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The American West: History, Myth, and Legacy

Discover what the Wild West was really like as acclaimed Professor Patrick N. Allitt reveals the truth behind our cherished stories.
The American West: History, Myth, and Legacy is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 158.
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Rated 1 out of 5 by from American west is not the Wild West I was thoroughly excited to take this course to get a feel how the wild west really was,but this course fell short of expectations. It was interesting to see how the set was formed and reasons behind it, but I did not get this for this reason. I wanted to know about the women the lawmen and the Myths behind the west. Lecture 19 Women in the Wild West was halfway through when i noticed he was just saying about average women and their hard life so i figured the sharp shooters were up next, but the only other woman was Carrie Nation and her Axing the bars. He completely missed Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane, Big Nose Kate, and Stagecoach Mary. I barely know about these woman and was wanting more or the wild west ladies or even Tombstone's Bird Cage Theater. Lecture 21 Western Violence, Law and Order was a disappointment also, He only told of vigilantism and said to loosely paraphrase the Sheriffs were glorified drunken babysitters and tax collectors. Some of it was interesting, but i wanted to know about Wyatt Earp. He touched some on Wild Bill Hickok, but missed so many lawmen I would love to know the true story on. Like the Bandits who turned into lawmen. Lecture 23 Mythology of the American West. I thought this would be compare and contrast of what we picture the west to be versus what it actually was, but its really a movie critique listing to give you more information on western movie themes and what makes people love them so much. I can watch moves, but i wanted to be taught about the Wild West and not be part of a movie theory class. I find it really sad that when i read the reviews i expected more. The title needs to be changes to "How the American West was Formed" because the title and the headers of the lectures are seriously misleading. The High Medieval course I took gave me all I could eat Medieval times, but this course was only appetizer of Wild West and leaves me hungry for more. Its a shame I had to pay money on this course when I'm learning more about the Wild West from Weird History Channel for free on YouTube. This professor repeated himself through out the lectures and did not tie information in well. I have heard about the Beecher family and also Carrie Nation repeatedly in more than one lecture the the point of annoyance. It do not feel this was college level lectures I paid for but high school snivel. I recommend that The Great Courses change this lecture series name and get a real Wild West program that is more informative with more knowledge and less for fancy backdrops.
Date published: 2021-11-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Some Useful Information Covering mainly the period from crossing the Appalachians to the 1890 census. Some lessons cover as much material as can be expected in a half-hour, others a collection of anecdotes of limited value. If you listen closely, most topics are covered. But notably, sanitises the endemic corruption of the period. Mentions in Lesson 1, very briefly, that land speculators and railroads bribed politicians. Only one sentence on corrupt Indian Agents, implying it was only Minnesota. It is also made to appear that only a few Senators were corrupt. The 1948 movie "Fort Apache" is referenced. Not mentioned is the scene where Fonda steps on the Indian Agent's scales saying "I've gained 75 pounds", the best one-line summary I have heard (surely the copyright holder would not mind more free publicity?) The lecturer mentions that many died as teenagers, but does not go further into such things as infant mortality, general health (except that bison produced a meat-rich diet), or life expectancy. Georgia is mentioned many times, up to the Trail of Tears. Another source says in the 1790's the Georgia legislature, packed with land speculators, was demanding the right to confiscate any land it wanted, causing much dispute with then-President Washington over the sovereignity of Federal govenment treaties. I was hoping for another historian's view of this topic and its implications but it was not mentioned. The Supreme Court is only mentioned in Andrew Jackson's comment, "Let them enforce their decision". There is no discussion whether like slavery, it aided and abetted, ruling everything just wonderful. The lecturer's reluctance to address the politics involved makes me wonder what the lecturerès back story is or whether he should have declared a conflict of interest. Recommended, a lot of information about what happened, but some notable shortcomings.
Date published: 2021-11-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Behind the myths This course has proved to be great value. Thought i had a reasonable understanding of the settlement of the west but i have learnt a great deal from this course. Particularly good with putting all of the contributing factors in context
Date published: 2021-10-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well worth your time. I have watched many programs about the American West and this one is the best. This instructor Allett is exceptional . I have bought 3 of his courses.
Date published: 2021-10-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Tells the TRUTH I would just like to highlight the Little Big Horn and Wounded Knee lecture. Many people in today's media try to tell everyone how "great" and "innocent" the native Americans were. And some small amount may have been. But in this lecture, Professor Allit shows the TRUTH about the most natives. Take Black Elk for example. He was a thirteen year old Native American. When he is interviewed, later on in his life, he says how he was fighting at Little Big Horn at age 13, and what he did is nothing you would see any 13 year old today do. It is absolutely cruel and disgusting. He says he was " Proud of his actions" during the battle. What kind of crazy cult would teach 13 year old boys to slaughter men and then Scalp them?! Honestly, does that sound like an "innocent, peaceful Native American" today's media make them appear to be? Now, I'm not saying that the white Americans were all unicorns and rainbows either, they did some cruel things too, but not NEARLY as cruel as the Native Americans! They had to END that crazy cult before IT ended THEM! I think Professor Allit did an EXCELLENT job on this course.
Date published: 2021-09-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Balanced and insightful examination of subject by deeply engaged expert.
Date published: 2021-09-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A wonerful Beginning of Studies! Just purchased this and was initially a bit skeptical that a Brit should be telling ME about the west! But it only took a few moments to see that what we have is a pure, unadulterated and unadorned history for us to enjoy. The Professor has no implicit bias as would say...a Texan from a legacy family...or a distant relative of Kit Carson letting personal opinion seep through. A very enjoyable course for sure!
Date published: 2021-08-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The American West as it was The first lecture in this course asks a question that best sums up the course as a whole; 'What exactly is the American West?' To most people, it is gunfighters and dusty towns but too early Americans, it was more easterly than that. Jesse James and Daniel Boone - for example - never saw a one-horse town or desert landscape, but they did see the American West as they understood it. This course takes that fact into account and talks as much about the forming of the middle-west as it does the pacific west. This new take creates a comprehensive and learned understanding of how the country was formed and what the pioneers went through to form it. The lectures are entertaining, informative and reveling at every turn and could be watched just as entertainment alone. This course is none of that, but it is always nice to be entertained while making myself smarter - and this course did that with bells on.
Date published: 2021-08-05
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Overview

