The United States has a heavily mythologized element to it, a number of them, in fact, if we want to be truly honest about it. Those myths play heavily into how we interpret events both domestic and international, and they are the cause of as much trauma as they are salvation. Taking the skeptic’s approach means not dismissing these myths out of hand, but rather asking questions that punch through them. We recognize that there is an element of truth to many of the myths, but the facts play out very differently because we impose modern values and assessments on the past in order to live up to this cultural identity we’ve built.
This is another homerun lecture series from the Great Courses. Prof. Stoler’s approach is to study the history in a more or less linear fashion from the founding of the original colonial settlements through the end of the Vietnam conflict, but along the way he exposes the myths for what they are and reveals how things unfolded and how they were perceived both then and later. It’s a lot to cover in half-hour lectures, and there’s a lot missing, but it still comes across as a well-outlined survey course. Not only did I learn a lot, but I find that I now have some new questions to ask in relation to other aspects of history that I study.