The American Civil War

Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is an impressive body of work. I especially liked the inclusion of all aspects of the War—vast. I really enjoyed this.
Date published: 2020-07-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent survey of the War from start to finish. He managed to keep it in chronological order with inclusions of interesting non battle issues. Recommended.
Date published: 2020-07-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I'm only on the 2nd disk, but so far I am not dissatisfied.
Date published: 2020-07-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Course The course is detailed and much more than about battles and strategy. The American Civil War cannot be covered in one course but Professor Gallagher gives the student a lot of different subjects to gain a grasp and then launch into if the student desires.
Date published: 2020-07-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A favorite subject made unendurable! I love learning about the Civil War time period. This professor is about as boring as any professor I ever had in school. I could only get through 3 and a half lectures and I am being generous. One other question: Does this guy ever change into a different outfit??
Date published: 2020-07-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very good overview. The maps were helpful to visualize the terrain and battle lines.
Date published: 2020-06-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from American Civil War One of the best Great Courses I've bought and I've bought many of them. If the Video/DVD was a book, then I'd describe these lectures as "page turners," I enjoyed listening to and watching every lecture.
Date published: 2020-05-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Historical Story I've always been interested in the Civil War era throughout my education. But this course has revealed some great information. The Professor's presentations were great. I enjoyed every course!
Date published: 2020-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from American Civil War I am about half way through the 48 episode course. It is very well done. Dr Gallagher is an excellent instructor. This course should be mandatory in all education facilities.
Date published: 2020-04-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Insights into American Civil War My interest in the American Civil War started as a somewhat localized focus on the well known battles of Antietam and Gettysburg and started about two years ago. As my interest began to expand to other geographic areas of the conflict, I found it somewhat difficult to keep a good perspective on the sequence of events and the major players in them. I found Prof. Ghallagher’s lectures to be informative and insightful. They provide an understanding not only of what was happening and who were the key players on each side but also the WHY. The lectures exceeded my expectations regarding my total understanding of the Civil War and I was sorry to have the lectures end.
Date published: 2020-04-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Much To Learn I've studied the Civil War at length, but I still learned many new things from this course. The professor does an excellent job with providing the information while not bogging down unnecessarily. The pacing of this course is outstanding. This is a great choice whether you know nothing about the Civil War or have studied it for years.
Date published: 2020-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the most popular historical subjects of all I am now on my third time through this course. It keeps on getting better each time. I think if I had to do college all over I might change my major to history. Gary Gallagher is that good.
Date published: 2019-11-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Re-learning the story Several years ago, I purchased the CD's and now when the price was affordable, I purchased the DVD's for I am a visual learning person and found the DVD's best for my re-learning, re-listening and re-reading the splendid guide book.
Date published: 2019-11-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Overview Course I just finished this course which I found to be most informative. As an American history major, there was not a lot of brand new information, but Professor Gallagher did a fine job in bringing together a great deal of information and doing so in a very coherent and entertaining way. Considering the massive amount of writings on the Civil War, it was a challenge to cover all of the highlights. I particularly enjoyed Professor Gallagher's debunking the "lost cause" rhetoric espoused by many Southern sympathizers. There was nothing inevitable about the war's outcome in 1861 - and well after that. I also appreciated the professor's cogent response to the post Civil War propaganda re the "rebellion" being about Constitutional rights, not about slavery. Yes, it was about Union but from the Confederate side of things it was all about protecting "our way of life" - aka slavery of other human beings. The greatness that was Abraham Lincoln came through loud and clear. He, along with Grant and Sherman were the keys to Union victory. I would definitely recommend this course.
Date published: 2019-11-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An excellent cover of a seminal event. Put simply, this course is an excellent opportunity for all "students" of American history to either obtain a proper grounding in one of this nation's seminal events, or to refresh or even enhance one's learning from many years ago. Although the territory covered is large, the presentation flows easily from topic to topic. Well worth the time and effort of watching from start to finish.
Date published: 2019-11-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous presentations. Interesting! My wife has thoroughly enjoyed all the lectures. They are fast-moving and have a lot of fine pictures and illustrations.
Date published: 2019-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Civil War Comes to Life Even though I have been reading Civil War literature for about 50 years now, I still found Gary Gallagher's presentation interesting and enlightening. He covers most if not all the angles one could look at the conflict from. Gallagher, is, in my opinion, an excellent teacher and it is understandable why he has been popular for so many years.
