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.
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.
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.
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.