Crash Course US History


  • The Black Legend, Native Americans, and Spaniards | Crash Course US History #1

    John Green talks about the Native Americans who lived in what is now the US prior to European contact. This is a history class, not archaeology, so we're mainly going to cover written history. That means we start with the first sustained European settlement in North America, and that means the Spanish. The Spanish have a long history with the natives of the Americas, and not all of it was positive. The Spanish were definitely not peaceful colonizers, but what colonizers are peaceful? Colonization pretty much always results in an antagonistic relationship with the locals. John teaches you about early Spanish explorers, settlements, and what happened when they didn't get along with the indigenous people. The story of their rocky relations has been called the Black Legend. Which is not a positive legend.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Colonizing America | Crash Course US History #2

    John Green teaches you about the (English) colonies in what is now the United States. He covers the first permanent English colony at Jamestown, Virginia, the various theocracies in Massachusetts, the feudal kingdom in Maryland, and even a bit about the spooky lost colony at Roanoke Island. What were the English doing in America, anyway? Lots of stuff. In Virginia, the colonists were largely there to make money. In Maryland, the idea was to create a a colony for Catholics who wanted to be serfs of the Lords Baltimore. In Massachusetts, the Pilgrims and Puritans came to America to find a place where they could freely persecute those who didn't share their beliefs. But there was a healthy profit motive in Massachusetts as well. Profits were thin at first, and so were the colonists. Trouble growing food and trouble with the natives kept the early colonies from success.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • The Natives and the English | Crash Course US History #3

    John Green teaches you about relations between the early English colonists and the native people they encountered in the New World. In short, these relations were poor. As soon as they arrived, the English were in conflict with the native people. At Jamestown, Captain John Smith briefly managed to get the colony on pretty solid footing with the local tribes, but it didn't last, and a long series of wars with the natives ensued. This pattern would continue in US history, with settlers pushing into native lands and pushing the inhabitants further west. In this episode, you'll learn about Wahunsunacawh (who the English called Powhatan), his daughter Pocahontas, King Philip's (aka Metacom) War, and the Mystic Massacre. By and large, the history of the Natives and the English was not a happy one, even Thanksgiving wasn't all it's cracked up to be.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • The Quakers, the Dutch, and the Ladies | Crash Course US History #4

    John Green teaches you about some of the colonies that were not in Virginia or Massachusetts. Old New York was once New Amsterdam. Before the English got there though, the colony was full of Dutch people who treated women pretty fairly, and allowed free black people to hold jobs. John also discusses Penn's Woods, also known as Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania was (briefly) a haven of religious freedom, and William Penn dealt relatively fairly with the natives his colony displaced. We venture as far south as the Carolina colonies, where the slave labor economy was taking shape. John also takes on the idea of the classless society in America, and the beginning of the idea of the American dream.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • The Seven Years War and the Great Awakening | Crash Course US History #5

    John Green teaches you about the beginnings of the American Revolution in a video titled The Seven Years War. Confusing? Maybe. John argues that the Seven Years War, which is often called the French and Indian War in the US, laid a lot of the groundwork for the Revolution. Other stuff was going on in the colonies in the 18th century that primed the people for revolution. One was the Great Awakening. Religious revival was sweeping the country, introducing new ideas about religion and how it should be practiced. At the same time thinkers like John Locke were rethinking the relationship between rulers and the ruled. So in this highly charged atmosphere, you can just imagine what would happen if the crown started trying to exert more control over the colonies.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Taxes and Smuggling - Prelude to Revolution | Crash Course US History #6

    John Green teaches you that the Revolution did not start on July 4, 1776. The Revolutionary War didn't start on July 4 either. The shooting started on April 19, 1775, at Lexington and/or Concord, MA. Or the shooting started with the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770. At least we can pin down the Declaration of Independence to July 4, 1776. Except that most of the signers didn't sign until August 2. The point is that the beginning of the Revolution is very complex and hard to pin down. John will lead you through the bramble of taxes, royal decrees, acts of parliament, colonial responses, and various congresses. We'll start with the end of the Seven Years War, and the bill that the British ran up fighting the war. This led to taxes on colonial trade, which led to colonists demanding representation, which led to revolution. It all seems very complicated, but Crash Course will get you through it in about 12 minutes.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Who Won the American Revolution | Crash Course US History #7

