Online Courses

How Literature Can Improve Mental Health: Take a Free Course Featuring Stephen Fry, Ian McKellen, Melvyn Bragg & More

in Health, Literature, Online Courses | September 19th, 2016

The great 18th century writer Dr. Samuel Johnson, who suffered from severe bouts of depression, said “the only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life or better to endure it.”

So…is it true? Can a poem help you cope with grief? Can a sonnet stir your soul to hope?

The University of Warwick have teamed up with some famous faces, and a team of doctors to tackle these questions and others like them, in a free online course on FutureLearn.

Poets, writers and actors like Stephen Fry, Ian McKellen, Melvyn Bragg, Mark Haddon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time), Ben Okri (The Famished Road), Rachel Kelly (Black Rainbow) and others, will discuss their own work and the work of famous writers like Austen, Shakespeare and Wordsworth – exploring how they can impact mental health and why works of writing are so often turned to in times of crisis.

Here’s Stephen Fry on the pleasure of poetry:

Plus throughout the 6-week course doctors will offer a medical perspective, giving an insight into different mental health conditions.

The course is offered through FutureLearn which means it’s broken into chunks – so you can do it step by step. FutureLearn also features lots of discussion so you can share your ideas with other learners, which often can be as beneficial as the course material (as one previous learner put it “a really wonderful experience and I’ve loved the feedback and comments from fellow course members”).

Here’s a runthrough of what’s on the syllabus. The course focuses on six themes:

  1. Stress: In poetry, the word “stress” refers to the emphasis of certain syllables in a poem’s metre. How might the metrical “stresses” of poetry help us to cope with the mental and emotional stresses of modern life?
  2. Heartbreak: Is heartbreak a medical condition? What can Sidney’s sonnets and Austen’s Sense and Sensibility teach us about suffering and recovering from a broken heart?
  3. Bereavement: The psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross famously proposed that there are five stages of grief. How might Shakespeare’s Hamlet and poems by Wordsworth and Hardy help us to think differently about the process of grieving?
  4. Trauma: PTSD or “shellshock” has long been associated with the traumatic experiences of soldiers in World War 1. How is the condition depicted in war poetry of the era? Can poems and plays offer us an insight into other sources of trauma, including miscarriage and assault?
  5. Depression and Bipolar: The writer Rachel Kelly subtitles her memoir Black Rainbow “how words healed me – my journey through depression”. Which texts have people turned to during periods of depression, and why? What can we learn from literature about the links between bipolar disorder and creativity?
  6. Ageing and Dementia: One of the greatest studies of ageing in English Literature is Shakespeare’s King Lear. Is it helpful to think about this play in the context of dementia? Why are sufferers of age-related memory loss often still able to recall the poems they have learned “by heart”?

Start the course for free today.

Jess Weeks is a copywriter at FutureLearn. The one poem which helps her endure is The Orange by Wendy Cope.

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An Introduction to Digital Photography: Take a Free Course from Stanford Prof/Google Researcher Marc Levoy

in How to Learn for Free, Online Courses, Photography | September 9th, 2016

Photography and video have advanced to such a degree that any one of us, for a modest investment of capital, can own the requisite equipment to make productions at the same level of quality as the pros. And most of us already hold in our hands computers capable of producing and editing hundreds of rich still and moving images. What we may lack, what most of us lack, are the skills and experience of the professionals. No amount of fancy photo gear can make up the difference, but you can at least acquire the education—a very thorough, technical education in digital photography—online, and for free.

Taught by Stanford professor Emeritus of Computer Science Marc Levoy, the course above, simply called “Lectures on Digital Photography,” covers seemingly everything you might need to know and then some: from the parts of a digital camera (“every screw”), to the formula for depth of field, the principles of high dynamic range, and the history and art of photographic composition.




Beware, this course may not suit the casual Instagrammer—it requires aspiration and “a cell phone won’t suffice.” Additionally, though Levoy says he assumes no prior knowledge, he does expect a few non-camera-related academic skill sets:

The only knowledge I assume is enough facility and comfort with mathematics that you’re not afraid to see the depth-of-field formula in all its glory, and an integral sign here or there won’t send you running for the hills. Some topics will require concepts from elementary probability and statistics (like mean and variance), but I define these concepts in lecture. I also make use of matrix algebra, but only at the level of matrix multiplication. Finally, an exposure to digital signal processing or Fourier analysis will give you a better intuition for some topics, but it is not required.

