The American Immigrant Experience

The American Immigrant Experience (iTunes audio, iTunes video) is a new American history survey course with a novel slant.

UC Berkeley demographer Carl Mason emphasizes the role of immigration and population pressure in American history, although he also covers the key events and ideologies of each period.

The course starts out with a speedy overview of human history, including the earliest immigrations to America some 20,000 years ago. By lecture 6, Mason gets to British colonization of Virginia and the beginnings of the slave trade.

Masons has a calm lecturing style, punctuated with occasional moments of wry humor. It’s a style well suited to the serious student who wants an overview of the key themes of American history, and has an interest in demographic questions, like the role of the slave trade, and the influence of population pressure in Britain to the colonization of North America.

Here are a few tidbits from the first 3 weeks of classes:

  • To lure prospective settlers to the struggling colony of Virginia, the colony’s proprietor offered a number of inducements, including representative government.
  • Virginia planters began to import slaves to work their tobacco plantations, when they saw that poor British laborers were beginning to form a disaffected (and armed) proletariat.
  • In the early colonial period, the Virginia government was famously inept and corrupt.

The syllabus is here. (Links to most of the readings require a student log-in id.) I recommend the video feed if you have a video-capable device because you can see Mason’s lecture slides, which include a number of interesting maps and graphs.

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