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The American Revolution

Get a blow-by-blow account of how America gained its independence from Britain.
American Revolution is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 158.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Captivating presentation Just completed the American Revolution course. I have purchased numerous courses from The Great Courses. This is by far the most informative, broad based, and delightful presentations of them all. The delivery was filled with animated and precise description, explanation, and in-depth development of the characters who played significant roles. I thought I was fairly well versed in this subject through the years of reading, and general education. Taking this course, I found out that compared to the scope and depth of this course, I knew only superficial facts that I could utilize to connect current political developments to the foundations of America. I highly recommend this course for anyone who wishes to be educated and entertained at the same time. I was glued to the screen as I listened and watched a highly skilled and animated professor share his expertise and his enthusiasm for the subject. I have since purchased and am viewing The Founding Fathers. I am again looking forward to each day as I set aside the time to view each lecture. So far I am as pleased with this course as I was with American Revolution. Thank You, for providing this opportunity to enrich my life and improve my understanding of the greatest political experiment in the history of government - Representative Democracy, with all its warts and scars and its glorious achievements.
Date published: 2023-09-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow. What a great lecture series.... This was the the finest historical lecture series I have ever been exposed to. Simply wonderful.
Date published: 2023-09-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engaging Presentation Interesting, well organized review of such an important period in our History. Well worth listening to!
Date published: 2023-09-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent When I purchased this course I felt I had an understanding of the Revolutionary war. This is so much more than I knew. Very indepth.
Date published: 2023-08-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Why we should all love our amazing United States Rich in characters - some good, some not so much (Daniel Morgan, Nathaniel Green, George Washington, David Williams, Molly Pitcher, Charles Lee, Horatio Gates, Benedict Arnold) and in events, this course has my highest recommendation. I completed the course with a renewed love for our America and all that has happened on this land to make us a great country. I wish for more men and women of moral fiber like George Washington who truly was "first in war, first in peace and first in the heart of his countrymen & women". Do not miss this course if you want to understand America's amazing roots and the road we've traveled to become the world's greatest Democracy. Let us never forget what those who came before us suffered so we could be free.
Date published: 2023-07-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from american revolution I love it . the teacher is great.The teacher makes the topic very interesting
Date published: 2023-07-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fascinating I have read several excellent books by the lecturer. I thought this was excellent, with a just a little too much detail. I did not need to know all the regiment numbers.
Date published: 2023-05-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Powerful Guelzo’s course has tremendous education/entertainment value as his historical precision is combined with a nearly theatrical presentation. This course portrays the personalities, strengths, and failures of players - while making sense of complex history. While the battlefields Guelzo vividly tours speak for themselves, the course Scope states Guelzo's primary focus: “Revolution …attempted, for the first time, to give political shape to the intellectual breakthroughs the Enlightenment had created.” This review will therefore describe a few of Guelzo’s political observations that continue their pestilence today. NEED vs. DEBT: Lecture 13(=L13) contained an economic reflection pertinent today: "Congress hoped that printing its own unsecured paper currency would persuade…merchants to part more readily with supplies but (it) only drove prices up.” Guelzo observes that things got so bad 1 Spanish gold coin was worth $400 of Continental paper. To understand Guelzo’s observation that federal profligacy destroys value, take the Great Course “America & the Global Economy" by Tim Taylor. Here’s some data: From the 60’s to the mid '70s a ($1) gold coin was worth about $50 US currency. It rose to and stayed at $400 until 1997 when it fell to $260. Beginning with George W. Bush it started rising again but spiked to $1900 under Obama in 2012. After somewhat moderating back to the $1200 level, in January 2023 it was nearly $1990 on global markets. By the April 2023 time of this writing, it is worth $2200. RIGHTS vs. CONSUMER DEMAND (L18): Guelzo describes the British West Indies sugar export as "3 times more valuable than India's exports". Indeed, prior to this, only the rich tasted sugar. Unfortunately (see the Great Course "African Experience" by Vickery) this meant someone had to work the islands. At first natives from South America were taken but they had places to escape to. Then European prisoners were brought in but they died at prodigious rates from malaria and other tropical diseases. Finally Chief Kzinga of the Congo and other blacks enslaved and sold people to the Middle East and Europe (Vickery, L13 & L14). This influx provided a disease resistant work force of 450,000 blacks who labored in the British West Indies "under the cruelest of conditions” (Guelzo, L18). So important was this sugar trade that: “Congress specifically allowed British merchant ships to port in Florida to carry on U.S. West Indies trade” (Guelzo, L19). Historically, only a miniscule few refused sugar once it was tasted. Similarly, the electric automobile battery has become a modern political priority despite component scavenging by black African children under despicable conditions. SPEECH RIGHTS (L22): “The New York legislature made it a felony to promote Loyalism by "preaching, teaching, speaking, writing, or printing.” Though possibly understandable in a state of declared war, it eerily reminds one of the current politically-fashionable labeling of constitutional "preaching, teaching, speaking, writing, or printing" as “hate speech" by power-seeking, divisive political/education/media organizations. HISTORICAL REALITIES: Guelzo notes (L5, L23): “North American colonies purchased only “10% of the 11 million Africans transported to the New World” but " slavery was present in each colony." Overall, they were "an asset and a threat - indispensable labor with the threat of revolt" and constituted 20% of the 13-colony population. A significant number slaves would join the British cause including its army. After the war, 80,000 blacks "ran away, joined the British, or found some way to freedom.” The colonists had faced down the world’s most powerful army, significant internal threats from Loyalists, hostile tribes, and a significant slave rebellion. CLOSING COMMENT: With a church whose (“black”) Pastor is recognized at state level and whose mixed congregation does not see color, I have little appreciation for the divisive term "Afro-American". My much-loved 6 “white”, 4 “black/white”, and 2 “Asian/Caucasian” grandchildren are simply "Americans" who illuminate the Course Scope's: “…devotion to demand rights rather than deference to (racial) status represented."
Date published: 2023-05-01
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Discover a fresh perspective on this seminal event in United States history, offering the diverging views of two sides whose common heritage had yielded two very different outlooks.


