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Origins and Ideologies of the American Revolution

Learn how our emerging nation astonished the world leaders of the day, broke away from its mother country, and fashioned a republic capable of sustaining itself generation after generation.
Origins and Ideologies of the American Revolution is rated 3.7 out of 5 by 87.
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Rated 1 out of 5 by from When you buy the DVD's, unfortunately you do not also get online streaming included. I feel I was tricked, as every other course for which I purchased the DVD's included streaming also.
Date published: 2024-02-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Different Kind of History This is not your typical history course. While most histories of the American Revolution emphasize the Who, What, Where, and When, this course examines the “Why” of what people did (hence the term “ideologies” in the course title). This course focuses on the motivations and principles involved. Thus, the narrative arc starts with the problems that the Parliament and the colonists faced in the wake of the Seven Years’ War, it discusses the principles with which the colonists grappled (including the contradiction between their desire for liberty and their defense of slavery), and it culminates in the incorporation of those principles into the American Constitution. The course considers both the continental perspective and the European perspective equally and without judgment. At the end of the course, it also considers the perspectives of women and native Americans. Interestingly, Dr. Mancall usually calls the American opposition to Parliament a “resistance movement” until the time of the Declaration of Independence. Dr. Mancall comes across as a friend describing what is going on with two other mutual friends who are in conflict. He is interesting and easy to follow. He is almost conversational in style. The course guide is average by The Great Courses standards. It is in outline format and it averages only a little more than three pages per lecture with only two graphics embedded in those pages. There are appendices which include five maps, a useful timeline from the accession of King George III to the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson as president in 1801, a glossary that is four pages long, biographical notes for major persons, a bibliography that includes a description of what a reader might get from the reference, and a list of interesting internet resources. I used the audio version and that was quite sufficient. I doubt that visual aids in the DVD would have added any significant value. The course was published in 2006.
Date published: 2023-02-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Disappointing The first few lectures of this course were excellent and exactly what it purports to do - focus on the ideas and movements that fueled the American Revolution. After that, though, it took a nose dive and became more of a recitation of the events and facts. Unfortunately, some of the facts presented are incorrect, which really made me distrust what else was said. I love the premise of the course and some of the individual lectures were good, but the overall course was disappointing.
Date published: 2022-10-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thorough exploration! I greatly enjoyed this series of lectures. It is long - which allows it to address many events that are usually overlooked but that provide important context for what happened and the constitutional democracy that resulted.
Date published: 2022-10-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Essential It is difficult for me to praise this course too highly. It is an essential course for anyone interested in American history. Professor Mancall is an excellent presenter, in both style and content. I held back at first from taking this course due to its forty-eight-lecture length, but I plunged in and found myself looking forward to each lecture. The course is exceptionally well-constructed, covering a long period, from early colonial times through the Revolution and into the decades following. Oddly enough, I recommend starting the course at the end, as lecture forty-eight provide an excellent overview of the course. Professor Mancall’s point is that the American Revolution “was not based on self-interest, class conflict, or partisan politics…[but] that it grew from several core ideas, all expressed to some extent in the Declaration of Independence: equality of all people, the ability to pursue one’s own path without undue government burdens, and the desire to live free of tyranny.” So, this is not a straight narrative of events, but uses these events and the people involved to highlight “the role of ideas in the age of the American Revolution.” (Course Guidebook, Page 1) An interesting aspect of this course is that Professor Mancall readily admits that many of the American Revolution’s ideals appeared “hollow” (audio, lecture 48) to significant sectors of the population, notably women, slaves, Native Americans, and the poor, and ably deals with them in turn as part of the Revolution’s development and aftermath. There are also many interesting details about life and events at that time: for example, details of the truly horrific practice of tar and feathering; presenting a quite positive picture of the oft-maligned Articles of Confederation that preceded the Constitution; showing how the depredations of British soldiers and mercenaries pushed so many into the rebel ranks and strengthened resolve; and how the commitment to revolutionary ideals not only played out in the Constitution, but also made the Bill of Rights imperative and affected developments in the early republic. These are just a few somewhat random examples of what caught my attention. With more space, I could spin out many more! Professor Mancall supports his position by good scholarship and by reference to many pertinent sources from the time. He quotes extensively from these letters, broadsides and pamphlets (a key means of communication in the era), reports, and other documents, breathing new life into them in making his points. Though I found the audio version of the course fine for my walks, I likely sacrificed some content contained in the video version, as Professor Mancall refers to contemporary illustrative material. A few of these items, however, are reproduced in the Course Guidebook. This 2006 course’s 207-page guidebook is excellent, with fine lecture summaries, four very useful maps, a glossary, biographical notes, timeline, and annotated bibliography. An excellent course!!
Date published: 2022-05-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course! This course was not purely about the events that took place. While he did described them, the professor also taught about the origins and ideologies of the Revolution. He included may direct quotes from contemporaries as well as from important documents of the time. The course was divided smartly into it's separate lectures. The course was very simple to follow. While I did order the transcript, I felt it wasn't required in order to get value from the course. I recommend this course and would take addition courses taught by this professor.
Date published: 2021-08-29
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Nott a problem with the course My proem is it with the course but with the inability to download to my Android. The streaming player is so internet demanding that my poor service. Cannot handle playing a full lecture. It cuts out every 5 minutes and I then need to reload the page in order to keep listening. TGC...not everyone has stellar internet service!
Date published: 2021-07-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Literally "literate" and a couple prejudices I'm sure it was a tough call for Mancall to read verbatim from the original documents to give detail and insight to the ideologies of the American Revolution. Should he have just summarized what the letters/documents said? Every lecture includes at least 10-20% of him reading the documents like a teletype. Sometimes, such as Articles of Confederation, or the Declaration, it gives us extra insight. Othertimes you get lost in the words. I have a good attention span, and even for me it was difficult to "hang in there" with his dry reading, and his lectures weren't much different. For information sake, it's a great opus, but the delivery falls short with the "literacy". Then, his prejudices come through with a couple attacks on the "fetishism" of people who believe in "original intent" of the Constitution. I guess he has problems with 5 of the present justices. Also, his statement that the "3/5 rule" of non free people in the census was in order to subjugate the slaves is an error. The 3/5 rule was to keep the percentage of southern votes lower in order to be able to eventually vote down slavery, not to maintain iit.
Date published: 2020-12-21
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In Professor Peter C. Mancall's 48 lectures you learn how our emerging nation astonished the world leaders of the day


