Tuesday, May 8, 2012

American History

I finished another lecture series recently, this one on The History of the United States.  84 half hour lectures.  You might think it would be hard to watch/listen to 42 hours of professors lecturing on history but I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing.  I've also read three different histories of the United States, from Columbus to the present (Paul Johnson, Howard Zinn and Tindall & Shi).  What can I say?  It's a story I never get tired of.

This series uses three professors.  Allen Guelzo takes us from the age of ocean-going explorers up to the 'great compromise' in the run-up to the Civil War.  Gary Gallagher takes us through the war and the post-war 'reconstruction' period and southern 'redemption.'  Patrick Allitt takes us the rest of the way, beginning with Industrialization and finishing with Clinton's America and the Millennium. 

In the final lecture, Reflections, Allitt lists four basic 'truths' that make the story of America unique.  First is American Exceptionalism; Allitt believes that this 'belief', which goes all the way back to the beginning, plays a role in everything that followed.

Second, "A combination of cultural and environmental circumstances enabled America to become the richest nation in the history of the world." 

Third, "America's political institutions nurtured and protected vital freedoms."

And finally, "America has welcomed and assimilated more varied immigrant groups than any other nation."

I intend to explore some of these themes in the weeks to come.  Tonight I begin with a question.  In his 'reflections' Professor Allitt states that America has consistently fallen short of its ideals but also has consistently performed 'better' than any other country.  Does he have that about right?


  1. I cannot be certain about the part "has consistently performed better than any other country". Just consider a statement like that in basic logic alone, wow, it can hardly stand up can it?
    Did you ever read the pre white man history of the Americas, "1491"? Excellent read, packed with exciting information I guarantee you never heard.
    I just finished "Darkness at noon". Enjoyed it a lot. About the communist purges and the absurd process of carefully framing every suspect and feeding the machine, even the prosecutors had a shelf life until they were to be sacrificed. Before that I read a new book on the Inquisition, Gods Jury, and before that Who Killed Kurov. All 3 books were of the same subject, a cult demanding blood sacrifice to root out criminals and thinking people.

  2. I may have slightly misquoted that part but something like. Which country should we put forward as having done more to advance the cause of the human race? Liberty and Justice for all, and all that? I believe he includes America's prominent role in winning WWII and standing against the spread of Communist aggression. As fucked up as some of it was.