Designed to shine a light on the American frontier, The American West: History, Myth, and Legacy reveals the grit and grandeur of an epic period in U.S. history. In 24 lectures, award-winning Professor Patrick N. Allitt uncovers new historical angles on everything from the last stand at the Alamo to the Oregon Trail to the creation of America's first national parks.

About

Patrick N. Allitt
Patrick N. Allitt

Nostalgia is the enemy of history. 'Downton Abbey' is great fun but it's not history. If seeing or reading something historical makes you feel warm and cosy, it's probably very inaccurate.

INSTITUTION

Emory University

Dr. Patrick N. Allitt is Cahoon Family Professor of American History at Emory University, where he has taught since 1988. The holder of a doctorate in history from the University of California, Berkeley, Professor Allitt-an Oxford University graduate-has also taught American religious history at Harvard Divinity School, where he was a Henry Luce Postdoctoral Fellow. He was the Director of Emory College's Center for Teaching and Curriculum from 2004 to 2009, where he looked for ways to improve teaching. In this critical administrative position, he led workshops on a wide variety of teaching-related problems, visited dozens of other professors' classes, and provided one-on-one consultation to teachers to help them overcome particular pedagogical problems. Professor Allitt was honored with Emory's Excellence in Teaching Award and in 2000 was appointed to the N.E.H./Arthur Blank Professorship of Teaching in the Humanities. A widely published and award-winning author, Professor Allitt has written several books, including The Conservatives: Ideas and Personalities throughout American History; Catholic Intellectuals and Conservative Politics in America, 1950-1985; Catholic Converts: British and American Intellectuals Turn to Rome; and Religion in America since 1945: A History. He is also author of I'm the Teacher, You're the Student: A Semester in the University Classroom, a memoir about one semester in his life as a university professor. In addition, he is the editor of Major Problems in American Religious History. He has written numerous articles and reviews for academic and popular journals, including The New York Times Book Review.

