Origins and Ideologies of the American Revolution : The Great Courses: Modern History

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Peter C. Mancall
  • Series: The Great Courses: Modern History
  • 24 hrs and 33 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

The years between 1760 and 1800 rocked the Western world. These were the years when colonists on the eastern fringes of a continent converted the ideals of Enlightenment thought first into action, then into an actual form of government.
Now you can learn why this happened and how the colonists did it - in a series of 48 insightful lectures from an award-winning teacher and author.
Professor Mancall brings to life not only the famous but also the little-remembered colonists who were caught up in the debates over rights and power, liberties and empire. It is a story of immense importance and rich discoveries. And because he presents original source materials, including examples of how events were reported and interpreted, you'll more readily grasp the evolution of ideas, the competing pressures, and the misunderstandings - not only in the time leading up to the Revolution, and during the years it was being fought, but afterwards, as well.
That's when the victorious colonists came to learn that in achieving freedom from Great Britain, they had simply traded one set of problems for another. They still had to cope with the extraordinarily difficult task of crafting a workable government - one that could support their ideals of how citizens and government should relate to each other - and achieving respect and success among other nations.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.


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“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?

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- P. L. Hunting

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-07-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses