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 4 out of 5 by from Interesting, but way too much reading by professor I enjoyed this course and learned quite a bit. My one complaint, however, is that the professor reads directly from primary sources WAY too often and WAY too much. It think it's important to hear certain passages verbatim, but several times during a half-hour lecture? And sometimes for as long as a minute or two? I'm sure it's because he's enthusiastic about the source material, but for the listener, it can get tiring. The presentation could have benefited from a little more selectivity (although his recitation of Patrick Henry's "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" was quite good!).
Date published: 2012-01-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Lots of repetition I learned a great deal about the details of the revolution and the events and attitudes that led up to it. In this regard my expectation of the course was met. However, Professor Mancall ends each lecture by recapping the lecture. Then, he begins the next lecture by recapping the last lecture again, and then gives an overview of the next lecture. In addition to the summations to begin and end each lecture, Professor Mancall also summarizes the original material sources that he quotes. Most of the original sources are in plane English and easily understood and intelligent people don't need him to tell them what the words mean. Some people might like this approach, but I thought there could have been 25% more new material were it not for all the repetition. Overall I really enjoyted the course, but I would have gotten more out of it if it had more new material.
Date published: 2011-11-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not really an introductory course Prof. Mancall is an excellent lecturer *when* he lectures. Unfortunately, as noted by many, if not most, other reviewers, he spends WAY too much time reading original material including laws, letters, newspaper articles, and the like. Most of this material is not Shakespeare and, alas, Prof. Mancall is not Laurence Olivier. Presentation and analysis of this original material would be more appropriate for an upper class or graduate-level course. That having been said, once he pauses to explain what he just read, he does a fine job of analyzing the material and putting the listener into the scene. His description of events such as Bunker Hill shows the tenacity of the colonists in contrast to the British who stopped the attack partly because it was 5pm. Even after watching the course, I am still puzzled by the use of the term "tyrant" with regard to King George -- taxation without representation hardly holds a candle to Stalin, Hitler, or Pol Pot. Given all that I would still recommend this course to a friend with the proviso that the content aside from the reading is worthwhile.
Date published: 2011-10-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from One glaring error I picked up the audio version of the course at my local library, in order that I might listen to it on my 2 hr drive, back and home, for work. Already possessing a master's in history, focusing on this period, I am still interested in hearing others interpretations of the AR. I had no problem with the material or the presentation, although the verbatim reading of primary sources did get a little tedious. It was, however, his lecture on the Battle of Bunker Hill that gave me serious pause. In it, he recounts that among the dead was Joseph Warren, husband of Mercy Otis Warren and brother-in-law to James Otis, Jr. While it is true that Dr. Warren perished in the battle, he was NOT the husband of Mercy. That honor went to JAMES Warren, another prominent player in the AR. It is my hope that Dr. Mancall simply mixed the two up, as has been known to occur.
Date published: 2011-09-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Meet the Generation that Molded a Nation Professor Mancall is an amazing scholar and has here synthesized an incredible amount of material. After working through the 48 lectures, I felt deep kinship with the American Revolutionary generation due to the Professor’s deep and sympathetic interpretation of this time in American history. Mancall merges political history, cultural studies, biographies, and intellectual history to create a deep and rich portrait of this time period. He skillfully shifts from broad intellectual and social trends to intriguing personalities such James Warren, King George III (an unusually sympathetic portrayal) and Thomas Hutchinson, as well as other better known personalities. His lecture on the Boston Massacre best demonstrates his skill in weaving together these various approaches to history. Sadly, the course has some major issues. It is not Professor Mancall’s fault that he is not a gifted orator; this is not my issue. The problem is when he reads large quantities of text. The raspiness of his voice (which is generally tolerable) is unpleasantly amplified as he hurriedly plows through vast quantities of text in order to meet the thirty minute time limit of each lecture. I agree with the reviewer who claims the course needs to be limited to thirty-six lectures. This would sharpen the focus of the course and limit amount of time devoted to the interminable readings. There is an art to public reading that requires skill and practice, neither of which the professor demonstrates. Had the professor either limited the quantity of textual reading, or simply rehearsed the readings, the quality of the lectures would have been greatly improved. I hope Mancall offers a second edition of these very valuable lectures and either edits the readings or practices using proper inflection when reading to an audience. I had really wanted to give this course five stars, but in the end it was a bit too flawed to warrant the highest score. Still these lectures are worth your time (and patience). You will be much rewarded for your effort and will feel gratitude towards Professor Mancall’s generous bequeathal of knowledge and scholarship concerning this most important time period in American history.