Date published: 2019-07-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Thorough and erudite I bought the course as a download. My only problem is the dark image and the background distractions
Date published: 2019-07-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Comprehensive Just a terrific and comprehensive overview of this conflict
Date published: 2019-06-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Never a Dull Moment!!! Professor Gallagher is an excellent presenter of a critical time in America history. His presentation is both interesting and has bits of humor as well as obvious deep knowledge of the war. He also provides many unique and various ways to view specific battles, commanders, terrain, as well as civilian thinking at the time. Today, many tend to punish people back then for what they said and did; without giving any thought to those times, enviroment, or the society lived in at the time. It's the height of ignorance to judge people you don't know or understand. Professor Gallagher goes a long way in helping us to better appreciate what the folks (both in the North and South) endured and thought back then. And he does it in a fully entertainig way. I recommend this course to anyone with an interest in American history and/or Civil War history.
Date published: 2019-05-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sharing, not lecturing Although all the teachers selected by The Great Courses are indeed very good, I thoroughly enjoyed the Civil War, by Prof Gallagher. It's obvious he knows his subject, venturing away from his notes quite often, and not using a teleprompter. But his strength is that he seems to "share with" his students, rather than "lecturing to" them. It was a pleasure to take his course!
Date published: 2019-05-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from American Civil War I'm about half way through this course. First, let me say that Professor Gallagher is neither boring or revisionist. Would you have any confidence in a review by someone who can't even spell agenda? Speaking of agenda, Professor Gallagher doesn't have one. He very carefully presents the leaders and their respective campaigns on both sides. The battles and their outcomes frequently depended on the personalities and styles of the commanders so it is impossible to present the material without some subjectivity. The maps in the video are very helpful and clearly show the troop movements. I would highly recommend this course. I regret that I learned so little throughout my school years, but this course sheds a lot of light on this particularly sad part of our history.
Date published: 2019-04-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from very good course I feel I am fairly knowledgeable about the Civil War, but I learned a lot from this course. I felt like I was back in college taking a course from a good professor.
Date published: 2019-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent lectures Prof. Gallagher does an excellent job of delivering his lectures. I must admit that I new almost nothing about the Civil War and have learned a great deal so far. I'm looking forward to the remainder of the course!
Date published: 2019-04-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is an excellent set of lectures for anyone with any interest in this period of American history. The maps in the actual lecture series are excellent. However the guidebook maps seem to be somewhat carelessly placed by someone who did not really care about the quality of his/her work. That is a minor thing for this course, but annoying to this old man.
Date published: 2019-02-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very good lecturer, inadequate graphics This is a very good series of lectures, but lacks the visual appeal of a series like Ken Burns's Civil War.
Date published: 2018-12-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What a Lesson! This lecture series was the perfect road trip addition! It was long but I was able to finish it all on my road trip. I am a big fan of the American Civil War and of history itself. I learned so much from this series. Thank you so much!
Date published: 2018-12-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Glad i bought it I bought this course several weeks ago and am approximately a third of the way to the end. I am loving it!!
Date published: 2018-11-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic coverage of the Civil War With a great deal of previous study of the American Civil War from many viewpoints, this course really hits the mark. This course is an excellent overall presentation of a significant, difficult period in American history. It also shows in many respects, how many things haven’t really changed in terms of attitudes and the political system. The professor covers the various viewpoints and prespectives is clear , generally objective presentations. The many pictures and schemetics of battles were great for most people. With a military background, i could have usedmore details but that would have likely been overwhelming for most. The description of key players, military, political, and others appears to be objective presenting various views. Both sides were presented is a balanced manner. The changing situation, mikitary, political, and nation, was presented at just tge right points during the course and were balanced giving the differing points of view. This included assessments of each sides position, progress, reactions and stratagies each carefully presented.
Date published: 2018-10-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic, Taking my studies to a new level The courses took my studies of the Civil War to a new level. I have been a armchair professor of the Civil War for decades, reading everything I could get my hands on. Professor Gallagher's lectures are very good. This has just made me want to study more on some of the topics in greater detail that he talked about. If you love Civil War studies, then this is the course for you.
Date published: 2018-09-18
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Prelude to War
1: Prelude to War

This introductory lecture explains the sectional controversies and clashes that set the stage for secession and war.