Peter C. Mancall

The revolution left posterity with the transforming idea that the people are sovereigns, at least in America, and as sovereigns, each has the responsibility to participate in and shape public life in the United States.


University of Southern California

Dr. Peter C. Mancall is Professor of History and Anthropology at the University of Southern California and Director of the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute. He earned his A.B. from Oberlin College and his master's degree and Ph.D. from Harvard University. Before taking his position at USC, he held teaching positions at the University of Kansas, the University College Galway in Ireland, and Harvard University. Professor Mancall received two teaching excellence awards at the University of Kansas and in 2004 was named a Gamma Sigma Alpha Professor of the Year by the University of Southern California. Professor Mancall is the author of four books and editor of Volume I of the Encyclopedia of American History, chosen as a best reference book series by Booklist, Library Journal, and Choice magazine. Dr. Mancall's work has been featured on National Public Radio's All Things Considered and in the Chronicle of Higher Education. His research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, and the American Philosophical Society.

Self-Evident Truths

01: Self-Evident Truths

The American Revolution was fought on battlefields during 1775-1783, but it began in 1760, when colonists began to question the motives and authority of Great Britain, and it continued until 1800, when it became clear that the republic would survive.

32 min
Ideas and Ideologies

02: Ideas and Ideologies

The Revolution generated many ideas. The most convincing were organized and spread through specific media, especially pamphlets, that created a new ideology—a way to understand and ultimately shape events in the messy, real world.

30 min
Europeans of Colonial America

03: Europeans of Colonial America

Elizabethan England had much to do with setting the future direction of the colonies. It saw America as a resource for raw materials, a market for British manufactured goods, and a place to challenge the spread of Catholicism. By 1700, Germans and Scots-Irish made up a significant portion of the population.

30 min
Natives and Slaves of Colonial America

04: Natives and Slaves of Colonial America

The natives succumbed to disease and warfare, plunging to only one-tenth of the number living in 1492. Meanwhile, colonial land ownership, and participation in self-government, was spread more widely in New England than in the Mid-Atlantic; conversely, slavery was most economically feasible in the labor-intensive plantations of the Chesapeake Bay region and points farther south.

30 min
The Colonies in the Atlantic World, c. 1750

05: The Colonies in the Atlantic World, c. 1750

By 1750, the colonists had created a successful economy and could do as they pleased as long as they remained loyal to their king. They sent raw materials to Great Britain and the West Indies and lived under light taxation in the form of levies on transatlantic shipping. The population grew, a fact noted with satisfaction by Benjamin Franklin.