Allen C. Guelzo

For Lincoln, no matter what our political persuasions, moral principle in the end is all that unites us and all that ensures that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and the government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.


Gettysburg College

Dr. Allen C. Guelzo is the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era and Director of Civil War Era Studies at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Pennsylvania. Among garnering other honors, he has received the Medal of Honor from the Daughters of the American Revolution. He is a member of the National Council on the Humanities. Professor Guelzo is the author of numerous books on American intellectual history, Abraham Lincoln, and the Civil War era. His publication awards include the Lincoln Prize as well as the Abraham Lincoln Institute Prize for two of his books-Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America–making him the first double Lincoln laureate in the history of both prizes. His critically acclaimed book, Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2008. Professor Guelzo has written for The American Historical Review, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, and he has been featured on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday, C-SPAN's Booknotes, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

By This Professor

America's Founding Fathers
The Imperial Crisis, 1763–1773

01: The Imperial Crisis, 1763–1773

Driven close to financial collapse by the French and Indian War, England turns for help to the colonies that had fought at its side. The new taxes—imposed without representation—outrage a people who had considered themselves fully English.

31 min
The Ancient Constitution

02: The Ancient Constitution

Britain's understanding of its ancient—although unwritten—style of government places it at odds with that of its colonists, who see in John Locke's theories not a hypothetical "thought experiment," but an argument for autonomy.

30 min

03: "A Soldier What's Fit for a Soldier"

What were the typical British soldier and officer like? How were troops organized and equipped? You meet the forces expected to maintain order in the increasingly rebellious colonies.

31 min

04: "How the British Regulars Fired and Fled"

As tensions escalate and the first Continental Congress convenes, King George III finally heeds a request for reinforcements. Nevertheless, the British sorely underestimate American militia and suffer a humiliating defeat at Lexington and Concord.

29 min
Standoff in Boston, 1775

05: Standoff in Boston, 1775

As Benedict Arnold helps win a key victory at New York's Fort Ticonderoga, the Second Continental Congress authorizes a new army under George Washington, a soldier and gentleman farmer well aware of the implications of the conflict, including the risk of potentially rebellious slaves.

30 min
Bunker Hill

06: Bunker Hill

Could rebel militia stand up to British regulars? The answer comes at a brutal battle where the British pay dearly for their "victory." Nevertheless, Washington arrives to find disorganization, overconfidence, and a reluctance to set aside regional differences in favor of a national army.

