11 - Slavery and State Rights, Economies and Ways of Life: What Caused the Civil War?
Professor Blight begins this lecture with an attempt to answer the question "why did the South secede in 1861?" Blight offers five possible answers to this question: preservation of slavery, "the fear thesis," southern nationalism, the "agrarian thesis," and the "honor thesis." After laying out the roots of secession, Blight focuses on the historical profession, suggesting some of the ways in which historians have attempted to explain the coming of the Civil War. Blight begins with James Ford Rh
10 - The Election of 1860 and the Secession Crisis
This lecture picks off where the previous one left off, with a discussion of the legacies of John Brown. The most important thing about John Brown's raid, Professor Blight argues, was not the event itself, but the way Americans engaged with it after the fact. Next, Professor Blight discusses the election of 1860, a four-way battle won by the Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln. In the wake of Lincoln's election, the seven states of the deep South, led by South Carolina, seceded. The lecture cl
09 - John Brown's Holy War: Terrorist or Heroic Revolutionary?
Professor Blight narrates the momentous events of 1857, 1858, and 1859. The lecture opens with an analysis of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858. Next, Blight analyzes the Dred Scott decision and discusses what it meant for northerners--particularly African Americans--to live in "the land of the Dred Scott decision." The lecture then shifts to John Brown. Professor Blight begins by discussing the way that John Brown has been remembered in art and literature, and then offers a summary of
08 - Dred Scott, Bleeding Kansas, and the Impending Crisis of the Union, 1855-58
Professor Blight continues his march through the political events of the 1850s. He continues his description of the aftermath of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, describing the guerilla war that reigned in the territory of Kansas for much of 1856. The lecture continues, describing the caning of Senator Charles Sumner on the floor of the US Senate and the birth of the Republican party. The lecture concludes with the near-victory of Republican candidate John C. Fremont in the presidential election
07 - "A Hell of a Storm": The Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Birth of the Republican Party, 1854-55
Professor Blight narrates some of the important political crises of the 1850s. The lecture begins with an account of the Compromise of 1850, the swan song of the great congressional triumvirate--Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John C. Calhoun. The lecture then describes northern opposition to the Fugitive Slave Act passed as part of the Compromise, and the publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe's classic Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1852. Professor Blight then introduces the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, t
06 - Expansion and Slavery: Legacies of the Mexican War and the Compromise of 1850
In this lecture, Professor Blight discusses some of the conflicts, controversies, and compromises that led up to the Civil War. After analyzing Frederick Douglass's 1852 Fourth of July speech and the inherent conflict between American slavery and American freedom, the lecture moves into a lengthy discussion of the war with Mexico in the 1840s. Professor Blight explains why northerners and southerners made "such a fuss" over the issue of slavery's expansion into the western territories. The lectu
05 - Telling a Free Story: Fugitive Slaves and the Underground Railroad in Myth and Reality
Professor Blight discusses the rise of abolitionism. Blight begins with an introduction to the genre of slave narratives, with particular attention to Frederick Douglass' 1845 narrative. The lecture then moves on to discuss the culture in which antebellum reform grew--the factors that encouraged its growth, as well as those that retarded it. Professor Blight then describes the movement towards radical abolitionism, stopping briefly on colonization and gradualism before introducing the character
04 - A Northern World View: Yankee Society, Antislavery Ideology and the Abolition movement
Having finished with slavery and the pro-slavery argument, Professor Blight heads North today. The majority of the lecture deals with the rise of the Market Revolution in the North, in the 1820s, 1830s, and 1840s. Blight first describes the causes of the Market Revolution--the rise of capital, a transportation revolution--and then moves to its effects on the culture and consciousness of antebellum northerners. Among these effects were a riotous optimism mixed with a deep-rooted fear of change, a
03 - A Southern World View: the Old South and Proslavery Ideology
Professor Blight lectures on southern slavery. He makes a case for viewing the U.S. South as one of the five true "slave societies" in world history. He discusses the internal slave trade that moved thousands of slaves from the eastern seaboard to the cotton states of the Southwest between 1820 and 1860. Professor Blight then sketches the contents of the pro-slavery argument, including its biblical, historical, economic, cynical, and utopian aspects.