Sound a little daunting? You will not need an expensive SLR camera (single lens reflex), though it would help you get the most out of complex discussions of settings. The topics of some interactive features may sound mystifying—“gamut-mapping,” “cylindrical-panoramas”—but Levoy’s lectures, all in well-shot video, move at a brisk pace, and he contextualizes new scientific terms and concepts with a facility that will put you at ease. Levoy formerly taught the course at Stanford between 2009 and 2014. The version he teaches online here comes from a Google class given this year—eighteen lectures spanning 11 weeks.

Find all of the course materials—including interactive applets and assignments—at Levoy’s course site. As he notes, since the course has “gone viral,” many videos embedded on the site won’t play properly. Levoy directs potential students to his Youtube channel. You can see the full playlist of lectures at the top of this post as well.  For more resources in photography education—practical and theoretical, beginner to advanced—see PetaPixel’s list of “the best free online photography courses and tutorials.”

Lectures on Digital Photography” will be added to our collection, 1200 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

via PetaPixel

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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Enroll in a Free Online Course about ‘The Hobbits’ (aka Homo floresiensis)

in History, Online Courses | July 19th, 2016

You might have seen a new type of ancient human on the news recently, nicknamed, affectionately, ‘the hobbit’ (not because they were taking the ring to Mordor, but because of their rather diminutive stature).

If you didn’t, here’s the news in brief: a team of scientists went digging for the first Australians and instead found a completely new (and tiny) ancient human. Since then they’ve been trying to work out what happened to these small ancestors of ours.

To share their findings, some of the scientists involved in understanding ‘the hobbit’ have put together a 4 week free online course to explain how the discovery unfolded…

The course has been created with FutureLearn and will take you inside the world of this new species, giving you a run through modern scientific archaeological techniques along the way.

Here’s what’s on the syllabus:

Week 1 – Human Origins and Introduction to Archaeology

Learn about where you, me and everyone came from – before getting onto the moment ‘the hobbit’ was discovered.

Week 2 – Archaeological Methods: In the Cave

You think a festival is bad? Get to grips with how science translates in somewhere without electricity or water.

Week 3 – Archaeological Science: In the Lab

Understand what happens once all the archaeological finds are delicately hauled back to the lab.

Week 4 – Future Directions

‘The Hobbit’, despite it’s size, is having a big impact in the world of archaeology – find out exactly what this little ancient human might mean for the story of our origins.

Intrigued? Join the course today – it started this week, and you’re not too late to join.

Jess Weeks is a copywriter at FutureLearn. She has never conducted ground-breaking science in a cave, or discovered a new species, but there’s still time.

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How to Start a Start-Up: A Free Course from Y Combinator Taught at Stanford

in Business, Online Courses, Stanford, Technology | July 18th, 2016

If you have any entrepreneurial aspirations, you’ve likely heard of Y Combinator (YC), an accelerator based in Silicon Valley that’s been called “the world’s most powerful start-up incubator” (Fast Company) or “a spawning ground for emerging tech giants” (Fortune). Twice a year, YC carefully selects a batch of start-ups, gives them $120,000 of seed funding each (in exchange for some equity), and then helps nurture the fledgling ventures to the next stage of development. YC hosts dinners where prominent entrepreneurs come to speak and offer advice. They hold “Demo Days,” where the start-ups can pitch their concepts and products to investors, and they have “Office Hours,” where budding entrepreneurs can work through problems with the seasoned entrepreneurs who run YC. Then, with a little luck, these new start-ups will experience the same success as previous YC companies, Dropbox and Airbnb.

Coursera General Design 2 Green

Given Y Combinator‘s mission, it makes perfect sense that YC has ties with Stanford University, another institution that has hatched giant tech companies–Google, Cisco, Yahoo and more. Back in 2014, Sam Altman (the president of Y Combinator) put together a course at Stanford called “How to Start a Start-Up,” which essentially offers students an introduction to the key lessons taught to YC companies. Altman presents the first two lectures. Then some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley take over. Dustin Moskovitz (Facebook co-founder), Peter Thiel (PayPal co-founder), Marc Andreessen (Netscape creator/general partner of Andreessen Horowitz), Marissa Mayer (Yahoo CEO, prominent Googler), Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn co-founder), Ron Conway (Silicon Valley super angel), Paul Graham (YC founder)–they all make an appearance in the course.

