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Publisher's Summary

The history of colonial America is a story of extraordinary scope, with Europeans, Africans, and the native peoples of North America interacting in a drama of settlement and conflict that lasted nearly three centuries. Go back in time and relive this epic story in 36 spellbinding lectures.

While concentrating on British North America, Professor Allison also covers developments in the colonial outposts of Spain, France, the Netherlands, and the all-important British possessions in the West Indies, which were the source of the most lucrative crop in the New World - sugar - and the reason for the enormous growth in the slave trade.

As you'll discover, the colonies were often turbulent, dangerous places. You'll learn about Indian wars, slave revolts, witch persecutions, rampant piracy, and other upheavals, as well as the gradual cementing of social order and the development of customs that made the colonies distinct - and difficult for the British government to rule.

These lectures build toward a discussion of the roots of the rebellion that succeeded in toppling the colonial system - the American Revolution - covering its long gestation and closing with an examination of the meaning of the Declaration of Independence.

In fundamental ways, the world we know today emerged from the tempestuous and eventful history of colonial America. Deepen your appreciation for this formative era with these historically rich, captivating, and highly informative lectures.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2009 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2009 The Great Courses

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Subject Matter is wonderful, Narrator no so much

Would you consider the audio edition of Before 1776: Life in the American Colonies to be better than the print version?

N/A

What other book might you compare Before 1776: Life in the American Colonies to and why?

This is a lecture series, but the first 1/4 of The History of the United States, 2nd Edition from The Great Courses might be considered to be comparable.

What three words best describe Professor Robert J. Allison’s voice?

So very slow.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

There were no big gotcha moments. However, I did learn quite a lot that I did not know before. This was especially true in the sections on the non-British efforts to colonize various sections of America.

Any additional comments?

Professor Allison's narration was nearly unlistenable on x1.0 speed. There is no nice way to put it, his delivery was slow and ponderous. Under normal circumstances would not recommend listening to this particular series while driving. The good news is, the Audible.com playback speed can be adjusted. Sped up to x1.5 speed, the lecture series was enjoyable and scarily normal sounding. This made me wonder of the issue lies not with Allison, but with the postproduction process. Either way, once the speed was adjusted I found the lectures extremely interesting, bordering on riveting. I feel I must inform readers that I am a huge nerd when it comes to American history and my bias may be showing with the riveting comment, but nevertheless, I standby it. The lecture summaries and transitions were smooth, and they did not detract from the body of each lecture. I would wholeheartedly recommend the series, just don't forget to speed that player up.

17 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Outstanding Survey of Pre-1776 America

This is an outstanding course covering the colonial period in America. If the course has a weakness, it is that it only briefly discusses the colonial period of areas other than the original thirteen states with the exception of one lecture dedicated to Spanish settlement in New Mexico. That being said, this course was exactly what I hoped and expected it would be—a discussion about the origins and development of the original thirteen states and the lead-up to the American Revolution. The course did a particularly good job describing the causes and events surrounding the famous Salem Witch Trials. The course stops on the verge of the Revolution and only touches on a few of the events that are directly part of the Revolution. It left me wanting to take the course on the American Revolution next to pick-up the story where this course stopped.

The professor is clearly very knowledgeable and well-prepared. The professor is obviously interested in the material and does a good job conveying the history in a concise and informative manner. This is what a Great Courses class should be.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Scott
  • McMinnville, OR, United States
  • 06-21-15

One of the best of the Great Lectures series

What made the experience of listening to Before 1776: Life in the American Colonies the most enjoyable?

Dr. Allison brings the American colonial period alive with fascinating and revealing details that creates a clear pictures of the times and events leading to the American Revolution. This is truly one of the most interesting, engaging, and well-presented lecture series I have ever heard, either in person or recorded. Dr. Allison's expertise and depth of knowledge on the subject is powerfully evident, yet delivered in a most approachable manner. It was both enjoyable and deeply informative. I am sure I will be listening to it again to tap into the wonderful stories that led to the formation of the United States as an independent country. My thanks to Dr. Allison for a wonderful series of lectures.

Which character – as performed by Professor Robert J. Allison – was your favorite?

Benjamin Franklin, followed closely by Cotton Mather. I learned much about the lives and contributions of these formative giants I had not appreciated before.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The story of the Boston smallpox outbreak was particularly fascinating, given the tragedy of unnecessary deaths and the seminal experiment that was carried out during the epidemic that confirmed the effectiveness of inoculation..

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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New Perspectives and great insights

What made the experience of listening to Before 1776: Life in the American Colonies the most enjoyable?

I am researching the family tree in America from 1625 in Virginia and 1640 in New Hampshire. This series does a great job of describing each colony's progression and has explained migration issues and how native American blood lines entered the tree

Who was your favorite character and why?

Ben Franklin and Cotton Mather interactions

What about Professor Robert J. Allison’s performance did you like?

I could stay awake through his lectures any day

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

36 1/2 hour sessions

Any additional comments?

I have been through the material twice and still picking up info

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Excellent Teacher ! Great Course!

This series presented a lot of information in an easy to absorb and interesting way. Loved it.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Over elaborative

Could have been done in less time by at least an hour by cutting down on the excessive elaborating. Quite informative for the most part.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A GREAT course !! Really makes sense of history.

