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Publisher's Summary

These 48 lectures are your chance to relive the most groundbreaking moments in the fascinating story of the United States. They offer you a different perspective on the sweeping narrative of U.S. history. Spanning the arrival of the first English colonists to the chaos of the Civil War to the birth of the computer age and beyond, this lecture series is a captivating and comprehensive tour of those particular moments in the story of America, after which the nation would never be the same again.

Taking a chronological approach, Professor O'Donnell gives you new ways to understand American history and to appreciate it as a grand narrative pinpointed with key moments that changed things forever. Each lecture focuses on a single turning point, explaining the conditions that led up to it, immersing you in the experience of the event itself, and exploring its immediate and long-term ramifications.

Among the great turning points you'll investigate in depth are the trial of John Peter Zenger (1735), which popularized the ideas that freedom of the press is essential to liberty; the battle of Antietam (1862), which eliminated the possibility of England and France intervening on behalf of the Confederacy; and the Watergate scandal (1974), which signaled a heightened level of public distrust toward elected officials. Along the way, Professor O'Donnell often dispels some intriguing myths and half-truths about American history and provides an honest, unabashed look at the subject matter. These lectures are packed with unfamiliar anecdotes, stories, and side notes that just may change your views on the grand narrative of American history.

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

©2011 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2011 The Great Courses

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Quaker
  • United States
  • 04-01-15

Brilliant, Informative, Entertaining!

Where does Turning Points in American History rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I have listened to over 60 titles from the Great Courses series. They are almost universally wonderful, but of course a few professors rise to the top as my favorites. Professor O'Donnell has jumped to the top of that list. He is both incredibly organized and incredibly entertaining. Each of the lectures starts with a story, sets out objectives, and makes a strong and logical case for it's topic as a true turning point in history. Some of the turning points (such as the Boston Tea Party) would classify as "the usual suspects" (though not necessary for the reasons you expect), and others (such the eradication of hookworm in the South) are delightful surprises. O'Donnell's pace is consistently perfect.

You will be entertained. You will be informed. You will be a better citizen. 5 Stars for sure.

24 of 24 people found this review helpful

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More like this, please!

What made the experience of listening to Turning Points in American History the most enjoyable?

It has just enough information to make it interesting but not so much to put you to sleep. I also liked how he went in chronological order. I also liked how he structured each lecture with a story to begin with, then the objectives, the actual lecture and then why this particular event was a "Turning Point in History". Very well done.

What other book might you compare Turning Points in American History to and why?

I can't think of one I've enjoyed more of this type of audiobook. It was long - 36 chapters, I believe, but it flew by.

Which scene was your favorite?

I can't think of one in particular but I enjoyed that history was presented in a way that showed the cumulative effect if has even now.

Any additional comments?

I do want to speak to a review that said it was at a High School level. That is somewhat true and perhaps because it's been a while since I've been in high school but I learned a lot I didn't know or had forgotten. The parts that were well known to most of us still had relevance to the Turning Point in History that was being presented.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Amy
  • Rockford, MI
  • 02-19-15

I FEEL INFORMED!!

Where does Turning Points in American History rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is my first Great Courses book and I am very impressed with professor and with the content! As I result, I am encouraged to continue with the Great Courses series. This may well be the best non-fiction choice I have made. The narration was excellent because the professor was enthusiastic about his subject.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I did not have a "favorite character" in history, but these lectures helped me understand that history is not only a "story of surprises" as the professor explains, but that the history of our country is a constantly evolving process. It has been said that life can only be lived forward and learned backward. Looking back at these turning points gives me a wide perspective of American history and a greater appreciation for current events.

Which scene was your favorite?

I was fascinated to learn about the eradication of the hookworm epidemic in the South. Who would have thought that hookworms could affect the health and economy of an entire region of the US and that the our public health system resulted from that event.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Hurrah! for the Founding Fathers

Any additional comments?

