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The Skeptic's Guide to American History | [The Great Courses]

The Skeptic's Guide to American History

To take a skeptical approach to American history is not to dabble in imaginative conspiracy theories; rather, it's to reframe your understanding of this great nation's past and actually strengthen your appreciation for what makes American history such a fascinating chapter in the larger story of Western civilization. And in this bold 24-lecture series, you can do just that.
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Publisher's Summary

To take a skeptical approach to American history is not to dabble in imaginative conspiracy theories; rather, it's to reframe your understanding of this great nation's past and actually strengthen your appreciation for what makes American history such a fascinating chapter in the larger story of Western civilization. And in this bold 24-lecture series, you can do just that.

Travel back in time and examine many commonly held myths and half-truths about American history and prompt yourself to think about what really happened in the nation's past - as opposed to what many believe happened. These lectures demonstrate how reconsidering some of the most popular notions of U.S. history can yield new (and sometimes startlingly different) interpretations of political, social, economic, and military events. But more than just debunking commonly accepted accounts, you'll be able to replace these misconceptions with insightful truths. Exploring both America's history and the verdicts that have been rendered about some of its most enduring figures - including George Washington, John Adams, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and many others - these lectures investigate a wide-ranging list of questions. What impact did other nations have on the American Revolution? Has George Washington always been revered as president? Do we now understand the true blunders in America's Vietnam policies and tactics?

In exploring these and other questions, these lectures prove themselves to be a delightful intellectual experience that will allow you to rethink not just the facts of U.S. history, but also their meaning.

Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.

©2012 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2012 The Great Courses

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  •  
    J. E. JORDAN Berlin, Germany 11-04-13
    J. E. JORDAN Berlin, Germany 11-04-13 Member Since 2014
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    "Let Go of the Grade-School Storybook History"

    You do know all that stuff you learned about American history in school was simplified, right? And, in a certain sense, it was propaganda: a narrative intended, in this case, to give young people the feeling that they are heirs to a righteous cause, whether we were opponents of tyranny, barbaric natives, evil slave-owners, socialists, or you-name-it. We were always on the right side of history and history can be understood as an epic struggle between we good people and our evil enemies.

    Furthermore, even as adults, we tend to look back on events of the past with our own understanding of what followed or the way things are now and assume that we are in a position to understand. (How many times in a given month do we hear two groups invoking the Founding Fathers, for example, drawing wildly different conclusions about what that means? Or, hear that appeasement is a terrible idea and as Chamberlain demonstrated with the Nazis, only gives the enemy time to amass strength for an inevitable conflagration?)

    We don't necessarily bring any new knowledge when we draw these conclusions, but when they seem to match our beliefs about the world, we assume they must be accurate. Those mistaken conclusions (and assumptions) become difficult to let go of, even when we are presented with new opinions of working historians who find new, compelling information that contradicts us. This lecture series is for adults who are ready to let go of the storybook history in exchange for a more complex, nuanced understanding of history.

    I loved this lecture series. I looked forward to the next time I could sit down and listen to one of them. Each one was full of the context I needed to understand why what I had always believed about American history may not actually be what historians, with the fullness of time, have come to believe about it. I also found the Professor's presentation enthusiastic and easy to follow. Excellent lecture series all around.

    21 of 24 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeanna Horther Santa Monica, CA 10-01-13
    Jeanna Horther Santa Monica, CA 10-01-13 Member Since 2013

    JeannaRanae

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    "Great to listen to while driving"
    Any additional comments?

    This lecture series was great to listen to while driving to work. It was interesting and the perfect length for my car rides. I would recommend this audiobook to anyone curious about US history.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kimberly Indianapolis, IN, United States 09-29-13
    Kimberly Indianapolis, IN, United States 09-29-13 Member Since 2015

    I enjoy historical, paranormal, and contemporary romance. Also steampunk, sci-fi, fantasy, suspense, and fiction. I'm open to about anything

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    "Wish my history classes had been like this"

    This is an academic class, and one should approach it as such. Mark A. Stoler, while not exciting as a lecturer, was better than my college professors, and made me really interested.
    There really wasn't that much in his lectures that I didn't already know, but he did clarify things in many instances. And he made clear that, while history doesn't repeat itself, attitudes often are.
    My boyfriend and I listened to this, one chapter each evening, at dinner, and we paused it often to discuss the material being presented. It beat the heck out of watching TV while we ate, and it actually made the time much more enjoyable than usual, as well as more sociable.
    I probably wouldn't recommend this as a straight-through listen, but approach it as you would with any history class. The lectures themselves are only about half an hour each, so it is actually easier to take than the usual hour-long lecture one deals with at a college level. And there aren't constant umms and ahhs to irritate.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kristi Richardson Milwaukie, OR, United States 04-30-14
    Kristi Richardson Milwaukie, OR, United States 04-30-14 Member Since 2014

    An old broad that enjoys books of all types. Would rather read than write reviews though. I know what I like, and won't be bothered by crap.

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    "24 Lectures The American History not taught."

    This Great Course was very easy to follow and understand. It begins with the causes of the Revolutionary War and goes out to the Vietnam War. I especially enjoyed the parts about the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation and the ratings of various Presidents.