31 min
The Seven Years' War

06: The Seven Years' War

The expanding colonies came into armed conflict with the French to the north and west. Britain and France fought into the 1760s; as a result Britain won Canada and territory stretching to the Mississippi River. But the tremendous war debt was one that Britons could not pay alone, and by war's end there were thousands of British soldiers in the colonies. Irritations festered.

30 min
The British Constitution

07: The British Constitution

The "unwritten" British Constitution, much cherished by Britons and colonists, was thought to balance three "natural" orders of society: king, aristocracy, and people. Each checked the potential abuses of the others.

30 min
George III and the Politics of Empire

08: George III and the Politics of Empire

George III, who ascended the throne in 1760, believed that the king's place in the British constitution had diminished over time. Moreover, he was facing crises: both political challenges at home by John Wilkes and the great debt from the Seven Years' War. He felt he had to steer the ship of state with a firm hand.

31 min
Politics in British America before 1760

09: Politics in British America before 1760

From 1750 to 1763, colonists had become used to self-rule, particularly to petitioning. If they wanted change, they would petition their legislative bodies. These bodies, made up of colonial freeholders, were generally obliging. Britain did not mind this degree of self-rule; it concentrated on the revenues of transoceanic trade.

30 min
James Otis and the Writs of Assistance Case

10: James Otis and the Writs of Assistance Case

Colonists were used to bribing officials to avoid taxes on imports. A law called the Writs of Assistance allowed government agents to board ships they suspected of harboring contraband. Boston merchants hired James Otis to argue that the Writs law violated the British constitution because it wrested a property right from property owners. He lost the case, but stirred colonists to consider the reach of the British government in North America.

31 min
The Search for Order and Revenue

11: The Search for Order and Revenue

In the mid-1760s Parliament passed a series of acts intended to raise revenues and keep order in the colonies. One act prevented colonists from living west of the Appalachian Ridge. Another quashed paper currency in the colonies, and another taxed transoceanic trade goods. Americans saw them as intrusions on their rights and liberties and objected to being treated differently from the king's subjects in Britain.

32 min
The Stamp Act and Rebellion in the Streets

12: The Stamp Act and Rebellion in the Streets

In 1765, Parliament passed the Stamp Act, which would have imposed significant taxes on Americans. Enraged by its provisions, colonists protested in the streets and threatened violence against Stamp Act agents. They organized bands of resistors called Sons of Liberty.

30 min
Parliament Digs in Its Heels, 1766–1767

13: Parliament Digs in Its Heels, 1766–1767

Parliament repealed the Stamp Act to show it was responsive to the colonists' complaints and that the colonists had "virtual representation" in Parliament. But they followed with the Declaratory Act, saying Parliament had firm jurisdiction over the colonies and, in 1767, the Townshend Acts, which taxed consumer goods. Colonists saw the second as more of a threat than the first because it hurt their economic well-being.

31 min
The Crisis of Representation

14: The Crisis of Representation

Americans scrutinized British actions and rethought their relationship with Britain. They questioned whether the process of petitioning they were used to in the colonies could work with a government across an ocean.

31 min
The Logic of Loyalty and Resistance

15: The Logic of Loyalty and Resistance

Americans protested "taxation without representation," but they continued to petition the king for change, showing no interest in independence. They were interested in a more responsive government and supported the views of John Wilkes who urged Parliament to publish its debates and make other changes. Many American colonists gravitated toward the resistance movement in the hope that it would convince the British to abandon their recent policies.

30 min
Franklin and the Search for Reconciliation

16: Franklin and the Search for Reconciliation

Benjamin Franklin moved to London to help smooth relations between the colonies and the Crown. Many of his sympathies lay with the British government, but he was also a sort of "man of the people." As tensions rose, Franklin incurred the wrath of the British ministry.

32 min
The Boston Massacre

17: The Boston Massacre

The Boston Massacre of 1770 was tragic and unpremeditated. It inflamed the colonists' anxieties about standing armies, which some political theorists asserted were agents of potential tyrants. Boston silversmith Paul Revere made an engraving that, widely circulated, helped fan the flames. Speeches reinforced the notion that the British were committed to wresting liberties from Americans.

31 min
The British Empire and the Tea Act

18: The British Empire and the Tea Act

The British repealed many taxes but kept one on tea in hopes of raising revenues for the East India Company. Again colonists saw the move as imposed without their consent. Many colonists became increasingly suspicious of the British government.

31 min
The Boston Tea Party and the Coercive Acts

19: The Boston Tea Party and the Coercive Acts

A crowd of Bostonians destroyed a shipment of tea in December 1773. Parliament passed legislation Americans called the Intolerable Acts, which closed the port of Boston until the tea damage was paid for, suspended the colony's regular government, reorganized much of the American interior, and allowed British soldiers to quarter themselves in Boston.

