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?