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10 Great What-Ifs of American History

As you explore 10 alternate histories in this riveting course, imagine the United States that could have been if chance events had gone another way.

10 Great What-Ifs of American History is rated 3.4 out of 5 by 17.
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Rated 1 out of 5 by from Weak Scholarship and Biased This is one of the weakest Great Courses I have watched. The lectures are very short and full of rank speculation that the lecturer and guests attempt to justify as being "counterfactual history." It's just pure speculation. Additionally, Professor Jortner demonstrates considerable bias. His lecture on Columbus was particularly egregious. The Italian navigator and his Spanish sponsors is a complicated topic, with both advances and atrocities. That nuance is lost in Jortner's sarcasm about Columbus and profound bias against Spain. This course is one of the weakest in the catalogue.
Date published: 2024-06-30
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I don’t give stars I don’t believe I need to address the quality of this course. But let’s take a look at “What If’s.” I dare say that Adam asked that question a thousand times while thinking about a help mate. Everyone has asked that question. 1. What if Lee had not only won the battle but the war? First off Lincoln would have gone to jail for his illegal arrest and imprisonment of Lt. John Merryman. The Lt. was placed in a military prison for the duration of the war without his constitutional rights to a trial. 2. Then Lincoln would have been charged with violating the 3rd Amendment to the Constitution. Lincoln had no right to quarter troops at Arlington, Robert E Lee’s home. 3. Then Lincoln would have gone to prison for ordering 10’s of thousands of Confederate soldiers (POW’s) starved to death in upstate New York, Pennsylvania and Chicago. Lincoln had a lot of crimes left out of the revised history book. What if the Allies lost WW2? I’m not sure they didn’t. FDR bought over a million unrepentant nazis to the USA. We wouldn’t have a space/rocket program without them. The CIA was built on those same soldiers of Hitler’s. What if Columbus didn’t discover America? He didn’t. Another explorer did. That man discovered an unknown piece of land and named it America. Those often referred to as Indian were here many years before Columbus. The Vikings were here and drew a map of the east coast all the way down into Georgia years before Columbus was born. What if Lincoln never issued the Emancipation Proclamation? If the EP ended slavery, why the war? If the war ended slavery why the EP or the 13th amendment? Why were nearly a million people killed “IF” the EP or the 13th amendment worked? Did Lincoln have the authority to free slaves? Congress had already passed a law allowing any territory west of the Mississippi to join the USA. Oh but “IF” slavery ended, why didn’t it? Of course we could go back and revisit the Reconstruction of the South into total poverty for the next 100 years. Salem Witch Trials? I’m not sure those are not still going on. I’m not going to get into politics, you can. How would you grade our court system today? You and I both can come up with many examples of witch hunts. Those are but a few of the “What IF’s that are more likely than those given here.
Date published: 2024-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting course! I know this course is not everyone's cup of tea; but I enjoyed it greately. From alternate history to speculative fiction and everything in between is something I like to read/watch/study. This course right up in my alley and thanks for Great Courses to put this together. I do like the interview-style presentation also which is more akin to documentary style. All in all interesting addition to Great Courses family. Thanks
Date published: 2024-06-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from 10 great what ifs Regarding lecture about losing WW2 and Pearl Harbor. Lecture states our only carrier was lost at Pearl Harbor. Not True: no carriers were at Pearl (except Japanese) Also we had 3 large modern carriers then. Lexington, Saratoga and Enterprise. As smart as Yamamoto was ; he made some terrible mistakes. 1: bombing Pearl led to destruction of most of Japan. 2. Did not consider Americans desire for REVENGE! . 3. Attacked Peart with his carriers and forgot about ours!!. 4.Paid with his life for these transgressions
Date published: 2024-06-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from very intersting Prof. Jointner is anexvellent speaker, as well as his male companioun. However the lady who breaks into the lectures has a herky jerky way of speaking that is difficult to follow The scenarios presented are very interesting
Date published: 2024-06-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Shallow, Repetitive, and lack of Scholars I like Alternative History as a genre. This course disappoints in several ways. While I recognized one of the experts from a previous course which I liked, he was not identified. Nor were all of the people who appeared suddenly to tell us something. Each episode more or less began the same way and cut into the time for the actual program. The episodes were short anyway, and I wondered if there was not enough content. For almost half of the episodes, I looked at the Guidebook to save time. One I did watch was on the Allies losing WW2. The title is misleading because most of the episode focused on FDR not having a third term. An Isolationist America never entered the war, so how could it lose? Even a scenario with an attack on Pearl Harbor that forces an Isolationist president to sue for peace ignores the assumption that the US was not at war. This is poor quality and I hope Wondrium will improve.
Date published: 2024-05-27
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Just Fluff no Substance. What is this Aliens by the History Channel? What-If is a great topic, but this program is a joke. 20 minutes of each episode is just fluff. Maybe 4 to 8 minutes is actual content. The rest is intros, jokes and repetition. This is something your 5th grade history teacher would turn on in a slow day. Not enjoyable. Nothing redeemable. Avoid.
Date published: 2024-05-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good, But Not Great I think this course largely succeeds on its own terms--it presents ten thought-provoking "what ifs" in American history and explores the long-term implications had the pivotal events that trigger the "what ifs" not occurred. Given that each lecture is about 25 minutes, the course does not have time to explore in any depth the events that frame the "what ifs" or the world the professors speculate would have resulted had the "what ifs" occurred. As a result, each lecture is pretty superficial, but I found the lectures to be interesting and worthwhile nonetheless. It's a great course for a weekend binge. Keep your expectations in check, and you are likely to enjoy this one. But 4 (not 5) stars.
Date published: 2024-05-07
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Overview

10 Great What-Ifs of American History offers you the chance to ponder some of the most captivating possibilities in the story of our nation. Over 10 eye-opening lectures, Professor Adam Jortner of Auburn University walks you through some of the most astonishing chance events in American history, from the signing of the Constitution to the defeat of the Soviets in the race to the moon.

