subject much more understandable by 1. Slowing down his delivery of speech 2. Giving outlines of the innumerable document he presented, instead of reading them word-for-word, and 3 using a very important teaching aid of presenting the written document on the screen so that the viewer can follow along with what's being presented.
Date published: 2016-10-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Unlistenable This course merits one star, but I have given it two simply because of the subject matter’s great importance. Had this awful lecturer been delivering a series of lectures on any other subject, the lectures would occupy the infamous one-star category. I bought this course on audio CD five years ago this month. On my first attempt five years ago, I only made it through lecture 10 before I abandoned the exercise. Five years removed, I tried listening to the course again simply because of the importance of the course’s subject matter. On the second go, I forced myself to get through lecture 18, thirty shy of completing the course, but could not proceed, so dreadful is the professor’s presentation. To make matters worse, I bought this course at the same time that I bought Professor Patrick Allitt’s captivating series “American Religious History.” Professor Mancall’s hapless “Origins and Ideologies of the American Revolution” suffers immeasurably by comparison. Anyone who has had a podcast, worked in radio, or had to give a presentation of any kind well knows how deadly an audience finds it when a speaker simply reads them long excerpts of written text. Yet the lectures in this series consist of little more than endless concatenations of read text that Mancall rushes through in his poorly enunciated reading style. EXCRUCIATING! One would think that a course called “Origins and Ideologies of the American Revolution” would be among the most gripping in TTC/TGC’s library. Sadly, the course is unlistenable. You’d do well to skip this one and instead pick up Patrick Allitt’s “American Religious History” or the multi-professor series “History of the United States, 2nd Edition,” which features not only Professor Allitt, but also the dynamite Gary Gallagher and Allen Guelzo.
Date published: 2016-09-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting, important, but repetitive One central point that has to be mentioned regarding this course is the title: the course does stick very closely to describing the ORIGINS of the ideologies of the American Revolution – which is commendable. It does not focus enough, in my opinion, on the ideologies themselves. It does not presume to do so, but perhaps it would have been a good idea to dive into this topic a bit more deeply since it is closely connected. Particularly what I mean is that there is only a very brief summary of Locke’s political thoughts in the beginning, but since this is such a central theme it would have been a good idea to introduce some other enlightenment thinkers on the topic, the concept of the social contract and so forth… This is a profound and fundamental change of paradigms in political thought and is manifested fully first in the US, so this exclusion is unfortunate in my opinion. The course focuses on an important and interesting topic. It is quite narrow in its scope and really targeted at a highly interested audience – so the course will probably be too detailed and drill too deeply for some with only a casual interest. The professor provided a very detailed and comprehensive narrative of the events that shaped the colonist’s grievances and their eventual striving for independence. He did a very good job in describing the tumult that the colonists went through – all beginning as loyal British subjects but some becoming rebels as they cumulated more grievances while others choosing to remain supportive of Britain. Much of course, however, was very repetitive. There were many events whose basic lesson was that there can be no taxation without representation, and while going through the narratives themselves was enlightening and interesting, summarizing this same sentiment over and over by the professor was superfluous and tiring. The course was well structured and focused, and the content for the most part interesting and important. Professor Mancal’s presentation style did leave a lot to be desired, though I did not find it detrimental to the extent that many of the previous reviewers had – who thought the presentation style rendered the course unusable. I do believe that if the course had been less repetitive and with careful editing, the course could have been cut down significantly without losing much of its content, and perhaps the saved time could have been used to talk more about the ideologies themselves.
Date published: 2016-08-23
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Repetitive, naive, and devoid of content . I have consumed more than 50 Great Courses lecture series and this one is by far the lowest of quality. You'd think that such a long lecture series covering a small period in time would tell a complete story and tremendous detail, but the lecturer actually provides a one -dimensional view. One example of this is his interpretation of the repeated protestations of loyalty given by the American authors to Britain. The lecturer reiterates that the Americans, as a whole, are expressing a sense of loyalty toward Britain even is tensions rise. This statement, which takes nearly a full minute to make, is repeated many times per lecture in nearly every lecture, as if we could somehow forget it in the 10 minutes since the last time he mentioned it. The statement also sounds more and more ridiculous as the countries ramp up to war. At one point, the 2nd Continental Congress writes a letter effectively saying: we're still loyal, but we've been dodging a ton of taxes, we support all the civil unrest, we support the killing of your soldiers, and also, get out of our country or else. The lecturer then spends several minutes describing how this letter actually means that the congress is still pro reconciliation with Britain while providing no information as to why we are to believe this view. Are there letters showing colonials wanting to stay loyal. Are there records that might support this? I guess I'll have to find out on my own.
