Several US history survey courses have long been available for free download (see Three survey courses in US history ) but I haven’t judged any of them to be good enough to qualify for my list of Best free courses & lectures. That is until now.
A new course from Stanford University, Colonial and Revolutionary America (iTunes) looks like a likely contender for the list. This undergraduate course taught by historian Jack Rakove is off to a promising start.
Rakove is a genial, conversational speaker who sprinkles jokes and asides about his favorite baseball team (the Chicago Cubs) into the lecture. You feel like you’re listening to a conversation, and not someone droning through a prepared text.
The first lecture (iTunes) covers two different paradigms or frameworks for understanding early US history. The first one, familiar to Americans of a certain age, begins with the settlement of Jamestown in 1607 and follows the story of how the British colonies developed from colonial outposts into a new nation.
The newer, wider framework begins with Columbus, and traces the development of an Atlantic trade zone, with interactions that influenced events on both sides of the ocean.
As is usual for Stanford, although the course was given during fall quarter 2008, the lectures are not all posted at once. Right now the first four lectures are available.