You can watch the complete set of 20 lectures above, which covers everything you need to start a start-up–from creating a team, to building products users love, to raising money, to creating the right culture and beyond. Altman’s site also features a recommended reading list, plus a set of additional resources. (Bonus: A Georgetown undergrad has created an ebook pulling together the class notes from the course. If you download it, please donate a few bucks so he can pick up some ramen.) The videos for “How to Start a Start-Up“–which will be added to our collection of Free Online Business Courses–can be found on YouTube and iTunes U.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. And if you want to make sure that our posts definitely appear in your Facebook newsfeed, just follow these simple steps.

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Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing & The Social Network) to Teach Online Course on Screenwriting This Summer

in Film, Online Courses, Television, Writing | July 14th, 2016

Sports NightThe West WingThe American PresidentThe Social Network — hardly shameful items to appear on anyone’s résumé. Sure, people disagree about the likes of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and The Newsroom, but we’ve all got to admit that when Aaron Sorkin writes, he hits more than he misses, and even the supposed misses have more of interest about them than many others’ hits. How does this master of the modern American scene — its concerns, its personalities, its conversations, its politics — do it? You can find out in his Screenwriting course on MasterClass, the new platform for online instruction as given by big-name doers of high-profile work.




Back in May, we featured MasterClass’s offering of Werner Herzog on filmmaking, and though most everyone can enjoy hearing the man behind Aguirre, the Wrath of GodFitzcarraldo, and Grizzly Man talk for five hours, not everyone can summon the will to make movies like those. Sorkin, by contrast, uses his also considerable creative vitality to a different end entirely, writing snappy scripts that bring his own compelling idiosyncrasies to mainstream film and television. But he started, according to MasterClass, by writing his first screenplay on the humble medium of cocktail napkins — cocktail napkins that became A Few Good Men. Since then, he’s come up with “rules of storytelling, dialogue, character development, and what makes a script actually sell,” now ready to share with his online students.

In fact, he gives one away for free in the trailer above: “No one in real life starts a sentence with, ‘Damn it.'” That alone may get you writing your own Oscar-winning screenplay, thus saving you the $90 fee for the whole five-hour course, but Sorkin goes on to tease his methods for breaking through his “constant state of writer’s block” to craft dialogue as he conceives of that process: “Taking something someone has just said, holding them in your hand, and then punching them in the face with it.” He also makes reference to Aristotle’s Poetics, making his own lecturing sound like the very same high-and-low, intellectual and visceral cocktail that his fans so enjoy in the dialogue he writes. “The worst crime you can commit,” he warns, “is telling the audience something they already know,” and it sounds as if, in teacher mode to his audience of aspiring screenwriters, he plans on following his own advice.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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The 10 Most Popular MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) Getting Started in July

in Online Courses | July 8th, 2016

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Here’s a quick and easy way to beat the July heat. Dial up the A/C and sign up for one of 250 MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) getting started this month. They’re all neatly catalogued by the education web site Class Central, which also tracks the most popular MOOCS offered each month. Find the 10 most popular MOOCs starting in July below.

1) Tricky English Grammar

University of California, Irvine via Coursera

English is a difficult language to learn because of its many obscure grammatical rules, which are fairly easy to mess up–even for native speakers. Learn tips that will help you understand the rules and give you lots of practice with the tricky grammar of everyday English.

Bookmark | Starts 25th July, 2016

2) Japanese Culture Through Rare Books

Keio University via FutureLearn

A book is a tool for preserving words and images. Through books, an abundance of information, including the knowledge and experiences of the people of the past, has been handed down to the present. Explore the important roles that books have played in the cultural history of Japan.

Bookmark | Starts 18th July, 2016

3) Hinduism Through Its Scriptures

Harvard University via edX

Ever wondered about the sacred scriptures that have sustained for millennia one of the oldest and most diverse religions of the world – Hinduism? Want to discover the lessons this history may offer mankind in the 21st century?