32 min
The Election of 1860
2: The Election of 1860

The presidential canvass of 1860 was the most important in U.S. history. It resulted in Abraham Lincoln's election as the first Republican to occupy the White House and brought sectional tensions to a head.

30 min
The Lower South Secedes
3: The Lower South Secedes

Beginning with South Carolina in December 1860, all of the Lower South states seceded by the first week of February 1861. They sent delegates to a convention in Montgomery, Alabama, that established the Confederate States of America.

30 min
The Crisis at Fort Sumter
4: The Crisis at Fort Sumter

From February through April 1861, the United States and the Confederacy eyed each other warily and vied for the support of eight slave states that remained in the Union. As various compromise proposals fell short, United States-held Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor came to be a flash point.

30 min
The Opposing Sides, I
5: The Opposing Sides, I

Was the South fated to lose, as many people think? If the Confederate States of America could have won, when did it come closest to doing so? As fighting began, each side had important advantages. We will take a close look at these.

31 min
The Opposing Sides, II
6: The Opposing Sides, II

Did the Confederacy have better generals? Which side had the edge in strategic and political leadership? What were the attitudes of England and France toward the conflict? Which side marshaled its resources and exploited its advantages more effectively?

31 min
The Common Soldier
7: The Common Soldier

Why did young men join the colors of the North or the South? What made them bear the war's awful dangers and hardships? What was it like to be a soldier in the ranks?

31 min
First Manassas or Bull Run
8: First Manassas or Bull Run

Following the Upper South's secession and the move of the Confederate capital to Richmond, Virginia, both sides geared up for war. Learn the details of General Winfield Scott's brilliant "Anaconda Plan" and the factors that led to the Battle of First Manassas or Bull Run (July 21, 1861), the first big clash of the war.

31 min
Contending for the Border States
9: Contending for the Border States

The loyalty of slaveholding states Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and Delaware was an object of intense competition in the summer and autumn of 1861. What, in the end, kept those states in the Union?

30 min
Early Union Triumphs in the West
10: Early Union Triumphs in the West

Most people looked to Virginia to be the critical military arena, but many leaders on both sides believed the war would be decided in the vast area between the Appalachians and the Mississippi River.

30 min
Shiloh and Corinth
11: Shiloh and Corinth

Early 1862 saw breathtaking Union successes in the West. Ulysses S. Grant took Forts Henry and Donelson and moved south up the Tennessee River, while Don Carlos Buell marched from Nashville. Aiming to crush Grant before Buell arrived, A. S. Johnston struck the unwary Federals near Shiloh Church on April 6, 1862.

30 min
The Peninsula Campaign
12: The Peninsula Campaign

Nine months of relative quiet following First Manassas ended when George B. McClellan started a slow Union drive up the Virginia Peninsula toward Richmond in April. By the end of May 1862, Union forces menaced Richmond from two directions and Confederate prospects looked bleak.

31 min
The Seven Days' Battles
13: The Seven Days' Battles

As Stonewall Jackson marched and fought in the Shenandoah Valley, Joseph E. Johnston attacked McClellan at Seven Pines or Fair Oaks (May 31, 1862). When Johnston was wounded, Robert E. Lee took command. In the Seven Days' Battles (June 25-July 1), he seized the initiative and pressed the Federals south to the James. Lee had saved Richmond and offset Union success in the West.

