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Allen C. Guelzo

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Title: The History of the United States, 2nd Edition, parts 1-3
Lecturer: Allen C. Guelzo
Producer: The Teaching Company
Duration: 36 x 30 minutes
Media: Audio only

The Teaching Company’s lecture series about the history of the United States is fairly ambitious, spanning 84 lectures of half an hour each, three different lecturers, roughly 500 years of American history and a broad variety of subjects. Therefore, I have decided to split the reviews of this series into three parts, one for each of the lecturers. First out is Allen C. Guelzo, who lectures on the history of the United States up until the dawn of the American Civil War.

Positive things first. Guelzo is an excellent lecturer (yes, I know, it will soon be boring to praise The Teaching Company’s lecturers, but it cannot be helped, because they are indeed that good), with a pleasantly modulated voice fit to accompany me during the day. His style is clear, straightforward, and connects isolated events into themes and more general ideas.

I think Guelzo picks germane threads of history to weave this bigger fabric depicting the history of the United States. He is anxious to explain why things happened the way they did and does not resort to merely telling a tale of what has happened. His style is lively and animated, which pulls the listener into the narrative.

On the negative side, Guelzo starts by saying that it is easy to be smug about proud of being an American in such a way that it is perceived as smugness by non-Americans. The problem is that he makes himself guilty of this at several instances, especially in the beginning. It is always the Europeans who are evil, but as soon as the settlers do something good, they are suddenly called Americans instead. And so on. However, this is not a very big issue and apart from being a bit annoyed at times, it does not really affect the overall impression of the series so far.

I have finished roughly half of the series, but I will return to you with my impressions as soon as the lecturers switch again. By way of summary, this series is suffused with the same sense of quality and adept teaching skill which I have begun to associate with The Teaching Company.

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