I have ancestors who lived in Connecticut before the Revolution. As I pondered the events of American history, it made these people come alive for me. I more was able to see daily life as they may have seen it.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • John M
  • Lafayette, CA USA
  • 10-18-15

Fantastic way to experience American History

I have listened to almost 100 of The Great Courses over the last 10 years or so and this one ranks within the Top 5! Professor O'Donnell clearly knows his subject matter plus he is a superb presenter. The lectures are clear, well organized, and fast paced. There are 48 lectures, which certainly seems like a lot, but each one goes by very quickly. I really liked the mixture of very well-known and little known episodes in American history. It also has a nice mix of political, military, economic, and social historical episodes so it always seems fresh.

Ideally one would have a basic grasp of American history overall before starting this series, but frankly it isn't absolutely necessary. Enjoy!

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Great and expansive course ()

Would you listen to Turning Points in American History again? Why?

This course was well worth my time. An expansive survey of some of the key elements that transformed American society into what it is today: from immigration to the industrial revolution to the transportation revolution to key battles in nation-threatening wars to the invention of TV. It covered a vast expanse of US history from battles to inventions to scandals.

The Professor's main themes:

History is made by agency- not just the well-known leaders of society but also the unnamed farmers, protesters, or laborers who led the country onto a new path.

History is not inevitable- To us it may appear that an event was inevitable and everything was leading up to it but history is actually full of surprises: the key events were not seen as "around the corner" by those living at the time; This includes the end of slavery, the Berlin wall coming down, and the terrorist attacks of 9-11

History is made by people making choices- History is not made by some mysterious unknown force or "fate" but by real people making choices that led to a distinct change in the trajectory of the country

Pluses of the course:
• Lectures not only focused on the actual turning point but also discussed the history of the topic in question before and after the turning point (for example: immigration wave history, voting suffrage, etc.)
• In most cases the professor gave ample examples of the ripple effects the turning point had on the American people and society
• Course covered topics that are not often found in typical U.S. history courses such as Roger William’s movement for freedom of religion, King Phillip’s War, and the eradication of hookworm in the south
• Lecture 5 (King Phillip's War), 9 (The battle of Saratoga), 11 (Samuel Slater and the Industrial Revolution), 12 (Election of 1800), 15 (expansion of voting suffrage for white men), 36 (Battle of Midway), 39 (beginning of the Cold War), and 47 (end of the Cold War)
• The professor seemed personable and down to earth
• The professor’s lectures were easy to understand and follow

Minuses of the course (minor ones at that):
• While the professor generally did a good job of explaining why a specific turning point was important I was hoping that he would’ve speculated more on the “What If” side if the turning point had not occurred or had gone another way: how would the U.S. or society be different? I know this would be difficult to do but would sure be fun and thought-provoking!
• The professor had a habit of constantly correcting himself or he’d start a sentence with one phrase but then change in mid sentence and say it a different way; The constant correction of himself sometimes hindered himself from effectively emphasizing a point he was making; Unfortunately, there were times I found myself unintentionally focusing more on a correction than letting a point sink in

If you are interested in key moments in US history that set the country on a different path from where it had been previously, then this course is right for you.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Outstanding

Great overview of major elements of American history. Recommend this coverage as a reminder of all of our US history courses.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Interesting and informative

I think he did an excellent job of making the facts interesting and informative, didn't get the sense he tried to convince you of anything, just presented the facts in a fun and thought provoking manner.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Kira
  • Connecticut, USA
  • 05-04-17

A MUST Listen!

This is the history course we should have all had in school. Even someone well versed in American history will learn fascinating new facts while exploring the short and long term impact of events. Most important, it is amazingly relevant to today's US and world politics!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Captivating

I thoroughly enjoyed this lecture series on Turning Points in American History. I learned more than I thought I would and it made the time on many international flights pass by in a hurry.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great information about America

This was a very interesting book, I learned a lot about American history and key events in our history

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Simon marchant
  • 06-01-16

Superb presenter

If you could sum up Turning Points in American History in three words, what would they be?

Informative & entertaining

What about Professor Edward T. O'Donnell’s performance did you like?

Prof O'Donnell is a superb presenter and gets over the facts and the theory in an engaging and entertaining way; brilliant. Even better than Mr Oxley and Mr Todd all those years ago in high school - and they were excellent too.

Any additional comments?

Thoroughly recommended

1 of 1 people found this review helpful