By This Professor

The Industrial Revolution
854
The Art of Teaching: Best Practices from a Master Educator
854
The Great Tours: England, Scotland, and Wales
854
America after the Cold War: The First 30 Years
854
The American West: History, Myth, and Legacy
854
A History of the United States, 2nd Edition
854
The American West: History, Myth, and Legacy

Trailer

Westward the Course of Empire

01: Westward the Course of Empire

What are some of the ways we think about the American West? How did this vast, fascinating region come into being, and how was it shaped by centuries of myth-making? What is it about westward expansion that has fascinated every generation of Americans? These and other questions are the topic of this introductory lecture.

31 min
The West in the Colonial Era

02: The West in the Colonial Era

To understand the history of the American West, you have to understand the mark left by its earliest colonists. Among those you'll encounter here are the Spaniards (who introduced horses), the French (who developed a complex trade system), and the English (who, ironically, had little interest at first in colonizing west of the Appalachians)....

31 min
Venturing beyond the Appalachians

03: Venturing beyond the Appalachians

After the Revolutionary War, the land between the Appalachians and the Mississippi became part of the new republic. How was this territory organized? As you'll learn, it started with the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which created a set of new rules that came into conflict with complex old realities....

30 min
Discoveries of Lewis and Clark

04: Discoveries of Lewis and Clark

Follow the fascinating journey of the two explorers who mapped the Louisiana Purchase between 1804 and 1806. Along the way, you'll learn how Lewis and Clark fit into the tradition of explorers looking for a water route to the Pacific, and you'll consider the political (and geographic) history of the Louisiana Purchase....

31 min
The Fur Trade and the Mountain Men

05: The Fur Trade and the Mountain Men

Fur traders and mountain men played an integral part in exploring and mapping the American West. Here, Professor Allitt reveals why fur was such a precious commodity; how John Jacob Astor dominated the American fur trade; and how famous mountaineers like Jedediah Smith, Jim Bridger, and Kit Carson became legends....

31 min
Trail of Tears

06: Trail of Tears

Turn now to one of the most dismal episodes in the story of the American West: the forced migration of the "Five Civilized Tribes" (Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, and Seminole) under the Indian Removal Act of 1830. It was this ordeal that the Cherokee came to call the "Trail of Tears."...

30 min
Struggles of the Plains Indians

07: Struggles of the Plains Indians

From 1830 to 1890, the lives of the Plains Indians changed irrevocably. Topics include our sources for the early history of the Plains Indians (including portraits and archaeology), the importance of buffalo and horses to life on the Great Plains, and two visitors' perspectives on America's treatment of the Plains Indians....

30 min
Rebellious Texas and the Alamo

08: Rebellious Texas and the Alamo

Get the full story behind the last stand at the Alamo and the story of the Texas republic. What led to tensions between the Mexican government and the growing United States? Why is the idea of rebellion so crucial to the myth of Texas? How did the territory eventually join the United States?...

32 min
Traveling the Oregon Trail

09: Traveling the Oregon Trail

The Oregon Trail has become a symbol of westward migration. In this lecture, Professor Allitt invites you to consider the challenges of the journey, as they were experienced by thousands of travelers. Among the most exceptional were Brigham Young's Mormons, fleeing persecution back East as they headed to Utah....

31 min
Manifest Destiny and the Mexican War

10: Manifest Destiny and the Mexican War

In 1846, the United States went to war with Mexico and, as a result, gained the whole of what is now the nation's southwest region. Welcome to the era of "Manifest Destiny," which, as you'll learn, set the stage for the future of California, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and New Mexico....

31 min
The California Gold Rush

11: The California Gold Rush

The California Gold Rush transformed the politics, demographics, and economy of the United States. It also, for the first time, gave the American West an irresistible mass appeal. Discover how the gold rush accelerated westward expansion and, in the process, established some of the first truly multicultural American communities....