31 min
The Kentucky Campaign of 1862
14: The Kentucky Campaign of 1862

The Confederacy faced a difficult strategic situation in July 1862. Jefferson Davis and his generals responded by sending armies into Kentucky and Maryland in the most impressive Confederate strategic offensive of the war. Operations in Kentucky between August and October 1862 culminated in a confused battle at Perryville (October 8).

30 min
15: Antietam

After besting John Pope at Second Manassas in late August, Lee marched north into Maryland. Lincoln reluctantly returned command to McClellan, whose pursuit of Lee culminated at Antietam on September 17, the bloodiest day in American history. What happened on that battlefield? What did it mean?

31 min
The Background to Emancipation
16: The Background to Emancipation

Despite slavery's role in causing the conflict, for at least the first year it remained in the background. As long as restoring the Union remained the sole war aim, there was remarkable unity among Northerners. But what type of Union were they fighting for?

30 min
Emancipation Completed
17: Emancipation Completed

Lincoln came to see emancipation as necessary to victory. But he understood that he lacked the authority to end slavery in loyal areas, and his famous proclamation deliberately casts emancipation as a war measure. What did most Northerners think of it?

30 min
Filling the Ranks
18: Filling the Ranks

How many men served during the war? How were they recruited? How good were the United States and the CSA at putting their military-age men under arms?

30 min
Sinews of War-Finance and Supply
19: Sinews of War-Finance and Supply

War spending went on at an unprecedented scale. Both sides sold bonds, levied taxes, and printed paper money. Despite its weak economy, the Confederacy never lost a battle because its armies ran out of ordnance.

30 min
The War in the West, Winter 1862-63
20: The War in the West, Winter 1862-63

While McClellan sat north of the Potomac, Buell slowly followed Bragg's retreat into Tennessee. Lincoln, eager for good war news, named Ambrose E. Burnside to take over the Army of the Potomac and William S. Rosecrans to tackle Bragg. In December, Rosecrans moved, and Grant began his long campaign against Vicksburg.

30 min
The War in Virginia, Winter and Spring 1862-63
21: The War in Virginia, Winter and Spring 1862-63

In Virginia, the Union army suffered two setbacks along the Rappahannock. Lee threw back Burnside's costly frontal assaults at Fredericksburg on December 13. The talented, ambitious Joseph Hooker soon took command. He planned a brilliant offensive that began well at the end of April 1863, but Lee and Jackson had other plans.

30 min
22: Gettysburg

Gettysburg is often described as the turning point of the war. It took place against a background of uncertainty and unrest in the North and was the result of a major strategic debate in the South. Why did Lee go north? Was his strategic thinking sound? What swung the three-day battle's outcome? How did people on either side view Gettysburg?

31 min
Vicksburg, Port Hudson, and Tullahoma
23: Vicksburg, Port Hudson, and Tullahoma

In mid-April, Grant boldly ordered the Navy to run past Vicksburg's guns, ferried his troops across the south of the city, marched inland to seize Jackson, Mississippi, and then besieged Vicksburg. With skillful marching, Rosecrans pinned Bragg in Chattanooga.

30 min
A Season of Uncertainty, Summer and Fall 1863
24: A Season of Uncertainty, Summer and Fall 1863

Although the Union seemed poised for knockout blows both east and west, Meade would not force a full-blown battle, and Grant found himself without a major goal after Vicksburg. Rosecrans ably maneuvered Bragg out of Chattanooga and into north Georgia in early September. Reinforced, Bragg struck back at Chickamauga (September 19-20), the CSA's only major tactical victory in the West.

31 min
Grant at Chattanooga
25: Grant at Chattanooga

With all eyes on Chattanooga, both armies experienced command problems. Grant, named overall Union commander in the West in mid-October, took charge personally. Bragg meanwhile conducted an increasingly ineffective siege.

30 min
The Diplomatic Front
26: The Diplomatic Front

Both Lincoln and Davis cast anxious eyes toward Europe, thinking of the decisive French aid to the colonies during the American Revolution. Why, despite several flare-ups with England and France, did the Lincoln administration finally prevail in the diplomatic arena?