31 min
The First Continental Congress

20: The First Continental Congress

Colonists organized an extra-legal Continental Congress in 1774 to discuss common problems and to stimulate sympathy for occupied Bostonians. They urged the king to return to the familiar system of rule in effect before 1760.

31 min
Lexington and Concord

21: Lexington and Concord

Fearful of a standing army in Boston, Massachusetts farmers armed themselves. British soldiers, threatened, marched from Boston to Lexington and Concord to seize a store of gunpowder. Armed Minutemen refused to disband, and the British responded with gunfire. By the end of the day more than 300 men had fallen in battle.

30 min
Second Continental Congress and Bunker Hill

22: Second Continental Congress and Bunker Hill

The fever of rebellion ran high. A band of colonists seized Fort Ticonderoga from the British. The colonists called for another Continental Congress to meet in Philadelphia. Men flocked to Boston and fortified Breed's Hill. The British prevailed in the Battle of Bunker Hill, but only after they suffered a large number of casualties.

31 min
Thomas Paine and

23: Thomas Paine and "Common Sense"

King George believed that Americans had been misled by evil men. Then early in 1776, Thomas Paine published "Common Sense." It presented logical arguments why the colonies should be independent of Great Britain, and it became wildly successful. Read in every colony, perhaps in every household, its arguments resonated deeply with and inspired the Americans.

31 min
The British Seizure of New York

24: The British Seizure of New York

The British came to believe that the occupation of Boston was counterproductive and relocated their armed forces to New York where they thought they would receive a better reception and did. They were right. But the move signaled an expansion of the war and their exodus from Boston suggested that the British were already conceding defeat in the war of words.

31 min
The Declaration of Independence

25: The Declaration of Independence

During the troubled occupation of Boston and then of New York, Congress debated and voted for independence. Thomas Jefferson articulated the reasons why.

31 min
The War for New York and New Jersey

26: The War for New York and New Jersey

British General William Howe defeated the Americans outside New York, occupied the city, then pursued the Americans through New Jersey. But the Americans won decisive battles at Trenton and Princeton, boosting their cause. British and Hessian soldiers pillaged and raped during the campaign.

30 min
Saratoga, Philadelphia, and Valley Forge

27: Saratoga, Philadelphia, and Valley Forge

The Continental Army defeated the British at Saratoga. But the British took Philadelphia, and at Valley Forge the American army was sorely tried. Many Americans nonetheless embraced the cause of the rebellion, cherishing their fight for liberties, and held hope for independence.

30 min
The Creation of State Constitutions

28: The Creation of State Constitutions

In one of the most creative acts of the revolutionary times, the Continental Congress called on the states to write constitutions. Americans thus set out on an uncharted exercise in self-government, writing constitutions based on the notion that government exists to serve the people's interests.

30 min
Jefferson's Statute for Religious Freedom

29: Jefferson's Statute for Religious Freedom

Jefferson crafted a law for Virginia, especially radical at the time, in support of freedom of thought, not only in religion, but also in a more general sense. It was perhaps the greatest state government document of the 18th century.

31 min
Franklin, Paris, and the French Alliance

30: Franklin, Paris, and the French Alliance

Franklin used his celebrity with the French and hints of reconciliation with Britain to move the French into commercial and military treaties with the United States. Once these treaties were signed, printers in America gave them wide circulation.

30 min
The Articles of Confederation

31: The Articles of Confederation

The Continental Congress adopted a frame of government drafted by John Dickinson of Pennsylvania. Under the Articles of Confederation, a government came into being with representatives from 13 sovereign states, each state having an equal vote in the national government. Ratified in 1781, the Articles were a success, but the central government eventually proved ineffective after the war ended.

31 min
Yorktown and the End of the War

32: Yorktown and the End of the War

The British moved into the South, hoping to pick up support of slaveholders troubled by the language of the Declaration. But although the British could win military victories, they could not pacify the South or win the hearts and minds of the people. Their army surrendered at Yorktown.

31 min
The Treaty of Paris of 1783

33: The Treaty of Paris of 1783

The British declined to continue the war. The Treaty of Paris defined the boundaries of the new country and banned reprisals on Tories. By surrendering his commission, George Washington demonstrated that the people would rule the military in the new nation.

30 min
The Crises of the 1780s

34: The Crises of the 1780s

The new nation had problems. Its central government was not strong enough to tackle piracy and foreign trade, or deal well with a tax revolt in western Massachusetts called Shays' Rebellion, or raise funds to pay off the debt from the war. By 1786, many Americans realized they needed to meet to revise the Articles of Confederation.