30 min
Bleeding Kansas and Civil War in the West

12: Bleeding Kansas and Civil War in the West

Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, giving new states the right to decide their relationship with slave labor. Explore how this event led to a period of chronic anarchy and low-level warfare on the frontier, and how the American Civil War played out in the western states and territories....

31 min
Building the Transcontinental Railroads

13: Building the Transcontinental Railroads

For Professor Allitt, the great dividing line in the story of the American West is the construction of the transcontinental railroads, which did more than anything else to link the West with the Eastern states from which they'd emerged. Go inside the myths-and startling realities-of this decisive moment....

30 min
Cowboys and Cattle Drives

14: Cowboys and Cattle Drives

There is no greater symbol of the American West than the cowboy. But who were the cowboys, exactly? What were their everyday lives like? What did it take to go on a cattle drive along the Chisolm Trail? And why did the arrival of the farming frontier bring an end to the open range?...

30 min
Homesteaders on the Plains

15: Homesteaders on the Plains

With the Homestead Act of 1862, public lands became available for anyone willing to settle and farm them. Enter the homesteaders. Explore the frustrations they faced in trying to cultivate the Great Plains, what fiction reveals about their emotions, and how farming difficulties led to the rise of the People's Party, or Populists....

32 min
Little Bighorn and Wounded Knee

16: Little Bighorn and Wounded Knee

Examine the period from 1865 to 1890, which marked the end of the Native American resistance to white domination. Two events form the core of this lecture. The first: the massacre of General Custer's cavalry at the Battle of Little Big Horn. The second: the massacre of the Lakota at the Battle of Wounded Knee....

31 min
Life in Western Towns and Cities

17: Life in Western Towns and Cities

Survey the five main types of towns that developed in the American West: Spanish towns, mining towns, farming towns, railroad towns, and the Pacific coast cities. Three cities you'll explore in depth are Salt Lake City, laid out in 1847; Chicago, the central metropolis of the West; and the great port city of San Francisco....

30 min
John Wesley Powell and the Desert Southwest

18: John Wesley Powell and the Desert Southwest

Twenty years after the end of the Mexican War, thousands of square miles of desert land the U.S. received had yet to be mapped and settled. That's where John Wesley Powell came in, whose report on these arid regions sparked the rise of irrigation farming techniques that would lead to unimaginable bounty....

30 min
Women in the Wild West

19: Women in the Wild West

What was life like for everyday women in the American West? Some were prostitutes. Others were missionaries. Others still were working- and middle-class women trying to recreate their lives back East. Ultimately, as you'll discover, the experience, while enlarging women's sphere of influence, was nevertheless a conservative one: to create a stable home....

30 min
From Territories to Western States

20: From Territories to Western States

Imperfect and violent-two words to describe how Western territories were created and then transformed into states. In this lecture, go inside this intriguing, often misunderstood process, from the role of influential businesspeople to the copying of other state constitutions to the efforts to give women the right to vote.

29 min
Western Violence, Law, and Order

21: Western Violence, Law, and Order

There is no doubt that the American West was a violent place. Why was this so? What kept the region from chaos and civil war? Professor Allitt's brief survey of violence explores the rise of vigilante justice, race riots against Mexicans and Chinese, and class conflict at coalmines....

30 min
Protecting Yellowstone and Yosemite

22: Protecting Yellowstone and Yosemite

The American West is home to a magnificent series of national parks, two of the earliest of which (and, arguably, the greatest) are Yellowstone and Yosemite. Discover through these case studies how the idea of a park system came into existence through government action and the dedication of conservationists....

29 min
Mythology of the American West

23: Mythology of the American West

Go inside the mythology of the American West, which kept the frontier alive after the U.S. Census Bureau declared in 1890 that it had disappeared. Examine historian Frederick Jackson Turner's influential "frontier thesis." Learn about the contributions of novelist Owen Wister and painter Frederic Remington. Also, explore the main categories of Western movies....

30 min
Winning the West?

24: Winning the West?

When thinking about the American West, Professor Allitt stresses a balanced view that encompasses both the achievements and the sufferings of this period in American history. It's an insightful conclusion to the grand, fascinating, sometimes troubling story of how exactly America became a vast nation stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific in just a century....

32 min