31 min
African Americans in Wartime, I
27: African Americans in Wartime, I

During the conflict, thousands of slaves made their way to Union lines. Approximately 500,000, roughly one-seventh of all enslaved black people in the CSA, passed from Confederate to Union control. Their plight was often hard and uncertain. Nearly 180,000 black men, most of them former slaves, wore Union blue. The "U.S. Colored Troops" faced obstacles and injustices, yet their solid serv...

31 min
African Americans in Wartime, II
28: African Americans in Wartime, II

In the North, blacks were at the center of a debate over war aims. The 13th Amendment and various other new laws marked progress toward fairer treatment. Slave labor vastly aided Southern mobilization and the CSA's economy. There were no major slave revolts, but black and white Southerners found their social and economic relations changing amid the dislocations of war.

31 min
Wartime Reconstruction
29: Wartime Reconstruction

Even as war raged, Lincoln and Congress debated what would happen after it was won. In December 1863, Lincoln offered a simple, lenient reconstruction plan. Radical Republicans in Congress objected and offered their own blueprint. The debate was continuing even as an assassin cut short Lincoln's part in it.

30 min
The Naval War
30: The Naval War

The U.S. Navy played a major, often overlooked, role in defeating the CSA. Starting the war with just 42 ships, the Navy would have nearly 700 by 1865. Northern naval strategy focused on supporting ground operations along Southern rivers and coasts, and above all, on the blockade. With nothing like the North's industrial base, how did the Confederate Navy perform?

31 min
The River War and Confederate Commerce Raiders
31: The River War and Confederate Commerce Raiders

The war in the West gave a key role to the U.S. Navy, which built special craft for river duty. Meanwhile, Southern commerce raiders like the C.S.S. Alabama became legendary. How much did they aid the CSA's war effort?...

31 min
Women at War, I
32: Women at War, I

How did Northern women experience the war? Wartime urgencies provided increased opportunities for middle-class women to enter the public sphere as nurses, clerks, or agents of benevolent organizations. The experiences of poor white women and black women-whether as farmwives, widows, or factory workers-are less well understood.

30 min
Women at War, II
33: Women at War, II

The war changed women's lives in ways dramatic and subtle, lasting and temporary. Although anxiety, grief, and hardship were felt on both sides, women in the CSA suffered most directly from the war. To black women, the war brought emancipation and the opportunity to solidify marriage and family ties. The front drew more women than might seem likely.

31 min
Stalemate in 1864
34: Stalemate in 1864

Named general-in-chief in March 1864, Grant hoped to apply enough pressure across the board to crush the Confederacy. The most important actions would be led by Sherman in Georgia and Grant himself in Virginia.

30 min
Sherman versus Johnston in Georgia
35: Sherman versus Johnston in Georgia

Moving south from Chattanooga, Sherman intended to use his large armies to outmaneuver Johnston, who fell back while looking for a chance to counterpunch. By early July, the sparring armies had settled into a siege.

30 min
The Wilderness to Spotsylvania
36: The Wilderness to Spotsylvania

In many ways the war's pre-eminent confrontation, the Overland Campaign brought together each side's greatest captain in a novel and relentless combat. The prominence of Grant and Lee ensured that their contest would deeply affect civilian morale. The armies would battle fiercely and almost continuously from early May to mid-June.

31 min
Cold Harbor to Petersburg
37: Cold Harbor to Petersburg

After Spotsylvania (May 8-21), Lee entrenched at Cold Harbor, Virginia. On June 3, Grant launched a futile and costly frontal assault. On June 12, he began one of the most impressive movements of the war, nearly taking Petersburg on June 15. By June 19, however, the opportunity had passed. Grant began a siege.

30 min
The Confederate Home Front, I
38: The Confederate Home Front, I

The war caused the CSA enormous strains, hardships, and dislocations. Eschewing formal party politics, the CSA's founders hoped to return to a Revolutionary-era ideal. But bitter divisions arose, and the political scene often seemed chaotic and a drag on the war effort. Although most Confederates remained committed to beating the Yankees, economic woes made many doubt their ability to continue the...