Date published: 2011-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 4.5 Stars This is a course with a 5 star subject and a 4 star delivery. I really liked this course but I found its presentation less likeable - for me it was a 36 lecture course drawn out into 48 lectures. This is a quite thorough coverage of what got the revolution started, what kept it going, and what came of it all - quite an achievement. This isn't American History 101. Dr M sprinkles his opinions about certain topics throughtout the course, e.g, Adam's role in The Alien & Sedition Acts is presented as more morally problematic than Jefferson's perchant for keeping slaves. It would help enormously to have some knowledge of the Revolutionary Period before listening to this course. Perhaps reading McCullough's John Adams or Ellis's American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson might help or the TC could offer it's own biographies of these two revolutionary worthies. Overall, Prfessor M does cover an enormous swath of early American History but includes about 12 lectures worth of readings which might be best presented in the course booklet because they break up the flow of this course. The TC's course on The American Revolution would be a good prerequisite for this course which is faithful to its title of origins and Ideologies and assumes a knowledge of the Revolutionary War battles. I would recommend this course because the material it contains critically important history, the booklet is informative, and the bibliography is thorough. I mentioned what I thought were Dr M's opinions, well, here is mine - many historians of this period seem to have (at least to me) a kind of Jeffersonophillia - I think this course has it, too. McCollough's and Ellis' or many other books could help here. I would hope that the TC would consider a 2nd edition of this course with the readings trimmed. This an important course about an important part of our history. My review is my opinion only and what matters most is yours. I recommend you listen or watch this course to find out what your opinions are.
Date published: 2010-09-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Too Much Recitation The problem with this course is that Mancall is way too tied to his sources. The lectures consist largely of his recitations -- hurriedly delivered, with much stumbling over words -- of pamphlets, letters, and other primary source documents. This is the wrong methodology to use in this kind of survey course. Instead of making the period come alive for the audience, which was probably Mancall's intention, it leaves them -- at least this auditor -- frustrated and angry. The trick is to use your source material judiciously and sparingly to reinforce your own narrative and analysis, but not to lean upon it as a crutch to such an extent that it constitutes most of your presentation. In this series we hear too little Mancall, and too much of the primary documents. His style reminds me of all too many presentations I've listened to in the business world, in which the speaker recites his or her PowerPoint slides instead of using them selectively to reinforce his or her own analysis, extemporaneously delivered. I'm fascinated by the history of the American founding and the early Republic, and so I gritted my teeth and trudged through this course -- not once but twice. There's some good information here, but Mancall's unfortunate pedagogical decisions and his unhelpful speaking style constituted a barrier rather than an aid to understanding.
Date published: 2010-09-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from You Are There! Amazingly Good History Course! I thoroughly enjoyed the audio version of the course, and learned a lot. Other reviewers didn’t like Dr. Mancall’s short introductions, but I did; many didn’t like his extensive use of primary materials (diaries, documents, etc.), but I was fascinated; still others noticed that the professor seemed to speak too fast, but I like high-velocity speaking (it covers more material); and, finally, someone said the professor seemed nervous and was moving his arms, but this was not an issue for me because I was listening and not watching. This quickly became one of those TTC courses that completely pulled me in, immersed me in the topic, and had me eagerly moving through the lectures. The many biographies were well done -- I especially liked the lecture on James Otis (“killed by a bolt of lightning on a clear day”). I believe the professor has done a wonderful job of re-presenting the ideologies and events of the Founders and the common folks. We almost always hear and learn both sides of the story in each lecture. The requisite lecture on “Women and the American Revolution” was nonjudgmental and evenhanded. Yes, women had some power (they often ran the farms), but they did not have legal and political power. Real power would come later -- largely based on the ideas found in the Declaration of Independence. Lecture 21 (“Lexington and Concord”) was one of the most moving, passionate, and powerful lectures I’ve ever heard from TTC. It was a terrific performance coming from a gifted teacher at his very best. Bottom line: America’s winning the war for independence “was one of the most improbable victories in western history.” Yes, there were hypocrisies and problems in a sexist and racist society, but the new country would need more time (and a Civil War) to perfect itself. Even today, the U.S. remains a work in progress, and it is a course like Dr. Mancall’s that makes me feel better about the seemingly inevitable changes yet to come. With time and experience, and the right ideas in the first place, the U.S. eventually gets it right. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2010-08-13
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Below TC Standards As many reviewers have noted, each lecture consists of short (often redundant) 5 minute summaries at the beginning and end, and a dry reading of several primary source documents. I concur that the presentation is not compelling. For example, in the lecture on the Treaty of Paris, prof. Mancall repeats the same exact same idea 3 or 4 times, consecutively, that Washington's peaceful resignation established a precedent of civilian rather than military rule in the United States. In a 30-minute lecture, once would be quite enough. He also has a tendency to pepper the primary source readings with such comments as "this goes on and on", or "this is brilliant", detracting from more meaningful analysis. While his sources can be interesting and well-chosen, the course itself is a chore to listen to. I'm hoping for a second, improved edition.
