Professor John Fea of Messiah College discusses the European motivations--gold, gospel, and glory--for exploration in the Americas, taking Europeans from the Crusades to the Spanish conquest and the exploitation of resources in the Caribbean. He explores as well the question of whether the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs was "complete"--military, political, economic, religious, and cultural.
In 1807, Aaron Burr was tried and acquitted on charges of treason for his "adventures" in the American West, but he had fallen out of favor in American life long before, after he had run for president against Thomas Jefferson, served a single term as vice president, and shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in an 1804 duel. A free spender, a womanizer, and the only Founding Father who was actually descended from the English aristocracy, Burr was famously secretive and conspiratorial. In this lecture, historian Gordon S. Wood, Alva O. Way University Professor and Professor of History Emeritus at Brown University, argues that Burr's true treason was not his actions in the West but his naked ambition and his lack of principles and character that made him a threat to the young republic.
Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities and Director of the American Studies Program at Columbia University, Andrew Delbanco examines the evolution of the American Dream--the idea that anyone may rise above his or her station, regardless of birth. Beginning with the Puritans, Professor Delbanco traces the origins of the American Dream from the Calvinist fire-and-brimstone of Jonathan Edwards, to the swelling optimism of Emerson and Melville, to the present day.
Jill Lepore, Professor of Early American History at Harvard University, draws on scholarship from her book, The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity, to trace how the meanings attached to this brutally destructive war have changed as the attitudes about historical actors and the political pressures on those actors have changed.
James I. Robertson, Alumni Distinguished Professor in history at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, re-examines, in Stonewall Jackson: The Man, the Soldier, the Legend, the life and the aura of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
Walter Isaacson, president of the Aspen Institute and author of Kissinger: A Biography, traces Benjamin Franklin’s life from runaway apprentice to Founding Father, exploring how Franklin’s commitment to the common American and his appreciaiton for the possibilities of democracy helped forge an American national identity.
Mary Beth Norton, Mary Donlon Alger Professor of American History at Cornell University, reinterprets the Salem witchcraft crisis from a seventeenth-century perspective, drawing not only on court records, but also on correspondence and journals from the late 1680s to the early 1690s.