Date published: 2016-08-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A Disappointment One would expect at the outset that a course titling itself Origins and Ideologies of the American Revolution would include among its beginning chapters discussions of Hobbes, Locke, Voltaire, Montesquieu and Cesare Beccaria and their influence on intellectual leaders of American thought. With only a minor mention of Locke (who modern scholarship minimizes in terms of his influence on the Revolution and our Constitution), we hear nary a word. There is no mention of the change in American higher education institutions like Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Penn and William and Mary from Aristotelian Scholasticism to natural philosophy (science). To any student of 17th and 18th century European Enlightenment philosophers, the absence of such a discussion is puzzling. There is no discussion of any substance on the forms of government extant in the colonies prior to 1760 and the ascension to the throne of George III. We can infer from Dr. Mancall’s remarks that most of the colonies enjoyed a great deal of autonomy from Great Britain before King George decided to change things. Dr. Mancall does not speculate about how the conquest of a wilderness may have influenced American thinking. We do get a listing and discussion of the various acts, like the Stamp Act and the American reaction, but the half hour devoted to each of them is mostly taken up with long quotations, rattled off so quickly the professor might be speaking in idiomatic French. Yes, I would like to be exposed to the contemporary discourse, but the professor doesn’t seem to want to spend the time to organize the material. He talks about slavery, he talks about Lexington and manages to forget one of those wounded at Lexington was Prince Estabrook, a black slave. He does nothing to put Lexington into prospective. I know from other sources it was a town of about 120 families, thirty-nine American men confronted the British troops. Most of the Americans were about thirty years old, married with several children. Ten of them were killed, nine were wounded. Sam Adams and John Hancock were in Lexington that day, hiding in a barn. Mancall never makes a concrete connection with the action of these literate but subsistence farmers with ideology. Frankly, I think they stood on the green in Lexington that day because there was something in the American experience of 150 years that had already transformed them into something other than British. Mancall doesn’t touch upon what it might be. He is more concerned with discussing them as Anglo colonists, a lip service to political correctness since not all the colonies in the New World were English. After all, there were French colonies and Spanish colonies and Indian tribes, but I don’t think any of them were participating in the Revolutionary War. . Yet, all might be forgiven if not for the last disk. Having rambled on for hours, hands waving, weaving back and forth at his podium, Mancall reveals his unforgivable bias against Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists. In discussing the Federalist Papers, while praising Madison to the heavens, he grudgingly allows Hamilton wrote one notable one. And yet, the Federalist Papers were Hamilton’s idea. It was Hamilton who recruited Madison and Jay to write them. Of the 85 essays, Jay wrote 5, Madison 26, and Hamilton wrote 51. Three were a joint effort of Madison’s and Hamilton’s. In discussing the Alien and Sedition Acts, Mancall repeats with glee that attacks framed by Madison and Jefferson against the Federalist President Adams without mentioning that the genesis. One of the acts was the result of Jefferson’s scurrilous attacks of Washington’s policy of neutrality in the hostilities between Britain and France in The National Gazette, a newspaper Jefferson supported with funds from the State Department when he was Washington’s secretary of state. A newspaper that was attacking Washington’s policy of neutrality at the time Jefferson was serving in the cabinet. Neither does he tell you that Jefferson was a Francophile who resigned his cabinet position over The Jay Treaty which finally settled the issues between the US and Britain. Mancall does not feel compelled to mention that the Alien Act was directed at Citizen Genet a French diplomat who was in Charleston, SC issuing privateer licenses for American vessels sailing out of American ports to attack British shipping. And, while he mentions the Quasi War with France as an aside, he fails to mention the XYZ Affair, a diplomatic mission during which Talleyrand demanded a bribe in order to cease attacking American ships. Strangely, when Jefferson was president he would refuse such tribute to the Barbary pirates. Finally, in his adoration for the Virginia Dynasty, Mancall never speculates on the rancor Jefferson had over losing the election of 1800 by three votes to Adams. In short, I can not recommend this course.