    There was also a lecture on Hoover and whether or not he was helping to get the economy going and what Roosevelt did or didn't do to get us out of the Depression.

    Lots of things I forgot or never knew, so this was a great learning experience.

    Professor Mark Stoler is a wonderful teacher and lecturer. I am going to continue to look at some more of these courses as no matter what your age, you should keep on learning.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Indianapolis, IN, United States 06-15-14
    Michael Indianapolis, IN, United States 06-15-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Very Interesting Perspective"
    What did you love best about The Skeptic's Guide to American History?

    I really liked the presentation of the material and backstories.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Interesting presentation of a lot of material cove rig a broad base and admitting that its much easier to look at things from a historical perspective when most or all of the information is available.


    What about Professor Mark A. Stoler’s performance did you like?

    It was a college lecture and as long as you understand that -- its very easy to follow along.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas S. Ashton 02-09-14
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    "More History Not Much Skeptic . . . er . . . Stuff"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    More of a decent overview of American History. A bit of skeptic stuff thrown in but not much. I expected thorough debunking of commonly held beliefs.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    Another Great Courses listen. They are great.


    What about Professor Mark A. Stoler’s performance did you like?

    Not much. There were words he used ad nauseum and pronounced incorrectly. It was ridiculously distracting.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    Sure. There are plenty of good things in there. I just didn't think it lived up to the title of "Skeptics". Again, was looking for George Washington/cherry tree myth debunking type things.


    11 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    P. Smith 04-27-14
    P. Smith 04-27-14 Member Since 2013

    ps

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    "Not much of a skeptic."
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Someone whose only exposure to history is what they 'learned' in public schools. For those with no additional exposure to history this would be an ok starting point, but his skepticism is borderline at best.


    Has The Skeptic's Guide to American History turned you off from other books in this genre?

    No


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    Yes


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Skeptic's Guide to American History?

    The idiotic explanation of the Great Depression


    Any additional comments?

    I found this book puerile at best. Professor Stoler has either never heard of, or is deliberately avoiding discussion of some of the most important aspects of American History to wit:
    1. the role of the bankers and establishment politicians in destroying the anti-federalist papers, and forcing votes, including kidnapping representatives to obtain a quorum for votes during the constitutional ratification process
    2. The extensive correspondence between Robt. E. Lee and Lord Acton concerning the need to rein in the US federal government and the dire consequences for the world if this was not done (how prescient of them!)
    3. Anything other than warmed over Keynsian-light economics regarding the Great Depression e.g. Murray Rothbard's tome on that subject, or anything by Von Mises or Von Hayek.
    4, the recently declassified documents showing that Roosevelt ordered a course that would force the Japanese to attack including firing all the commanders the month before Pearl Harbor because they objected to their forces being, 'sitting ducks.'

    No, this is not a skeptic's history. This is a slight alteration of the standard government issued history.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    foodie 4 life Austin 01-21-14
    foodie 4 life Austin 01-21-14 Member Since 2013
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    "The Skeptic's guide to the Skeptic's Guide...."
    Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor Mark A. Stoler?

    I sometimes need a cure for insomnia, so I might try another book for that purpose.


    Would you ever listen to anything by The Great Courses again?

    I might try if by a different author


    What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

    The material was pedestrian. The supposed myths about American history are not myths held by anyone who has ever picked up a history book on their own volition. They might be held by someone with no interest in history. In that case they are unlikely to buy this book.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    It was disappointing and painful to listen to this slow and belabored recitation of elementary history. It was like like dying of thirst trying to drink from a faucet that drips out one drop of water a minute.


    Any additional comments?

    It could be helpful to rate history or other non-fiction as "Beginner", "Intermediate", "Advanced".

    12 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Becca 04-17-15
    Becca 04-17-15 Member Since 2014
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    "This is how history should be taught"

    This is how history should be taught -- not with presumption of knowledge, but with more questions and the attempt to answer such questions with all available data currently known, while still acknowledging that much still needs to be learned. Also a relief to not hear how "good/bad" events or figures were in general, as if such subjectivity can be written as fact. Rather different perspectives were approached, and what was "good/bad" for whom, from which perspective, and in consideration of which goals/intentions.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Phoebe SAINT LOUIS, MO, United States 04-04-15
    Phoebe SAINT LOUIS, MO, United States 04-04-15 Member Since 2014

    My taste is FLAWLESS! Also, I don't still live in Seattle. And don't know how to change the bit that says so. Why is every word capitalized?

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    "Not everyone's cup of tea but certainly mine."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I loved it! It is long as hell, and there were parts I was less interested in, but I really liked the professor's voice and pace, and general outlook. This approach to history is sorely needed, mainly that our view of it is ridiculously colored by the present, and requires a continuously skeptical approach because of this. The naysayers reviewing it were hoping for more/expecting something different from the word "skeptic" in the title, so read their reviews, but I didn't expect anything more than some observations by a guy who studies these things, not a debunking of every myth ever. So I was happy. Also his voice. I have abandoned perfectly good books because I hate the narration. They all seem to come from the same farm that trains people to say that xyz drug "may not be right for everyone; symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath, suicidal ideation and hallucinations" etc. in the most mellifluous Stepford Wife voice possible. Those people need to GO.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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