The Great Courses

Length: 12 hrs and 1 min

The title pretty much says it all.
Although it’s more of a skeptics guide to what people learnt in school and what you hear misquoted around you.

There is of course so much to American history, and so much of history influences decisions that people take now, so understanding what was really what, the situation at the time that decisions were made etc. is of course really important.

Here I’ll just write a quick review, & then link it to another article about what I learnt from this course.

And this IS a course.  I mean the whole publishing thing is by ‘The Great Courses’.  You really are meant to learn something.

Although I would say that this book has the most impact on Americans… people that have already got a fairly comprehensive or at least general idea of their own history, & then can apply some sceptical thinking to it.

For me, I treated this as an actually history lecture.  And for that, it’s great.

The narrator IS the professor, so you hear all of this with his enthusiasm, which is great.
But even so.. there is so much information and you end up going ‘oooh that’s interesting… ooooh that’s interesting too’ and writing all of these things down.

For this reason it’s difficult to listen to it during your drive to work, because once you get to work you have to sit there for 10 minutes writing down all the noteworthy points into your phone.
Even though I really liked learning something new, I probably only garnered 30% of the information from this book.

I have to say though.. the amount, the sheer amount of information in this book… if you managed to remember it all.. then I think it’s the equivalent of taking a major in American History.  There is THAT much information.

The audio book also comes with a 186 something page accompanying pdf.   Which to be honest, isn’t why I listen to audio books.  It’s nice to have it, but I don’t really want to read it.

For me it was especially Fascinating learning about the reasons for the wars,.. the lead-up, etc. & + how international policy seemed to have been shaped.

Recommendations?

It would be more suited for Americans who have a fair idea of the American history already, or at least know the presidents and had some idea of why they were important.

This book isn’t for everyone, that’s for sure.  To be honest I’ve recommended it to my dad, but I think many others probably couldn’t be bothered with it.
I’m all for learning new material, & challenging the knowledge as we have been told.. but I understand that not everyone is.
Many people are just content with the information they were originally taught in school.
I would LIKE to recommend it to others, as this course teaches many things that were misunderstood, or just not taught in American or in other countries history classes.

Plus if you are to then use the information you’ve learned from this course in conversation, / reasoning for an argument… even against Americans.. you have to be able to back it up.  I guess that’s where that pdf document comes in handy.

But no one likes to be told the history of their own country.  Especially not Americans who have not necessarily been fed lies throughout the teaching of their history, but definitely selective information with selective perspectives on how issues were at a particular time period.

I will leave you with 3 more profound but general things Professor Mark A. Stoler stated.

  1. People often view history with an asynchronous Ie. They judge past events using todays modern perspectives.
    -For instance the Republican party used to be more or less opposite in terms of viewpoints than what it is today.  Exactly the same as the Democratic party.
    Therefore, parties can’t look back into the past and state “that’s exactly what our party has always stood for”
  2. “History does NOT repeat itself.
    Save perhaps for the emotions that drive human being to behave in certain ways- love, anger, fear, & thus there is a repetition in terms of patterns of human behaviour.
    But history NEVER repeats itself in terms of events.
    Each event is unique as is each era in human history.  And is each new interpretation of the past that arises within each era.
    Historical interpretation is always linked to specific eras.”
    -Each event is completely different, the lead up to an event, the perspectives at the time, the understanding of the world around them etc are all very different.
  1. You should think of history like a classroom blackboard.
    -At the point an event is happening you are nose close to the blackboard, you have an incredible amount of detail, yet you may be blind to things that are more on the periphery.
    -The more you step back, the more you can see surrounding events that likely influence that event.
    -If you step to the right, you see it in a different perspective, you are slightly shorter… you see it from a different perspective again.
    -The further back you go the more time has passed, the further back you are, the more blurry individual points become, which may exactly explain a situation.
    This is the real analogy of history; everyone who stands at different points in time from different angles will have a slightly different interpretation of how the events affected other events & why things happened the way they did.