“The Civil War and Reconstruction,” a New MOOC by Pulitzer-Prize Winning Historian Eric Foner

It end­ed in ear­ly April 149 years ago. But it begins again on Wednes­day. Colum­bia University’s “The Civ­il War and Recon­struc­tion,” the lat­est sal­vo in the MOOC wars, opens Wednes­day, Sep­tem­ber 17, for free to the world – a 27-week series of three cours­es on the non­prof­it edX plat­form taught by Eric Fon­er, the university’s Pulitzer-Prize win­ning his­to­ry pro­fes­sor and one of the world’s lead­ing experts on 19th-cen­tu­ry Amer­i­ca. You can enroll for free here.

“If you want to know where the world you’re liv­ing in today comes from,” Fon­er says in the series pro­mo­tion­al trail­er,  “you need to know about the Civ­il War era.“  Head­line issues of the moment – black-white race rela­tions first among them, but also more gen­er­al issues of equal jus­tice under law, the pow­er and prop­er role of gov­ern­ment, and how law­mak­ers should deal with extrem­ism, ter­ror, and vio­lence – all find roots in this con­flict and its after­math, a four-year war that saw approx­i­mate­ly 700,000 Amer­i­cans killed, and scores more injured, at the hands of their coun­try­men.

Foner’s gen­er­al his­to­ry books on the sub­ject have sold thou­sands of copies – his new work on the under­ground rail­road pub­lish­es in Jan­u­ary – and he’s the author of the lead­ing Amer­i­can his­to­ry text­book taught in U.S. high schools.  He’s crossed over from acad­eme into main­stream media in oth­er ways – with appear­ances on The Dai­ly Show with John Stew­art, The Col­bert Report, The Char­lie Rose Show, Bill Moyers’s Jour­nal, and more.

Columbia’s effort in free his­to­ry edu­ca­tion on screen dates back decades – as Fon­er makes clear in the pro­mo video. Columbia’s his­to­ry pro­fes­sors Richard Hof­s­tadter and James Patrick Shen­ton reached thou­sands of peo­ple in their books and lec­tures, with Shen­ton even teach­ing a 76-part sur­vey course on WNET Pub­lic Tele­vi­sion called “The Rise of the Amer­i­can Nation” – which pre­miered in 1963!  But many of the great lec­tur­ers from this uni­ver­si­ty – lit­er­ary crit­ics and schol­ars Jacques Barzun and Lionel Trilling, art his­to­ri­an Mey­er Shapiro, and oth­ers – were nev­er filmed sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly, and Fon­er, who will for­mal­ly retire from teach­ing in a few years, was deter­mined to ensure his cours­es were record­ed, well-pro­duced, and pre­served for pos­ter­i­ty – and avail­able as edu­ca­tion­al resources to all.

The series, gen­er­ous­ly sup­port­ed by Columbia’s provost, his­to­ri­an John Coatsworth, is pro­duced by the Colum­bia Cen­ter for New Media Teach­ing and Learn­ing (CCNMTL), coin­ci­den­tal­ly cel­e­brat­ing its 15th anniver­sary this year. It’s the university’s first set of online cours­es on edX, after more than a dozen MOOCs on Cours­era – and with more to come on both.  The course promis­es some tan­ta­liz­ing new per­spec­tives on the world then and now – as the two high­lights reels show above.

Come & enlist – oops! — that is, enroll – today!

Peter B. Kauf­man works at the Colum­bia Cen­ter for New Media Teach­ing and Learn­ing and is Exec­u­tive Pro­duc­er of Intel­li­gent Tele­vi­sion and YouTube’s Intel­li­gent Chan­nel

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The His­to­ry of the World in 46 Lec­tures From Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty

Down­load 78 Free Online His­to­ry Cours­es: From Ancient Greece to The Mod­ern World

What Books Do Writ­ers Teach?: Zadie Smith and Gary Shteyngart’s Syl­labi from Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty

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