31 min
African Americans and the Revolution

35: African Americans and the Revolution

After the rebels signed the Declaration of Independence, many came to realize that the continued existence of slavery was a contradiction to the principles of universal human equality defined in it. Residents of northern states soon abolished the institution, but it clung to life in the Chesapeake states; only in the Deep South did some offer spirited defenses of slavery.

31 min
The Constitutional Convention

36: The Constitutional Convention

Leaders from the states gathered in Philadelphia to craft a new government in 1787. They had learned much during the process of writing state constitutions and hoped to establish a more effective central government. They struggled with the notion of how to represent the states as well as the people and how state governments could coexist with a powerful national government.

31 min
The United States Constitution

37: The United States Constitution

The framers of the Constitution outlined a government deriving its power from the people. The Constitution created a powerful executive branch and laid out the operations of the two branches of the national legislature. The founders hoped that this new government could handle the kinds of problems that had been so vexing during the middle of the 1780s.

32 min
The Antifederalist Critique

38: The Antifederalist Critique

Antifederalists, those opposed to the Constitution as it emerged from the Philadelphia convention, worried about the new government's extensive powers and potential for abuse. They bemoaned the lack of a bill of rights. They thought the executive might be too strong to be kept in check. They published their arguments in hopes of thwarting ratification.

30 min
The Federalists' Response

39: The Federalists' Response

In response, the Federalists, particularly James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, argued powerfully in print that the proposed government had enough checks and balances to preserve liberty and avert abuse. Nevertheless, they agreed that the Constitution should be amended with a bill of rights.

31 min
The Bill of Rights

40: The Bill of Rights

Many in the states called for a bill of rights as a quid pro quo for approving the Constitution. James Madison drafted such a bill, and 10 of its items were adopted by 1791. They explicitly stated the rights of the people that could not be limited by the judiciary or the federal government.

31 min
Politics in the 1790s

41: Politics in the 1790s

The 1790s were a Federalist era, with the first president, Washington, vowing to work for all the people and not factions. But a growing Republican group led by Jefferson touted agrarianism and independent farmers, while a Federalist faction led by Hamilton promoted manufacturing and efforts to develop the nation's economy.

31 min
The Alien and Sedition Acts

42: The Alien and Sedition Acts

By the middle of the 1790s, many Americans were concerned about the French Revolution, which had spun in unpredictable directions after its start in 1789. Republicans saw much of value in France, while the Federalists found allies in Britain. John Adams, the second president, signed the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798, calling for the arrest of some critics of the government. Republicans, following the lead of Jefferson and Madison, protested these statutes as infringements on the right of free speech.

30 min
The Election of 1800

43: The Election of 1800

In 1800 President Jefferson had the opportunity to take political revenge but instead used his inaugural to confirm his faith in the Constitution. The country would not descend to such divisiveness as the French Revolution produced. In 1803 the Supreme Court asserted itself as the final arbiter of law and defender of the people's interests.

31 min
Women and the American Revolution

44: Women and the American Revolution

The liberties and equalities in the Revolution's documents remained distant dreams for women. Women could aspire to the position of "republican mother," educating their husbands and sons in the virtues needed for the self-governing nation. Yet women lost some of their rights under common law and did not gain appreciable political or divorce rights.

31 min
The Revolution and Native Americans

45: The Revolution and Native Americans

Some Native Americans supported the rebellion, but more believed that an alliance with the British was in their best interests. By war's end, many victorious Americans believed that all Natives had supported the British and such views supported the exclusion of Natives from the United States.

30 min
The American Revolution as Social Movement

46: The American Revolution as Social Movement

Despite bearing the brunt of the fighting, lower-income men typically did not benefit financially. Tens of thousands of loyalists emigrated, sometimes to England, often to Canada. Notions of deference declined, and many had expanded opportunities after the war.

31 min
Reflections by the Revolutionary Generation

47: Reflections by the Revolutionary Generation

Those who experienced the Revolution differed over what it meant: a world gone mad; a success story for the ages; the crucible for creating a new type of person; a movement for liberty that had been partially repudiated.

31 min
The Meaning of the Revolution

48: The Meaning of the Revolution

Some of the Revolution's ramifications took decades to materialize the end of slavery, rights for women and some continue work themselves out. But the Revolution left posterity with the transforming idea that the people are the sovereigns, at least in America, and as sovereigns, each has the responsibility to participate in and shape public life in the United States.

32 min