Date published: 2010-07-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Recommended - with Reservations I have now viewed this course twice,and have found it somewhat hard going both times. Much of the material is very interesting to me, and has filled in large gaps in my knowledge of a history I thought I knew quite well. The course is about ideas more than it is about events, and as such it complements well other TC courses on 18th century America. My problem with the course is the same as that mentioned in many other reviews - the professor reads long passages from original sources, and my mind wanders. Sometimes those readings seem important to making his point, but often I would rather have had him summarize in a sentence or two and move on. Professor Mancall's lectures are well organized. He uses standard teaching "technique" - begin the lecture with a brief review of the previous lecture, then tell 'em what you are going to tell 'em, tell 'em, then tell 'em what you told 'em. Even when your mind wanders, it is hard to miss the key points of each lecture. So, I recommend this course with reservations - interesting material, but the course is certainly less "fun" than a lot of TC courses I have taken.
Date published: 2010-05-11
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Agree with other critiques This will add no new insight to the evaluations, but does reinforce them. I found the material interesting, but poorly handled by the professor. His lecture delivery was well below TC standards, and the long quotations were monotonous, impairing the lecture flow. Very little energy or enthusiasm in the presentations: just reading from notes and long quotes. I will exclude Dr. Mancall from my list for any future TC purchases.
Date published: 2010-05-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from marginal value A weak and uninspiring review of a truly inspirational time.The good professor shows more passion when discussing various PC interpretations of, historically, minor happenings than he does for the larger more significant and dynamic historical topic itself.His sourcing of Nash is unsurprising.
Date published: 2010-03-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good content, weak delivery While Professor Mancall could use a speach coach, and while he gets off to a slow start, the overall substance of this course is very good. A number of people have been critical of Mancall's practice of quoting at length from original source documents, but I disagree. The quotes are an important part of understanding what people were thinking at the time and Mancall does a good job of incorporating them into his discussions. The first lecture includes several minutes of Mancall listing examples of movies, plays and stories that contain American Revolutionary themes, and the second lecture includes a long discussion about printing, neither of which of which are important or interesting. Mancall's delivery certainly has its flaws. He talks way too fast and freguently trips over his words. In the middle lectures, he slows down a bit, which makes listening much easier, but he then speeds up again and starts racing to say everything as fast as he can. Notwithstanding Mancall's delivery flaws and minor lapses in the first few lectures, the overall content and organization of this course are very good. There's a lot of material to cover and Mancall does a good job of hitting the high points and staying focused on each lecture's topic. He's not a story-teller, but he is engaging. Were it not for the weakness of the first two lectures and Mancall's delivery problems, I'd give the course five stars. I'd certainly recommend it to others.
Date published: 2010-03-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Too many long quotes I was easily distrated by other thoughts while listening to this course. The details were fascinating when the Professor was not engaged in reading long quotes from historic documents. Much of the information derived from the documents could have been paraphrased rather than read.
Date published: 2010-02-26
Rated 2 out of 5 by from decent content, horrid presentation As with many other reviewers here, I had extreme difficulty following Professor Mancall's spoken delivery, so much so that I was forced to buy TTC's written transcripts in order to make sense of the lectures. These transcripts indicate that the content of these lectures is well-organized and interesting. But Mancall's general awkwardness -- repeated losing of place, loss for words, protracted pauses, absence of any demarcation between his analysis and quoted primary material, overly-extended quotations, and obvious nervousness -- led me to give up on listening to lectures about half-way through the course. I'm going to give Professor Mancall the benefit of the doubt by assuming he does better in the college classroom than TTC format. TTC owes it to all parties to help Professor Mancall redo the presentation of this course (again, the content is fine), or give the course to another lecturer.
Date published: 2009-11-29
Rated 1 out of 5 by from very disappointing I agree wholeheartedly with the review done by “Powhatan” and wonder if that review is really a "minority opinion" as he postulates. Even the positive reviews seem to point out the extremely lengthy quoting of documents and the rushed, almost breathless delivery of his lectures. His style of speech is not engaging and does not vary in rhythm, stress or intonation. This makes it uninteresting to listen to and I found myself having difficulty with attentiveness, which has not happened with any of the other many courses I have listened to.