Date published: 2016-07-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good course A lot of the reviewers didn't like the professor's presentation. I almost didn't buy it because of that. Now after listening to about half the course, I think his presentation is just fine. The content is interesting. I don't have anything bad to say about it.
Date published: 2016-07-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Great Content Suffers from Poor Presentation The content is rally good. Comprehensive in fact. But the presentation by the professor is marred by his speaking style, which propels the words at such a fast clip when he is reading documents that I could not absorb what he was reading. Many other reviews have pointed this out and I agree. He takes too much time reading from source documents, when he could easily summarize them. This would not be too much of a problem except there are so many instances in which he reads. And when he reads, it is as if he cannot wait to finish the reading. He speeds through the documents without any attempt to emphasize what it is he wants us to take from the document. There is no effort to read so a listener can absorb the main points. When he is not reading from a document, he is much better. He slows down and is able to get across his points. That is good. But he often repeats himself and then reads from a document to repeat it again. And, even when he is not reading from a source document, there are many times when it is apparent he is reading from his own text, compromising what would be a more comfortable speaking style if he did not slavishly stick to a word by word reading of his prepared text. The first 3-5 minutes of each lecture were the best parts of the course when the Professor would summarize the previous lecture. Those summaries were concise, interesting and delivered at an absorbable pace. I have subscribed to more than 50 of the Great Courses and this is the first one that I found to be painful to sit through (I listen in my car to the CD's). It made me wonder where were the Great Courses editors and why didn't they give needed guidance to Professor Mancall, who clearly is a master of the material and passionate about it, on how to communicate to his listeners? It is a shame because, if the Professor had been properly instructed on how best to communicate to his audience, this could have been a great course.
Date published: 2016-04-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Ideal Way to Study the Revolution This course examines the ideologies that led to the outbreak of the American Revolution, fueled the Revolution during the war and guided the formation of America's government that endures to the present. This course does not cover the military history of the war. Instead, this course focuses on the great thinkers, like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, whose ideas helped stir the colonists into action. This course is not a biography of these individuals but, rather, is an examination of their thoughts and ideas. The course examines the way that ideas traveled, including by word of mouth, printed materials and propaganda drawings, and the way those ideas impacted history. One of the more interesting aspects of the course is the discussion about how Americans, Loyalists and British had such divergent views of the same set of facts. For instance, Americans viewed the Boston Tea Party as a justified act of civil disobedience while Loyalists saw it as an act of lawlessness and British saw it as an act of rebellion. Perhaps the best part of the course is its broad scope. I expected the course to focus just on the build-up to the war and the war itself. However, the course went beyond that and dedicated several lectures to the establishment of the peace and the development of the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. The bottom line is that this course does a great job going behind the scenes of the American Revolution and providing fantastic details often overlooked in other courses. This course provides a deep understanding of the motives that led to the war and leaves a new appreciation for the genius of the nation's founders.
Date published: 2015-10-02
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Origins and Ideologies of the American Revolution I just finished the DVD set, The American Revolution with Professor Allen Guelzo. It was fabulous and Professor Guelzo was such a great speaker. Then I moved on to this set, Origins and Ideologies of the American Revolution. I made it through the first lecture on the first disc and then skipped around to other lectures. I cannot watch this presentation. I read some of the other reviews and felt they were fair. Professor Mancall's subject matter is important and well written, but this professor's delivery is lacking. My number one complaint is all the arm waving that goes on constantly throughout his presentation. At times, his hands are up in front of his face. This is not once in awhile for is all the time. Other reviewers have not mentioned this, but I found it very distracting...almost like he was directing traffic of conducting an orchestra. I am sure in the classroom he is much calmer and his students enjoy his presentations, but on DVD this is not the case. Great Courses should have advised him to keep his hands down on the podium at least some of the time. In public speaking, the idea is not to detract from the message. I love the courses on this site and I hope someone takes on this project that can do it justice. Great Courses should have very high standards since we can't hear the lecturer before we buy the product. The prices are too expensive not to have excellence.
