The American Founders and Their World

Through­out this year, my pro­gram at Stan­ford has been cel­e­brat­ing its 20th anniver­sary, and we’ve put togeth­er some spe­cial cours­es for the occa­sion. This spring, we offered a class fea­tur­ing some of the finest Amer­i­can his­to­ri­ans in the coun­try, and togeth­er, they looked back at “The Amer­i­can Founders and Their World.” (Get it free on iTunes here; sor­ry that it’s not also avail­able via oth­er means.) Direct­ed by Jack Rakove (the Stan­ford his­to­ri­an who won the Pulitzer Prize for his book Orig­i­nal Mean­ings), this short course brought to cam­pus Gor­don Wood (who received the Pulitzer Prize for The Rad­i­cal­ism of the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion); Annette Gor­don-Reed (who won the Nation­al Book Award for The Hem­ingses of Mon­ti­cel­lo); and Alan Tay­lor, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning William Coop­er’s Town.

You can find this course list­ed in our large col­lec­tion of Free Uni­ver­si­ty Cours­es, and below I have includ­ed a fuller course descrip­tion that ran in our cat­a­logues. Enjoy learn­ing more about Jef­fer­son, Madi­son, Hamil­ton, Wash­ing­ton, the Fed­er­al­ists, anti-Fed­er­al­ists and the rest:

By all accounts, pop­u­lar inter­est in the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion­ary era has nev­er been high­er. Books on Wash­ing­ton, Jef­fer­son, Adams, Hamil­ton, and oth­er founders roll off the press­es, make the best­seller lists, and pro­vide clear evi­dence that Amer­i­cans remain deeply fas­ci­nat­ed by the remark­able gen­er­a­tion that secured inde­pen­dence, formed a nation­al union, cre­at­ed the first mod­ern sys­tem of polit­i­cal parties—and espoused ideals of lib­er­ty and equal­i­ty while main­tain­ing a sys­tem of racial slav­ery.

How should we think about the Founders and their lega­cy? How can we account for the emer­gence of this group of lead­ers in the provin­cial iso­la­tion of 18th-cen­tu­ry British North Amer­i­ca? To answer these ques­tions, Con­tin­u­ing Stud­ies invit­ed Jack Rakove, Pulitzer Prize–winning his­to­ri­an and W.R. Coe Pro­fes­sor of His­to­ry and Amer­i­can Stud­ies at Stan­ford, to recruit an “A Team” of fel­low schol­ars from across the coun­try to dis­cuss the indi­vid­ual lives and col­lec­tive acts that turned the thir­teen colonies into a nation­al repub­lic. Pre­sen­ters will not lec­ture for­mal­ly; instead, in each class meet­ing Pro­fes­sor Rakove will engage in con­ver­sa­tion with his guests to explore their sub­ject in dia­logue.

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