Bookmark | Starts 5th July, 2016

4) Organizational Behavior: Managing People

IESE Business School via Coursera

The objective of this course is to provide insight into four key areas in the domain of organizational behavior: Motivation, Leadership, Teamwork, and Organizational culture.

Bookmark | Starts 11th July, 2016 

5) Developing Intelligent Apps

Microsoft via edX

In this data science course for developers, you will learn how to create smart applications that use the power of machine learning to engage with users in previously unimaginable ways.

Bookmark | Starts 11th July, 2016

6) Social Media Analytics: Using Data to Understand Public Conversations

Queensland University of Technology via FutureLearn

From the personal to the political, social media conversations are at the heart of cultural and social change. In this course you will be introduced to digital methods to analyze social media data on Twitter.

Bookmark | Starts 18th Jul, 2016

7) Question Everything: Scientific Thinking in Real Life

University of Queensland via edX

Have you ever wondered how you can apply math and science skills to real life? Do you wish you could go beyond what you’ve learned in the classroom? This science course will advance your knowledge as we unpack some important scientific thinking skills using real-world examples.

Bookmark | Starts 12th Jul, 2016

8) Bayesian Statistics

Duke University via Coursera

This course describes Bayesian statistics, in which one’s inferences about parameters or hypotheses are updated as evidence accumulates. You will learn to use Bayes’ rule to transform prior probabilities into posterior probabilities, and be introduced to the underlying theory and perspective of the Bayesian paradigm.

Bookmark | Starts July, 2016 

9) Process Mining with ProM

Eindhoven University of Technology via FutureLearn

Process mining is a new and exciting field which combines business process management with data science. Use the free, open source process mining framework (ProM) to analyze, visualize, manage and improve a range of business processes.

Bookmark | Starts 11th July, 2016

10) Algorithms on Strings

University of California, San Diego via Coursera

The world and internet is full of textual information. We search for information using textual queries, we read websites, books, e-mails. All those are strings from the point of view of computer science. To make sense of all that information and make search efficient, search engines use many string algorithms.

Bookmark | Starts 25th July, 2016

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32 Animated Videos by Wireless Philosophy Teach You the Essentials of Critical Thinking

in Online Courses, Philosophy | July 6th, 2016

Do you know someone whose arguments consist of baldly specious reasoning, hopelessly confused categories, archipelagos of logical fallacies buttressed by seawalls of cognitive biases? Surely you do. Perhaps such a person would welcome some instruction on the properties of critical thinking and argumentation? Not likely? Well, just in case, you may wish to send them over to this series of Wireless Philosophy (or “WiPhi”) videos by philosophy instructor Geoff Pynn of Northern Illinois University and doctoral students Kelley Schiffman of Yale, Paul Henne of Duke, and several other philosophy and psychology graduates.




What is critical thinking? “Critical thinking,” says Pynn, “is about making sure that you have good reasons for your beliefs.” Now, there’s quite a bit more to it than that, as the various instructors explain over the course of 32 short lessons (watch them all at the bottom of the post), but Pynn’s introductory video above lays out the foundation. Good reasons logically support the beliefs or conclusions one adopts—from degrees of probability to absolute certainty (a rare condition indeed). The sense of “good” here, Pynn specifies, does not relate to moral goodness, but to logical coherence and truth value. Though many ethicists and philosophers would disagree, he notes that it isn’t necessarily “morally wrong or evil or wicked” to believe something on the basis of bad reasons. But in order to think rationally, we need to distinguish “good” reasons from “bad” ones.

“A good reason for a belief,” Pynn says, “is one that makes it probable. That is, it’s one that makes the belief likely to be true. The very best reasons for a belief make it certain. They guarantee it.” In his next two videos, above and below, he discusses these two classes of argument—one relating to certainty, the other probability. The first class, deductive arguments, occur in the classic, Aristotelian form of the syllogism, and they should guarantee their conclusions, meaning that “it’s impossible for the premises to be true while the conclusion is false” (provided the form of the argument itself is correct). In such an instance, we say the argument is “valid,” a technical philosophical term that roughly corresponds to what we mean by a “good, cogent, or reasonable” argument. Some properties of deductive reasoning—validity, truth, and soundness—receive their own explanatory videos later in the series.