Date published: 2009-11-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Valuable Content, A Little Hurried In these times our Republic's heritage should be of utmost importance to Americans. As it's said, the freedoms we enjoy were a long time coming and, if lost, our freedoms will be a long time gone. They were hard won. That is why, to me, the content of this course is valuable. It's about foundations and origins. In many ways the course reminded me of concepts related in Bernard Bailyn's The Idealogical Origins of the American Revolution. Professor Mancall refers to that excellent book, and I imagine he used it as one of his key guides in preparing this course. We should all have an appreciation for those concepts if we are to be vigilant against demagogues who, well meaning or otherwise, would distort and corrupt them. Demagogues thrive on the people's ignorance Professor Mancall's delivery, however, is at times somewhat rushed and wordy. His reading of key primary sources from the Founders is enriching, but he tends sometimes to give us too much. He does have a mastery and notable passion for his subject that is commendable. I think, though, a little curbing of his enthusiasm (i.e., slowing down) and a little culling of the texts would aid his listeners. It is a good course, all the same - a valuable, well organized course. With a little polishing of the presentation it could be among the best.
Date published: 2009-09-13
Rated 2 out of 5 by from origins and ideologies of the american revolution I realize this is a minority view and that many customers have been highly satisfied with this course. Still, I would not recommend it. While the instructor is thorough and fair-minded, he spends much more time reading documents--and reading them in a rushed manner--than is necessary. Had he been more selective and a more skillful paraphraser, the course could have been considerably shorter. He is working with eighteenth century documents, and these are often bureaucratic, legalistic or diplomatic in nature, and for that reason often cumbersome. Under the circumstances, a paraphrase would be far more effective. Instead, the instructor forges ahead, often chewing up his words, so the language is difficult to follow. His manner is rushed and sometimes breathless and, for that reason, often exhausting to listen to. Moreover, he sometimes mispronounces words--hitherto and potentate, for example. I have listened to enough courses by now to intuit pretty quickly which professors have the best command not only of their specialty but also a familiarity with related disciplines, and this one lacks these qualities. He does not do a sufficiently good job relating the ideas and ideologies of the revolutionary period to the broader intellectual currents of that time.
Date published: 2009-06-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Front Row Seat Each lecture in this series leaves you with the feeling that you actually witnessed the events described. Professor Mancall draws from an astounding array of primary documents, including newspaper articles, handbills, broadsides, lectures, oratories, sermons, and especially pamphlets to paint a dramatic, multifaceted, and intensive view of the passions and beliefs of American and British citizens throughout the tumultuous events of the 18th century. The bibliography provided with the lecture notes is worth the price of this course by itself, and could easily be the embarking point for a lifetime of research on this fascinating subject. I listened to this course immediately after completing Professor Bucholz's magnum opus "The History of England From the Tudors to the Stuarts" and found the additional background information provided therein to be essential to the complete understanding of the politics and philosophies presented in this course. Mancall does a great job of explaining Britain's intentions and reactions throughout his lectures, but the extra grounding in the early history of Parliament and the British monarchy provided a solid backdrop that was the keystone for fully comprehending the natural progression towards the establishment of American democracy. Taken together, these courses should be considered two of the crown jewels in the Teaching Company's Modern History curriculum.
Date published: 2009-06-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting Details- Terrible Delivery Prof. Mancall's resort to original source materials and texts is very interesting- broadsides, pamphlets, less read documents such as Articles of Confederation and Northwest Ordinance, and Immigration Acts. His delivery is terrible- verbatim reading of notes, repetition of ideas as if the viewer were in grade school including spending 8 minutes of each lecture recapping prior lecture and current lecture. If this course were re-recorded without the repetitions and dry style it could be reduced to 36 lectures with the same or even more content/analysis.