Date published: 2015-08-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from worth the time This was a very interesting look at the history of the way people thought. I learned that the American Revolution was not always inevitable but that it became so, in part because of propaganda and political pamphlets. Dr. Mancall went into great detail, but he always made it relevant. An unfortunate distraction was Dr. Mancall’s speaking quickly and often getting his tongue tied. Nonetheless, I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2015-03-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from extensive in scope and always informative I knew a lot about American history, including the founding period, before taking this course. Thanks to Prof. Mancall, I now know a lot more. After a three-lecture preamble he covers the development of the Revolution and the new Federal government from 1750 to Jefferson's first administration. The time scale is right, and Mancall covers the main personalities and events in excellent detail. I found particularly interesting his coverage of the political developments in England vis-a-vis King George III and Parliament, and how that changing relationship shaped relations with the American colonies. Prof. Mancall's detailed coverage of the 1760s controversies in America about Writs of Assistance and related issues is masterful and essential to understand how a people who thought of themselves as English became upset enough to seek independence. I have two nits to pick with the course. One is that the first three lectures are a bit "whiny" for my taste. Prof. Mancall seems to be afflicted with a bit of modern academia's penchant for excessive political correctness. Yes, the indigenous Americans were often treated badly by the European settlers, but I didn't need to hear about Native American alcoholism in each of the first three lectures. And yes, I get that slavery was and is evil and wrong. Second, Prof. Mancall often reads somewhat lengthy excerpts from contemporary documents such as letters and pamphlets. While always directly relevant to the material at hand, I found these long passages a bit tedious to hear on the CD. But overall, this is a deep and worthy course suitable for anyone who is interested in American history.
Date published: 2014-10-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent course marred by inaccuracy I have listened to this course twice and have enjoyed it both times a great deal. Very well organized and the audio presentation works well. One glaring defect is repeated three times, that being a claim that Mary Otis' husband was Dr Joseph Warren, the hero killed at Bunker Hill. Her husband was James Warren, a distant cousin of Dr Warren's. James Warren served in the Revolution and unlike Dr Warren, he survived the war. Dr Warren's wife was Elizabeth Hooten. This factual error detracts from an otherwise excellent course.
Date published: 2014-09-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent and very informative Top notch. The professor's excitement and interest in the area is contagious. Learned so much.
Date published: 2014-08-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Recommended, but not enthusiastically It is so unfortunate that a 48-lecture course on the background of the "American Revolution", presented by a top American historian and author, with a PhD from a leading American university (Harvard, 1986), fails to shine & sparkle. This professor's anti-English bias comes through very early in the course, colouring his comments improperly. I will here point out that the English outlawed slavery in 1833 (Slavery Abolition Act) -- that was almost 30 years before Lincoln's "Emancipation Proclamation" on January 1st 1863. In England, trading in slaves had been abolished even earlier, in 1807. Dr Mancall's course gets off to a slow, rather dull start and improves little, with minimal use of graphics. Having seen more than 150 Great Courses, I feel his presentation was average overall. His extensive quoting from historical documents and speeches was, I felt, necessary, though at times tedious and trying; it's important to see and hear what key people were thinking, saying and proposing over the time covered. Dr Mancall speaks of the "British Constitution", but Britain has NEVER had a written or formal constitution as the USA does. The British government reached its method of governing through tradition, acts, treaties, resolutions and such. This is a MAJOR difference even now between the USA and the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland". Dr Mancall should NOT talk about a "British Constitution". Because of the breadth and depth of this course and the fact that it is a vitally important subject to all, I recommend it, BUT it should have been truly engaging & dynamic, a real winner. It ain't!
Date published: 2014-01-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course content. A must for any American. I read the previous reviews about the lecturer. While he isn't as smooth as other lecturers, the content of the course was perfect. He feels rushed at times. I enjoyed the documents he read from to embellish the points he made. He does seem to get stuck on his own words, but the content was great. The professor is enthusiastic about his subject, so I didn't feel bored at all. I feel very enriched from listening to this course, and it made me want to study American History more deeply. While the facts are the facts, I am sure 10 professors could do this course in 10 different ways. That is why I feel compelled to learn more about these topics. But the content was perfect, the course guidebook was perfect, and it takes you through events chronologically. People who are truly interested in history don't just read one book about George Washington, they read several. Writers have different styles and unearth new material and may make references that another author may omit entirely. I have probably listened to 20 Teaching Company History Courses, and I put this in the top three. My other two favorites were Lincoln: In his own Words by Professor Zarefsky and Churchill by Professor Rufus Fears. Both are EXCELLENT lecturers with EXCELLENT course content.