Would you consider the audio edition of Before 1776: Life in the American Colonies to be better than the print version?

This audio edition brought a lot meaning to the many of the "stories" and facts of colonial life that were told to us in school. By using short term, tangent explanations of his main themes, he really makes sense of why things happened the way they did. Just an awesome job. I wish I would have come across this years ago. I see why his audience applauds his performance.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Now I know!!!

Such a fascinating listen. I learned so much and was totally entertained. You need to hear this! The great migration










1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A wonder of Pre-US History

I loved this lecture. It was difficult to get into at first. As I was apprehensive about the subject. I often dislike US history due to its violence and just overall roughness.

Allison took me on a journey I wasn’t sure about, and taught me about my own country’s history. In a way that brought the joys, concerns and horrors together. I enjoy the battles as well as the anecdotes. He is very good at lightening the mood & keeping you going through tough parts.

I also enjoyed learning about my own state’s history (I have resided in Kentucky my whole life). I had no idea it was such a place of dispute! It was truly amazing to hear things so never knew about my place of birth.

I urge anyone who is interested in this topic, to tackle it! Allison will take you on a wonderful journey.

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So good!

Professor Allison was fantastic. The subject is well covered and covers a great deal of time before 1776. So well done, I know I'm going to be listening again. “AUDIBLE 20 REVIEW SWEEPSTAKES ENTRY”

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  • Overall
  • Jason
  • 12-13-16

good history, but beware if you're british

Good factual and interesting history, I would suggest it for everyone. However if you're like myself (british) there is a few instances in which you may get a little ticked off.

he constantly refers to the british settlers in North America as 'the English'...even when referencing history after the act of union and when there are a good amount of Scottish and welsh migrants to north America.

His American bias shows here and there, ofcourse it ended with the obligatory 'benjamin Franklin was the greatest' and the obvious god bless americaisms...but there are many instances that he references how ignorant all the english settlers were, and then when he goes on to talk about someone interesting or someone who did something impressive, they conveniently become virginian, or Bostonian or a colonist or even a few times he calls them 'american'. He speaks with much more enthusiasm about any of the individuals who were involved with independence than he does with everyone else before that or who weren't involved in that event.

apart from these things, it was a great series of lectures and all the history was interesting and entertaining.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr. Acapella
  • 01-10-17

Excellent lectures, well delivered

Prof. Allison delivers an excellent set of lectures here, adding so much perspective and light to the history of USA which so often is only reported back to the declaration of independence. Obviously theres a reason for that. But to really understand USA you need to look back to the establishment of the colonies and the life they led before independence. These lectures fill that gap admirably. The Professor has a distinct speaking style. He speaks with a pleasant voice in a slow, melodious, continuous manner embroidered with a sort of sing song emphasis on words and phrases. To my ear its pleasant and makes it easier to take in the narrative.

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  • Fatmusketeer
  • 10-01-15

Very clear and enthralling lectures

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I found these lectures fasinating. They were very clear individually but built together into a coherent story. I also found the Professor's conclusions convincing. But most important, it was a gripping listen and I couldn't wait to hear the next installment.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Before 1776: Life in the American Colonies?

Most memorable moments were the Salem witch trails and the Boston Tea Party.

Have you listened to any of Professor Robert J. Allison’s other performances? How does this one compare?

I found the Professor's delivery engaging and clear.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

The story of pre-revolution North America

Any additional comments?

Being from the UK, I had less background knowledge than American listeners and there are a lot of characters. I found it very useful to review the course notes after listening to a lecture to consolidate my understanding.

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  • Hector Chub
  • 02-08-17

Possibly my favourite history listen to date

Where does Before 1776: Life in the American Colonies rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

See headline title

What was one of the most memorable moments of Before 1776: Life in the American Colonies?

go away

Which character – as performed by Professor Robert J. Allison – was your favourite?

irrelevant - what a surprise

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The Death of Pocahontas. No just kidding, another stupid irrelevant question - It's a dry history !

Any additional comments?

Now with all the stupid Audible questions out the way I shall proceed.The good professor has an excellent delivery style, a dry wit and an engaging voice. He relates some quite minor events in some detail which paint a fascinating picture of life and development in all the colonies at various points over a span of some 250 years.Particularly interesting are the stories of the reasons for the establishment of all the 13 original colonies. The relationships with the various indian tribes was also enlightening and informative.In many ways this as much as a transplanted European History as much as it is an American History. When after all did these emigrants become distinctly American ?This is the sort of History of America so far removed from the usual stuff though towards the end Franklin and Washington do come into it.So much history we learn about just hits key points and joins dots; simplistic narratives we all doze off to. Some tales , such as Pocahontas are now so historically inaccurate as to be laughable . And it ain't all Disney's fault either.For anyone interested in well told properly researched primers histories of early America, I wonder if anyone could do better than this audiobook

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Miss Amy V
  • 12-07-17

Great course, fantastic lecturer

Being an Australian, I had limited knowledge of American history. This course really opened my eyes to how complex American society was back in colonial times. The lecturer is great, and stays mutual throughout, whilst telling the stories of Native Americans, slaves and the European settlers. I recommend this audiobook to any history buffs.