30 min
The Confederate Home Front, II
39: The Confederate Home Front, II

In addition to slaves who fled to Union lines, many Southern whites became refugees as they fled from Union armies. Among those who did not become refugees, increasing hardship and a demanding central government caused distress and anger as the war progressed. Did the resulting internal dissension kill the Confederacy?

31 min
The Northern Home Front, I
40: The Northern Home Front, I

Although the war did not bring severe dislocations to the North, it did produce a political sea change. The Republicans became the majority party, but bad war news and the unpopularity of some of their policies led to crises.

31 min
The Northern Home Front, II
41: The Northern Home Front, II

Unlike the Confederacy, the North was able to produce both guns and butter in abundance. With no Southern presence in Congress, the Republicans started the nation down an economic path it would follow for several decades.

31 min
Prisoners of War
42: Prisoners of War

Few aspects of the conflict were as emotionally charged, with both sides hurling charges of negligence and atrocities. More than 400,000 men were captured. Early in the war most were quickly paroled or exchanged. Later, this system broke down, and prisoners suffered.

30 min
Mobile Bay and Atlanta
43: Mobile Bay and Atlanta

In the summer of 1864, Lincoln needed victories. The first break came in August, at Mobile Bay, Alabama, when Admiral David G. Farragut closed the CSA's last major port on the Gulf. Far more important news soon followed from Atlanta: Sherman had at last taken the city (September 1-2).

30 min
Petersburg, the Crater, and the Valley
44: Petersburg, the Crater, and the Valley

While events unfolded at Atlanta, Grant and Lee confronted each other along an elaborately entrenched front from Richmond to Petersburg. In mid-June, Lee detached a corps under Jubal Early to operate in the Shenandoah Valley and Maryland. Between September 19 and October 19, Philip H. Sheridan won three victories over Early and laid waste to much of the lower Valley.

30 min
The Final Campaigns
45: The Final Campaigns

After Atlanta fell, Hood tried to draw Sherman northward. Sherman followed briefly before deciding to cut loose from his supply lines on his famous March to the Sea, implementing the "strategy of exhaustion" in the Confederate interior.

30 min
Petersburg to Appomattox
46: Petersburg to Appomattox

By March 1865, the Federals had restricted Lee's supply lines and forced him to extend his lines. Lee failed to break the siege and headed west. Grant blocked the way at Appomattox, where Lee surrendered his 28,000 starving men on April 9. CSA forces elsewhere quickly surrendered.

30 min
Closing Scenes and Reckonings
47: Closing Scenes and Reckonings

Lincoln's assassination has given rise to much speculation. What does the best evidence suggest? Lincoln was among the last casualties in a war whose staggering human and material toll can never be known. Taking everything into account, why did the South lose and the North win?

30 min
Remembering the War
48: Remembering the War

How did participants remember and interpret the conflict in the decades after Appomattox? How do modern Americans view the people and events of 1861-65? What are the types of understanding at which one can arrive?

31 min
Gary W. Gallagher

It is impossible to understand the broader sweep of the United States history, without coming to terms with the Civil War, its antecedents, and its seismic consequences.


The University of Texas at Austin


University of Virginia

About Gary W. Gallagher

Dr. Gary W. Gallagher is the John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War at the University of Virginia. He graduated from Adams State College of Colorado and earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in History from The University of Texas at Austin. Prior to teaching at UVA, he was Professor of History at The Pennsylvania State University. Professor Gallagher is one of the leading historians of the Civil War. His books include The Confederate War, Lee and His Generals in War and Memory, and Stephen Dodson Ramseur: Lee's Gallant General. He has coauthored and edited several works on individual battles and campaigns and has published over 100 articles in scholarly journals and popular historical magazines. Professor Gallagher has received many awards for his research and writing, including the Laney Prize for the best book on the Civil War, the William Woods Hassler Award for contributions to Civil War studies, the Lincoln Prize, and the Fletcher Pratt Award for the best nonfiction book on the Civil War. Professor Gallagher was founder and first president of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites and has served on the Board of Directors of the Civil War Trust.

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