    John Green teaches you about the American Revolution. John will teach you about the major battles of the war, and discuss the strategies on both sides. Everyone is familiar with how this war played out for the Founding Fathers; they got to become the Founding Fathers. But what did the revolution mean to the common people in the United States? For white, property-owning males, it was pretty sweet. They gained rights that were a definite step up from being British Colonial citizens. For everyone else, the short-term gains were not clear. Women's rights were unaffected, and slaves remained in slavery. As for poor white folks, they remained poor and disenfranchised. The reality is it took a long time for this whole democracy thing to get underway, and the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness weren't immediately available to all these newly minted Americans.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • The Constitution, the Articles, and Federalism | Crash Course US History #8

    John Green teaches you about the United States Constitution. During and after the American Revolutionary War, the government of the new country operated under the Articles of Confederation. While these Articles got the young nation through its war with England, they weren't of much use when it came to running a country. So, the founding fathers decided to try their hand at nation-building, and they created the Constitution of the United States, which you may remember as the one that says We The People at the top. You'll learn about Shays' Rebellion, the Federalist Papers, the elite vs rabble dynamic of the houses of congress, and start to find out just what an anti-federalist is.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Where US Politics Came From | Crash Course US History #9

    John Green teaches you where American politicians come from. In the beginning, George Washington was elected president with no opposition, everything was new and exciting, and everyone just got along. For several months. Then the contentious debate about the nature of the United States began, and it continues to this day. Washington and his lackey/handler Alexander Hamilton pursued an elitist program of federalism. The opposition, creatively known as the anti-federalists, wanted to build some kind of agrarian pseudo-paradise where every (white) man could have his own farm, and live a free, self-reliant life. The founding father who epitomized this view was Thomas Jefferson.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Thomas Jefferson and His Democracy | Crash Course US History #10

    John Green teaches you about founding father and third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson is a somewhat controversial figure in American history, largely because he, like pretty much all humans, was a big bundle of contradictions. Jefferson was a slave-owner who couldn't decide if he liked slavery. He advocated for small government, but expanded federal power more than either of his presidential predecessors. John explores Jefferson's election, his policies, and some of the new nation's (literally and figuratively) formative events that took place during Jefferson's presidency. In addition to all this, Napoleon drops in to sell Louisiana, John Marshall sets the course of the Supreme Court, and John Adams gets called a tiny tyrant.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • The War of 1812 | Crash Course US History #11

    John Green teaches you about the War of 1812. The War of 1812 was fought between the United States and its former colonial overlord England. John will take you through the causes of the war, tell you a little bit about the fighting itself, and get into just why the US Army couldn't manage to make any progress invading Canada. The upshot: no territory changed hands, and most of the other bones of contention were solved prior to the actual war. Although nothing much changed for the US and England, the Native Americans were the big losers. Tecumseh was killed, and the Indian tribes lost a lot of territory. Watch as John lays it all out for you.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • The Market Revolution | Crash Course US History #12

    John Green teaches you about the Market Revolution. In the first half of the 19th century, the way people lived and worked in the United States changed drastically. At play was the classic American struggle between the Jeffersonian ideal of individuals sustaining themselves on small farms vs. the Hamiltonian vision of an economy based on manufacturing and trade. In the early 19th century, new technologies in transportation and communication helped remake the economic system of the country. Railroads and telegraphs changed the way people moved goods and information around. The Market Revolution meant that people now went somewhere to work rather than working at home. Often, that somewhere was a factory where they worked for an hourly wage rather than getting paid for the volume of goods they manufactured. This shift in the way people work has repercussions in our daily lives right down to today. Watch as John teaches you how the Market Revolution sowed the seeds of change in the way Americans thought about the roles of women, slavery, and labor rights.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Slavery | Crash Course US History #13

    John Green teaches you about America's "peculiar institution," slavery. John will talk about what life was like for a slave in the 19th century United States, and how slaves resisted oppression, to the degree that was possible. We'll hear about cotton plantations, violent punishment of slaves, day to day slave life, and slave rebellions. Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, and Whipped Peter all make an appearance. Slavery as an institution is arguably the darkest part of America's history, and we're still dealing with its aftermath 150 years after it ended.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Age of Jackson | Crash Course US History #14