02 - Southern Society: Slavery, King Cotton, and Antebellum America's "Peculiar" Region
Professor Blight offers a number of approaches to the question of southern distinctiveness. The lecture offers a survey of that manner in which commentators--American, foreign, northern, and southern--have sought to make sense of the nature of southern society and southern history. The lecture analyzes the society and culture of the Old South, with special emphasis on the aspects of southern life that made the region distinct from the antebellum North. The most lasting and influential sources of
01 - Introductions: Why Does the Civil War era have a hold on American Historical Imagination?
Professor Blight offers an introduction to the course. He summarizes some of the course readings, and discusses the organization of the course. Professor Blight offers some thoughts on the nature of history and the study of history, before moving into a discussion of the reasons for Americans' enduring fascination with the Civil War. The reasons include: the human passion for epics, Americans' fondness for redemption narratives, the Civil War as a moment of "racial reckoning," the fascination wi
24 - The Collapse of Communism and Global Challenges
The disintegration of the Soviet Union resulted from a number of different factors. Three important ones are nationalism among Soviet satellite states, democratic opposition movements, and economic crisis. Along with these elements, the role of Mikhail Gorbachev should not be discounted. Although his attempt to reform communism was rejected, his reformist positions as Soviet premier helped open the way for full-fledged political dissidence. One of the major challenges faced by Europe in the wake
23 - Collaboration and Resistance in World War II
One of the principal myths concerning collaboration during World War II in France, as in other countries, is that the domestic collaborators did so despite themselves, or to prevent even greater atrocities. In fact, many French, Belgians, Hungarians, Poles, Dutch and others voluntarily and enthusiastically abetted the occupying Germans. This collaboration, inspired by anti-Semitism and xenophobia, often resulted in extremely zealous persecution of Jewish nationals, communists, and others. Along
22 - Fascists
While Nazi Germany's crimes were unprecedented, Adolf Hitler himself was in many respects a typical figure. An idle youth, of seemingly mediocre talents, his political career and passionate hatreds were formed by the experience of World War I. The rise of fascism in Germany, as elsewhere, must be understood in the context of a postwar climate of resentment and instability. Germany's economic crisis, in particular, led the middle classes to support National Socialism well before any other group.
21 - Stalinism
One of the central questions in assessing Stalinism is whether or not the abuses of the latter were already present in the first years of the Russian Revolution. The archival evidence suggests that this is partly the case, and that even in its early stages Soviet Russia actively persecuted not just those who were believed to have profited unfairly, without laboring, but also non-Russian ethnic groups. Stalin, although not an ethnic Russian himself, was committed to the assimilation of national i
20 - Successor States of Eastern Europe
Contrary to the "Great Illusion" that the end of World War I heralded a new era of peace, the interwar period can be considered to form part of a Thirty Years' War, spanning the period from 1914 to 1945. In the wake of the Treaty of Versailles, Europe was divided both literally and figuratively, with the so-called revisionist powers frustrated over their new borders. One of the most significant and ultimately most pernicious debates at Versailles concerned the identity of states with ethnic majo
19 - The Romanovs and the Russian Revolution
The period between the Russian Revolution of February 1917, which resulted in the overthrow of the autocracy and the establishment of a provisional government, and the Bolshevik Revolution in October of that same year, offers an instructive example of revolutionary processes at work. During this interval, the fate of Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandra, was bound up in the struggle for power amongst competing political factions in Russia. Until his death, Nicholas was convinced that the Russian
18 - Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning
As a result of World War I, Europe had a different understanding of war in the twentieth century than the United States. One of the most important ways in which the First World War was experienced on the continent and in Britain was through commemoration. By means of both mass-media technologies and older memorial forms, sites of memory offered opportunities for personal as well as political reconciliation with the unprecedented consequences of the war. The influence of these sites is still felt
17 - War in the Trenches
With the failure of Germany's offensive strategy, WWI became a war of defense, in which trenches played a major role. The use of trenches and barbed wire, coupled with the deployment of new, more deadly forms of artillery, created extremely bloody stalemate situations. The hopelessness of this arrangement resulted in a number of mutinies on the French side, motivated neither by defeatism nor by ideology, but rather by the sheer horror of trench warfare. Due to the unprecedented scale of casualti
16 - The Coming of the Great War
If the early years of the twentieth century were marked by a general consensus that a major war was impending, no similar consensus existed concerning the likely form that war would take. Not only the carnage of World War I, but also the nature of its alliances would have been difficult to imagine. Indeed, in 1900 many people would have predicted conflict, rather than collaboration, between France and Britain. The reasons for the eventual entente between France and Britain and France and Russia