In abductive arguments (or what are also called “inductive arguments”), above, we reason informally to the best, most probable explanation. In these kinds of arguments, the premises do not guarantee the conclusion, and the arguments are not bound in rigid formal syllogisms. Rather, we must make a leap—or an inference—to what seems like the most likely conclusion given the reasoning and evidence. Finding additional evidence, or finding that some of our evidence or reasoning is incorrect or must be rethought, should force us to reassess the likelihood of our conclusion and make new inferences. Most scientific explanations rely on abductive reasoning, which is why they are subject to retraction or revision. New evidence—or new understandings of the evidence—often requires new conclusions.

As for understanding probability—the likelihood that reasons provide sufficient justification for inferring particular conclusions—well… this is where we often get into trouble, falling victim to all sorts of fallacies. And when it comes to interpreting evidence, we’re prey to a number of psychological biases that prevent us from making fair assessments. WiPhi brings previous video series to bear on these problems of argumentation, one on Formal and Informal Fallacies and another on Cognitive Biases.

When it comes to a general theory of probability itself, we would all benefit from some understanding of what’s called Bayes’ Theorem, named for the 18th century statistician and philosopher Thomas Bayes. Bayes’ Theorem can seem forbidding, but its wide application across a range of disciplines speaks to its importance. “Some philosophers,” says CUNY graduate student Ian Olasov in his video lesson above, “even think it’s the key to understanding what it means to think rationally.”

Bayesian reasoning, informal logic, sound, valid, and true arguments… all of these modes of critical thinking help us make sense of the tangles of information we find ourselves caught up in daily. Though some of our less rationally-inclined acquaintances may not be receptive to good introductory lessons like these, it’s worth the effort to pass them along. And while we’re at it, we can sharpen our own reasoning skills and learn quite a bit about where we go right and where we go wrong as critical thinkers in Wireless Philosophy’s thorough, high quality series of video lessons.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

 

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Take UC Berkeley’s Free “Edible Education 101” Lecture Course, Featuring a Pantheon of Sustainable Food Superstars

in Food & Drink, Health, Life, Online Courses, UC Berkeley | June 20th, 2016

edible education

Dinner at Berkeley’s famed Chez Panisse shows up on a lot of foodie’s bucket lists. Its founder, Alice Waters, has been promoting the importance of eating organically and locally for nearly half a century.

With the Edible Schoolyard Project, she found a way to share these beliefs in true hands-on fashion, by involving thousands of children and teens in kitchens and gardens across the country.




We will all benefit from this revolution, though I can’t help but envy the kids at its epicenter. Back when Waters was pioneering California cuisine, I was suffering under my school lunchroom’s mandatory “courtesy bite” policy. The remembered aroma of Salisbury steak and instant mashed potatoes still activates my gag reflex.

The University of California’s Edible Education 101 course has been continuing the Edible Schoolyard’s work at the collegiate level since 2011. It’s a glorious antidote to the culinary traumas experienced by earlier generations. UC Berkeley students can take Edible Education 101 for credit. The public is welcome to sit in on lectures featuring a pantheon of sustainable food superstars, including Waters, author Michael Pollan of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, above, and course leader Mark Bittman (you know him from The New York Times and his new startup The Purple Carrot).

Fortunately for those of us whose bucket list splurge at Chez Panisse requires such additional expenses as plane tickets and hotel rooms, many of the lectures are also viewable online.

The range of topics make clear that edible education is not simply a matter of learning to choose a locally grown portobello over a Big Mac.  Transportation, technology, marketing, and pubic policy all factor into the goal of making healthy, equitably farmed food available to all at an a non-Chez Panisse price.

A complete playlist of 2015’s Edible Education 101 lectures is here, or stream them right above. A list of 2016’s topics and guest lecturers is here. The Edible Education lectures will be added to our collection, 1200 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

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A Handy Guide on How to Download Old Coursera Courses Before They Disappear

in Online Courses | June 17th, 2016

MOOC_poster_mathplourde

Image by Mathieu Plourd, via Wikimedia Commons

On June 30th, Coursera plans to wind down its old e-learning platform. And according to this email the company sent around, any “courses and course materials on [that] old platform will no longer be accessible.” Concerned that dozens of older MOOCs could be lost, some have called this move a form of “cultural vandalism.” Others, like the good folks at Class Central, have created a very thorough and handy guide that will show you how to save the course materials (videos, slides, transcripts, etc.) before the June 30th deadline. You’re on notice. Start reading the guide and thank Dhawal Shah for putting it together.