About

Adam Jortner

One of the great privileges of being a historian is that I get to talk about 'what if.' I get to remind people that things are not foreordained, and even in stormy times, great things may happen.

INSTITUTION

Auburn University

Adam Jortner is the Goodwin-Philpott Eminent Professor of Religion in the Department of History at Auburn University. He received his PhD in History from the University of Virginia. He has written and lectured extensively on the history of religion and the imagination, and he has received grants and fellowships from many organizations, including the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Antiquarian Society. His books include No Place for Saints, Blood from the Sky, and The Gods of Prophetstown, which won the James H. Broussard Best First Book Prize, awarded to new authors writing about the history of the early American republic.

By This Professor

10 Great What-Ifs of American History
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10 Great What-Ifs of American History

Trailer

What If Lee Won at Gettysburg?

01: What If Lee Won at Gettysburg?

Your course begins with one of the biggest what-ifs in American history: What would have changed if the Confederates had succeeded in taking Little Round Top on the second day of the Battle at Gettysburg? As you explore this introductory “counterfactual,” consider how history ripples across the ages.

27 min
What If Lewis and Clark Vanished?

02: What If Lewis and Clark Vanished?

America’s expansion has been called “manifest destiny,” but as you will see here, it was anything but destiny. After the Louisiana Purchase, Thomas Jefferson sent four expeditions westward—and only Lewis and Clark succeeded. Barely. See how one grizzly bear might have reshaped America, Texas, and the Lakota Nation.

26 min
What If the Allies Lost World War II?

03: What If the Allies Lost World War II?

World War II looms in recent American history, with President Roosevelt leading a country with isolationist leanings to a great triumph and a new role as the leader of the free world. But what if FDR had not been president? Delve into the wild politics of the 1920s and 1930s to explore a world that easily could have been.

27 min
What If the Soviets Got to the Moon First?

04: What If the Soviets Got to the Moon First?

The Apollo program is legendary for the way Americans beat the Soviets to the moon within a decade. As this lecture reveals, however, the space program’s success was as much about political will as technological advancement. Find out how a chance event with one Soviet scientist could have altered the history of space travel—and the future of two global superpowers.

25 min
What If the Constitution Did Not Pass?

05: What If the Constitution Did Not Pass?

It is hailed as the centerpiece of American government—but it almost didn’t happen! The US Constitution was highly controversial when it was written in 1787, and some states wanted to reject it! Find out how Federalists in New Hampshire (of all places) managed to save the Constitution and get it ratified with just a few changes to a schedule!

24 min
What If Columbus Never “Discovered” America?

06: What If Columbus Never “Discovered” America?

Contact between Old-World Europe and North America was a near-certainty, but Columbus’s voyage in 1492 relied on a number of improbabilities—beginning with his incorrect math about the size of the world. Imagine instead that the Aztecs had been able to consolidate power before the Portuguese made contact with them a few generations after Columbus had made landfall in the Americas.

25 min
What If Lincoln Never Issued the Emancipation Proclamation?

07: What If Lincoln Never Issued the Emancipation Proclamation?

We’re trained to believe the arc of history bends toward justice, and President Lincoln establishing freedom for the slaves in America is a critical step in this arc. However, Lincoln was not an abolitionist at the start of the Civil War. So, if the war had ended sooner, he might not have issued the Emancipation Proclamation. What then? Find out in this thought-provoking lecture.

25 min
What If the Salem Witch Trials Never Happened?

08: What If the Salem Witch Trials Never Happened?

At first, it might sound bizarre to imagine the United States having witch trials in the 20th century, but it didn’t happen because the Salem Witch Trials took the possibility off the table more than 300 years ago. Walk through the oddities of 1692 to see how the arguments of two ministers—and one legal loophole—created the worst witch hunt in American history.

22 min
What If Nat Turner Succeeded?

09: What If Nat Turner Succeeded?

In 1831, Nat Turner led an armed revolt across Virginia. A lengthy stopover slowed the group’s momentum and eventually the revolt was quelled. But what would have happened if Turner had not stopped? Could he and his cohorts have reached an arsenal in the nearby town of Jerusalem? What would history look like if his revolt had continued?

26 min
What If JFK Survived?

10: What If JFK Survived?

Round out the course with a look at President Kennedy’s assassination, an event that continues to inspire conspiracy theorists decades later. As Professor Jortner discusses, JFK almost didn’t make the trip to Dallas that ended in national tragedy. How would JFK’s survival have affected civil rights, the Cold War, and Vietnam? And how does asking counterfactuals help us understand the history that did happen?

27 min