Date published: 2013-12-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Good Content, Bad Presentor We have had the opportunity to see a lot of the Great courses, and we generally love them. However, while the content of this course was really good, Professor Mancall was not. His reading of the teleprompter was so bad I wondered if he wrote the material. In other courses we could hardly tell that a teleprompter was used at all. We can only recommend this course if you are willing to put up with distracting, halting, repeating reading of the material.
Date published: 2013-06-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from GREAT background on Am Revolution I LOVED the content of these lectures. Unlike others I found the source materials essential to understanding the events and thoughts that led to the Am Rev. I could NOT stand how the professor kept saying "Uh, um," ALL THE TIME. If not for his horrible delivery, I would give this a 5 star. As it is, I now want to buy the transcript so that I can re-read all the source material.
Date published: 2013-05-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wonderful Content But Awful Presentation Because of the tension between the great content and the rough presentation, this course is difficult to review. However, I would say that on balance the excellent content manages to make this a good course despite the problems with presentation. Unlike other reviewers, I liked the generous use of primary materials and found the course to be a thorough and thoughtful ideological and historical study of the years before, during, and after the American Revolution. Unfortunately, Prof. Mancall had a rough time vocalizing the course. His voice is raspy, the presentation is filled with horribly distracting "uhhhhhh's" (many shot out at shotgun speed in a deeply unpleasant manner), and he has the confusing habit of dropping articles and syllables. For example, "the Atlantic Ocean" becomes "Lantic Ocean," "the United States" becomes "Knighted States," and so on. I would hope the Teaching Company would do a second edition which fixes all this. If they did, this course would be a treasure. In the meantime, one might consider just ordering the transcript (assuming it drops the "uh's" and adds back the missing articles and syllables.) That written version should make a great addition to any library.
Date published: 2013-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Freedom Reigns The course was extremely informative as a description of how our country’s independence was inspired. We appreciated Professor Mancall’s presentation of so many original documents like diaries and personal letters that showed what people were thinking about at the time. Also fascinating was the influence of broadsides and other publications that illustrated how they were getting their information. Our previous experience with learning about this historical period dealt mainly with the framers and the various battles that were fought. This course introduced us to individuals in the villages and on their farms. Oh how we wish that the ideal of sovereignty of individuals being served by the government they had formed was more evident in today’s news!
Date published: 2013-04-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Gives this extremely important subject its due While listening to this course I was surprised and impressed so many times that I promised myself I would post a review. I have listened to dozens of Teaching Company courses by now; this is one of the best examples of what I hope to find in a recorded history course. The lecture on Jefferson's Statute for Religious Freedom alone is worth the price of admission. But I am also grateful for the serious discussion of the Articles of Confederation, which are so often dismissed, and in general for the patient, careful outlining of what was going on between England and the colonies from 1760 onward that shaped public opinion and impelled the actions of the American colonists. I do wish that the Teaching Company had relaxed the timing restrictions of the lectures a little (particularly toward the end of the course) so that the professor wouldn't have had to speak quite so quickly to finish in the allotted time. In other courses I often find that I can set my media player to 1.5 times the normal speed and still listen quite comfortably; this is the only Teaching Company course for which I have slowed down my media player at times so that I could hear and absorb what was being said.
Date published: 2012-10-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Thorough Account As a non American trying to get to grips with the American revolution/war of independence I found this course informative, engaging and rewarding. I appreciate that extended readings from documents of the time might not be to everybody's taste, but if you want a sense of the period, there is no better way than to listen to the words of those who were there at the time. I feel that this has provided me with an good understanding of the main issues and events and provides an excellent platform for further reading. If I have one criticism it is that the war itself and the conflict between Hamilton, Adams and Jefferson does not get enough air-time. But otherwise a great course.
Date published: 2012-03-19
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointing The topic is interesting but the presentation is tedious. Mancall seems to think that teaching is reading from one period document after another that all say the same thing. I struggled to get through the first 24 lectures and then just gave up. Overall there was about three hours of material in these first 12 hours of lectures. The teaching company has some great teachers, Peter Mancall is not one of them.
Date published: 2012-02-17
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