31 min
The King, the Conqueror, and the Coward

07: The King, the Conqueror, and the Coward

Ignoring the reconciliation implied by the colonies' Olive Branch Petition, the king and Parliament effectively declare war. On either side of the Atlantic, British leadership believes the many Americans still loyal to the Crown will bring victory.

32 min
Conquering Canada, Reconquering Boston

08: Conquering Canada, Reconquering Boston

An American plan to conquer Canada nearly succeeds and costs Britain half its regulars. But even after the arrival of British reinforcements, American forces pull off a stunning improvisation: the overland transport of critical artillery, captured at Fort Ticonderoga, to Boston.

30 min
Common Sense

09: Common Sense

While poor communication, unclear objectives, and the uncertainty of participation by southern Loyalists hamper Britain's strategies, another force comes into play—an extraordinarily popular pamphlet that helps turn the tide of American opinion toward the independence made official on July 4, 1776.

32 min
An Army Falls in Brooklyn

10: An Army Falls in Brooklyn

The optimism of July 4th proves short-lived. Washington's army is poorly manned, poorly supplied, and poorly trained, and his officers have little practical experience. Even worse, an incorrect reading of British intentions leads to a disastrous defeat and a retreat to Brooklyn.

31 min

11: "A Glorious Issue"

With New York occupied by the British, Nathan Hale captured and hanged as a spy, and Washington's troops on the run, Thomas Paine provides inspiration with a new pamphlet, The American Crisis, and Washington provides further hope with a surprise victory at Trenton.

30 min
Joy in Princeton

12: Joy in Princeton

After additional successes—again at Trenton and then at Princeton—a break in combat gives Washington time to reorganize his army, by building on a touching appeal for reenlistments. Britain, meanwhile, learns the Loyalists and fence sitters are badly shaken.

29 min

13: "Congress Are Not a Fit Body"

In March 1777, the Continental Congress faces new tasks, including establishing, outfitting, and managing an army. Unable to solve these challenges, the delegates blame the costly army—and Washington—and move to ally with France.

33 min

14: "America Is Not Subdued"

News of Trenton and Princeton forces an unwelcome reassessment by Parliament of the requirements for victory. British Major General John Burgoyne is put in charge of his own strategy of invading from Canada, but things do not go according to plan.

29 min

15: "A Day Famous in the Annals of America"

Burgoyne suffers a series of defeats and surrenders near Albany. The news energizes parliamentary opposition to the war, but the king is unmoved. Then comes more bad news: The Americans have signed a treaty with the French.

30 min

16: "Not Yet the Air of Soldiers"

General William Howe, British commander in chief in America, sails from Staten Island, intent on reaching Philadelphia. Washington blocks his way but suffers a series of defeats. Even news of a great American victory by Horatio Gates at Saratoga carries rumors of threats to Washington's command.

28 min
With Washington at Valley Forge

17: With Washington at Valley Forge

Washington settles in for the winter of 1777–1778. Although there are no battles, he must deal with shortages of clothing, housing, and food as well as attempts by Gates and others to undermine his authority in Congress. There is one victory—new treaties with France.

32 min
The Widening War

18: The Widening War

For the British, the possibility of French intervention heightens costs and logistical strain and requires a redeployment of naval forces to protect its West Indies interests.

29 min
The French Menace

19: The French Menace

With efforts to create an American navy stymied, the bulk of the French intervention will be carried by her navy, which proves a distraction to the British.

30 min
Vain Hopes in the Carolinas

20: Vain Hopes in the Carolinas

The British believe victory might lie southward, but they cannot depend on the Loyalists.

30 min

21: "The Americans Fought Like Demons"

Nathanael Greene is appointed to take over the southern army after Gates's defeat at Camden. His innovative strategies are successful, ultimately forcing British general Cornwallis to admit that the Americans can "fight like demons."

30 min
The Reward of Loyalty

22: The Reward of Loyalty

Indian tribes loyal to Britain suffered the worst. On the American side, there was mutiny by the Pennsylvania Continentals and the betrayal of Benedict Arnold.

33 min
A Sword for General Washington

23: A Sword for General Washington

Cornwallis moves into Virginia to cut off Greene's supply and recruiting and to establish a naval station. But he underestimates American and French strength.

32 min

24: "It Is All Over"

The course concludes with the fates of the war's major figures and a summation of what the conflict meant to most Americans.

34 min