Date published: 2009-06-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Read My Lips, Great Britain: No New Taxes The course I watched just prior to this one was a bit boring, so I was thrilled by the first lecture's outline of what was to come! But when professor Mancall later began to read from source materials, things bogged down a bit due to his grave difficulties with proper enunciation and unnecessary repetition. Much of the material covered in this in-depth course was new to me. This is no mere repetition of high school level American history, but rather, an in-depth investigation of the causes of events and ideas behind the Revolutionary War period. This level of detail expands the course to 48 lectures. I was annoyed by the sharp contrast between words and ideas-- between what these famous men said and wrote, and what they in fact practiced. Although considerable time is spent in praise of their lofty ideals and proclamations such as "all men are created equal" and so forth, at least a few of the lectures are devoted to the realities of the times, to the treatment of slaves, Indians, the poor, and women. This is much appreciated, and I believe an even greater focus on "reality" would be an improvement. Also, at the beginning of the course we were told that a sizeable percentage of the colonial population was Germanic in origin, but when the Hessians were discussed much later in the course, these "German-Americans" seemed to have evaporated into thin air! They were not even mentioned. Another annoying ommision is when Thomas Jefferson "buys" the Northwest territory-- buys it with what? Where does all that money come from. Is this the precursor of mordern times, in which money is printed willy-nilly? Or are taxes raised-- and if so, who foots the bill, and how did they manage it? In listening to the discussion of the anti-Federalists' criticisms, I had the impression that they had not only nailed several glaring problems, but also had missed some things that are readily apparent today. For example, a lame-duck President pardoning those who contributed to his election campaign (not all wealthy men escape the long arm of the law). In sum, although the presentation of the material falls well short of many other TC courses, for Americans, this is well worth viewing. The professor often gets tongue-tied, repeats himself and waves his arms about to keep your attention. In this course, you witness the birth of the USA.
Date published: 2009-06-20
Date published: 2009-06-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Origins and Ideologies of the Am. Rev. These are the most comprehensive lectures I have encountered on this period. I believe I now have an excellent understanding of our contry's beginnings. Professor Mancall's readings from broadsides, letters, and newspapers -- original sources that often are less famous than the iconic documents with which we are generally familiar -- are an enormous treat. It would be nearly impossible for me to find many of these sources on my own, and I would like very much to have the opportunity to purchase a transcript of the lectures. As some have noted, Professor Mancall does stumble when he rushes to cover the material, but his lectures are brilliant and I can well overlook that shortcoming. Although a huge project, given there are 48 lectures, it would be a terrific resource!
Date published: 2009-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from God Bless America I love this country and am not ashamed of it. That's how I felt listening to these wonderful lectures. I did enjoy the use of primary materials but would also agree with other reviewers that it did cause some lectures or parts thereof to be a bit dry. That said, the passion of the Prof. certainly came out and I would recommend it to all.
Date published: 2009-03-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from In-depth study of Revolutionary War era documents This is a very in-depth study of the documents relating to the revolutionary war. Dr. Mancall spends most of his time reading the various newly enacted laws, pamphlets, newspaper articles, and political rhetoric of the time. This provides a strong background to understand the thinking and point-of view of the loyalists, Britains, and independence-minded Americans. Because Dr. Mancall reads for most of his presentation, it makes the subject matter a little dry. While he has great detail and passion for the subject, his presentation skills make the delivery a little boring. There are many details to be learned by applying a little extra effort to concentrating on the lectures.
Date published: 2009-02-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from More than Just a History Course This course is expansive on the subject of the American Revolution. I enjoyed this course. It covered the economics of the age as well as the political landscape and gave insights into personalities too.
Date published: 2009-02-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing coverage Although the Professor's presentation skills could be improved upon, his knoweldge and passion for the subject is incredible. Even at 48 lectures I was engrossed from beginning to end. In 24 hours you would expect, and get, more knowledge about the subject than in any college course. This course presents a fair and objective description of the ideals and origins of the American Revolution and the country that resulted from it. This Preofessor as with all professors that work for the Teaching Company, especially those that lecture on America in particular, and freedom and western values in general, know their stuff, are highly educated, well-respected and extremely scholarly. Several reviewers seem to object to any professor, in any course, that takes a positive or "Pro" view of the US and "the West." That is unforatunate and don't you believe or listen to them. For all its faults, the US is a great country. Listen to the Professors who know. This is one of them.
Date published: 2009-01-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Top marks for course content This is a course that is well worth the effort. Dr. Mancall's scholarship and knowledge are absolutely top rate. The insight he brings and the extraordinary depth of the research he presents to support it, are extremely impressive. The downside to this course is that Dr. Mancall is not a gifted lecturer. He reads his notes verbatum, at speed, gets tongue tied, and tends to repetition. He makes no effort to connect with his audience. He lays out his material and it is up to each student to assimilate the material. The amazing depth of the material is worth the effort, though, and this is one course that bears multiple viewings to learn it all.
Date published: 2008-11-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I have learned more in this course about the American Revolution than in all my previous scholastic studies combined! It is an important course for all Americans to discover the real beginnings of our country.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Professor mancall had a comprehensive knowledge of his subject but he was extremely repetitive and his ability as a speaker was only fair. he is the only professor of all the courses I had who did not introduce himself at the start of the course.
Date published: 2008-10-17
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