For a list of MOOCs starting in the second half of June, click here.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. And if you want to make sure that our posts definitely appear in your Facebook newsfeed, just follow these simple steps.

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The Atlantic Slave Trade Visualized in Two Minutes: 10 Million Lives, 20,000 Voyages, Over 315 Years

in Animation, Education, History, Online Courses, Podcast Articles and Resources | June 14th, 2016

Not since the sixties and seventies, with the black power movement, flowering of Afrocentric scholarship, and debut of Alex Haley’s Roots, novel and mini-series, has there been so much popular interest in the history of slavery. We have seen Roots remade; award-winning books like Edward Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told climb bestseller lists; and The Freedman’s Bureau Project’s digitization of 1.5 million slavery-era documents gives citizen-scholars the tools to research the history on their own.

In addition to these developments, Slate magazine has designed a multipart, multimedia course, “The History of American Slavery,” as part of its online educational initiative, “Slate Academy.” Hosted by Slate’s Jamelle Bouie and Rebecca Onion and featuring guest historians like Baptist, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Annette Gordon-Reed, Eric Foner and more, this thorough survey consists of a nine-part podcast, with copious supplementary essays, book excerpts, and other resources drawing on primary documents and artifacts. One supplement, the animation above, shows us the “The Atlantic Slave Trade in Two Minutes.”

Visualizing 315 years—“from the trade’s beginning in the 16th century to its conclusion in the 19th”—the animation displays slave ships as increasing numbers of black dots zipping across the Atlantic to the Americas from the African coasts. The dots “also correspond to the size of each voyage. The larger the dot, the more enslaved people on board.” The Youtube video above provides only a partial representation of this impressive graphic. The full animation at Slate allows users to pause, click on individual dots, and get detailed information, when available, about the name of the ship, number of enslaved people transported, and points of origin and entry in the New World.

In all, we see animated “more than 20,000 voyages catalogued in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database.” And though we typically, with typical U.S. solipsism, think of American slavery as a mostly North American phenomenon, the truth is quite the contrary:

Of the more than 10 million enslaved Africans to eventually reach the Western Hemisphere, just 388,747—less than 4 percent of the total—came to North America. This was dwarfed by the 1.3 million brought to Spanish Central America, the 4 million brought to British, French, Dutch, and Danish holdings in the Caribbean, and the 4.8 million brought to Brazil.

Early slave expeditions were conducted by the Spanish and Portuguese. “In the 1700s,” writes Bouie, “Spanish transport diminishes and is replaced (and exceeded) by British, French, Dutch, and—by the end of the century—American activity. This hundred years—from approximately 1725 to 1825—is also the high-water mark of the slave trade, as Europeans send more than 7.2 million people to forced labor, disease and death in the New World.” Surprisingly, Portugal remained one of the leading nations among enslavers for most of the slave-trade’s history.

The animation and short explanatory essay by Bouie show us the staggering historical scope of the immensely profitable and profoundly inhumane enterprise that shaped not only the United States, but also—in many ways more so—Central and South America and the Caribbean. There is no history of the Americas, and no growth of many of the colonies into wealthy, world-historical nations, without slavery, nor can the wealth of Europe be in any way divorced from the profits of the slave trade and slave industry. Bouie and Onion explain in the short video above why they decided to produce the course.

For a sense of how historians’ and the public’s understanding of slavery have changed over many decades—for all kinds of ideological reasons—read this excerpt from Baptist’s groundbreaking book. As he says in an interview with Salon, most histories and recreations of the period of enslavement attempt to hide the facts: “The resistance to reckoning with the role of slavery in the trajectory that makes the U.S. the most powerful nation on earth, that’s real; that’s very, very deep…. Whatever we say about the role of the U.S. in global history, it’s absolutely clear to me that slavery is essential to the rise of U.S. power.” Slate’s series goes a long way toward telling us the true history of slavery, from the mouths of writers and scholars who engage with it daily.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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