    John Green teaches you about the presidency of Andrew Jackson. Jackson's election was more democratic than any previous presidential election. More people were able to vote, and they picked a doozie. Jackson was a well-known war hero, and he was elected over his longtime political enemy, John Quincy Adams. Once Jackson was in office, he did more to expand executive power than any of the previous occupants of the White House. He used armed troops to collect taxes, refused to enforce legislation and supreme court legislation, and hired and fired his staff based on support in elections. He was also the first president to regularly wield the presidential veto as a political tool. Was he a good president? Watch this video and draw your own conclusions.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • 19th Century Reforms | Crash Course US History #15

    In which John Green teaches you about various reform movements in the 19th century United States. From Utopian societies to the Second Great Awakening to the Abolition movement, American society was undergoing great changes in the first half of the 19th century. Attempts at idealized societies popped up (and universally failed) at Utopia, OH, New Harmony, IN, Modern Times, NY, and many other places around the country. These utopians had a problem with mainstream society, and their answer was to withdraw into their own little worlds. Others didn't like the society they saw, and decided to try to change it. Relatively new protestant denominations like the Methodists and Baptists reached out to "the unchurched" during the Second Great Awakening, and membership in evangelical sects of Christianity rose quickly. At the same time, Abolitionist societies were trying to free the slaves. Americans of the 19th century had looked at the world they were living in, and decided to change it.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Women in the 19th Century | Crash Course U.S. History #16

    In which John Green finally gets around to talking about some women's history. In the 19th Century, the United States was changing rapidly, as we noted in the recent Market Revolution and Reform Movements episodes. Things were also in a state of flux for women. The reform movements, which were in large part driven by women, gave these self-same women the idea that they could work on their own behalf, and radically improve the state of their own lives. So, while these women were working on prison reform, education reform, and abolition, they also started talking about equal rights, universal suffrage, temperance, and fair pay. Women like Susan B. Anthony, Carry Nation, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the Grimkes, and Lucretia Mott strove tirelessly to improve the lot of American women, and it worked, eventually. John will teach you about the Christian Temperance Union, the Seneca Falls Convention, the Declaration of Sentiments, and a whole bunch of other stuff that made life better for women.

    Grades: 9-12
  • War and Expansion | Crash Course US History #17

    In which John Green teaches you about the Mexican-American War in the late 1840s and the expansion of the United States into the western end of North America. Famous Americans abound in this episode, including James K Polk (Young Hickory, Napoleon of the Stump), Martin Van Buren, Zachary Taylor, and Winfield Scott. You'll also learn about the California Gold Rush of 1848 and California's admission as a state, which necessitated the Compromise of 1850.

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Election of 1860 and the Road to Disunion | Crash Course US History #18

    In which John Green teaches you about the election of 1860. As you may remember from last week, things were not great at this time in US history. The tensions between the North and South were rising, ultimately due to the single issue of slavery. The North wanted to abolish slavery, and the South wanted to continue on with it. It seemed like a war was inevitable, and it turns out that it was. But first the nation had to get through this election. You'll learn how the bloodshed in Kansas and the truly awful Kansas-Nebraska Act led directly to the decrease in popularity of Stephen Douglas, the splitting of the Democratic party, and the unlikely victory of a relatively inexperienced politician from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln's election would lead directly to the secession of several southern states and thus to the Civil War. John will teach you about all this, plus Dred Scott, Roger Taney, and John Brown.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Battles of the Civil War | Crash Course US History #19

    In which John Green lists a whole lot of the battles of the US Civil War in seven and a half minutes. We get a lot of requests for military history, so we offer a list of battle names, with some commentary about outcomes and lots of really interesting pictures.

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Civil War Part 1 | Crash Course US History #20

    In which John Green teaches about the Civil War. In part one of our two part look at the US Civil War, John looks into the causes of the war and the motivations of the individuals who went to war. John also looks into why the North won and whether that outcome was inevitable. The North's industrial and population advantages are examined, as are the problems of the Confederacy, including its need to build a nation at the same time it was fighting a war. As usual, John doesn't get much into the actual battle by battle breakdown. He does talk a little about the overarching strategy that won the war and Grant's plan to just overwhelm the South with numbers. Grant took a lot of losses in the latter days of the war, but, in the end, it did lead to the surrender of the South.

    Grades: 9-12

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