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Publisher's Summary

What defines an American? Is it the love of liberty, the pursuit of justice, the urge to invent, the desire for wealth, the drive to explore, the quest for spiritual values? The paradox of American identity is that although the United States is a melting pot of many different traditions, motives, and ideals, there are nevertheless distinctive qualities that define the American character.

In this series of 48 fascinating lectures, an award-winning teacher and author explores the national character by introducing you to notable men and women from every era of American history - some of them famous, some unknown, some even infamous - whose lives speak eloquently about the qualities, for better or worse, that make one truly American. Focusing on various character traits and attitudes that have indelibly shaped the national psyche, Professor Allitt takes you on a journey from the very first settlers to the present, showing how certain characteristics have persisted through time and also how certain traits and beliefs have changed. And while the lectures are enjoyable as a well-told series of biographies, they do much more, helping you gain a deeper understanding of the trends and ideas that have shaped America and continue to influence American society today.

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

©2005 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2005 The Great Courses

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  • Quaker
  • United States
  • 01-23-14

Endlessly Fascinating and Entertaining Stories

What made the experience of listening to The American Identity the most enjoyable?

I have watched or listened to many of The Great Courses series, and Professor Patrick Allitt ranks among my very favorite professors. I had previously listened to his course called American Religious History, and loved it. He is both a scholar and a natural storyteller. His lectures are filled with fascinating portraits of historical figures that rival any audio book in terms of drama and intrigue.The moment The American Identity started playing through my car speakers, I heard Professor Allitt's voice and a broad smile of recognition came across my face because I knew I was in for an entertaining treat. 36 half-hour lectures flew by like the wind, and I found myself looking for excuses to spend more time listening.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The American Identity?

Each lecture profiles a different American selected by Professor Allitt as representative of various aspects of American Identity. Professor Allitt is a Brit who has been the Cahoon Professor of American History at Emory University for over 25 years. He is like a modern day de Toqueville, offering a brilliant perspective on what makes America unique.The very first lecture about the settler John Smith set the tone. What a fascinating character. Forget the myths you were told in elementary school. Turns out Smith was an insufferable social climber and pragmatist who didn't actually spend that much time in America, but set the tone of meritocracy for the new land. By the end of that first 30 minutes, I knew I had already gotten my money's worth.

Have you listened to any of Professor Patrick N. Allitt’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

This was my second of The Great Courses by Professor Allitt. Fortunately, he has a half dozen other titles, and I plan to listen to or watch them all.

18 of 19 people found this review helpful

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Short American Bios

The subject of these lectures was of no special interest to me, but I so much enjoyed Professor Allitt’s courses on Victorian Britain, the Rise and Fall of the British Empire, the Industrial Revolution, and the Conservative Tradition, I was confident I would like these as well. Professor Allitt has a wonderful sense of humor and does not proselytize. I look forward to listening to other courses he has recorded.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Outstanding Course

I've enjoyed a number of Great Courses series lectures, but this has to rank at or very near the top. Fascinating, engaging, and often humorous, it has changed the way I view American history.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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interesting

I would have liked a little more detail on each person. was read very well.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Superb series of individual bio's

Most are outstanding. A few, which probably were added for the sake of inclusiveness, leave one head-scratching. Jesse Jackson? Seriously? Show me the money.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Nice history of American individuals

I enjoyed this lecture because it takes an interesting look at American history, but I don't think the lecture particularly covered American identity. Especially with how long this lecture is, it lacks a cohesive thread connecting all of the individuals Professor Allitt describes. The first and last chapters attempt to make that thread, but I don't think it was successful. Otherwise, I did enjoy learning about different Americans who have contributed to what America is today.

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American history told through rich tapestry of interrelated biographies

Lively, insightful presentation brimming with understanding of how each character exemplified and extended the attributes of "American character".

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Interesting walk through US history

I liked the order of presentation of the material and how the lectures connected the timelines. The novelity of an non-native English reader describing the US identity added interest.