John Green’s Crash Course in U.S. History: From Colonialism to Obama in 47 Videos

Those who can­not remem­ber the past, said George San­tayana, are con­demned to repeat it. Luck­i­ly, if you learn about the past from John Green’s Crash Course video series, you can play them on repeat as many times as you like until you do remem­ber it. We’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured the acclaimed young-adult nov­el­ist, pio­neer­ing vlog­ger, inter­net edu­ca­tor, and appar­ent his­to­ry buff Green’s Crash Course in Big His­to­ry and Crash Course in World His­to­ry, and today we have for you his much more nar­row­ly-focused Crash Course in U.S. His­to­ry.

The his­to­ry of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca — an enti­ty much younger than not just the uni­verse and the world but than most oth­er coun­tries — would seem entire­ly man­age­able by com­par­i­son, one Green and his team could knock off in a few weeks and move on to grander sub­jects. But as any­one in the non­fic­tion pub­lish­ing indus­try knows, when Amer­i­can his­to­ry sells, it sells, not just because of the coun­try’s promi­nent place on the world stage, but because Amer­i­can his­to­ry con­nects to so many oth­er not just his­tor­i­cal but social, polit­i­cal, eco­nom­ic, and even tech­no­log­i­cal themes.

Green and com­pa­ny (a group that includes his one­time high school his­to­ry teacher) thus have more than enough to work with for all 47 episodes of Crash Course U.S. His­to­ry, from the natives and the Spaniards to the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion to the Civ­il War to the Great Depres­sion to the 60s to the Clin­ton years to what the series calls Oba­ma­na­tion — with plen­ty in between. Green tells the sto­ry with his usu­al mix­ture of well-select­ed detail, copi­ous visu­al aids, and dizzy­ing speed (enough of all of them so that you real­ly do need to re-watch the videos, or at least pause them fre­quent­ly), result­ing in a breezy yet sur­pris­ing­ly com­pre­hen­sive long-form primer on just what made the Unit­ed States so big, so pow­er­ful, so inno­v­a­tive, so self-regard­ing, so frus­trat­ing — and, ulti­mate­ly, so fas­ci­nat­ing.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Crash Course in World His­to­ry

Crash Course Big His­to­ry: John Green Teach­es Life, the Uni­verse & Every­thing

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

A Short His­to­ry of Amer­i­ca, Accord­ing to the Irrev­er­ent Com­ic Satirist Robert Crumb

Col­in Mar­shall writes on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, and the video series The City in Cin­e­maFol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • Robin Arkell says:


    I’m a 5th grade teacher and my class LOVES the U.S. crash course videos! Loves them! They have to earn the right to watch them by wad­ing through our text­book first, because the crash cours­es are so fast-paced that they work bet­ter if stu­dents are already famil­iar with the names/dates/events. I also some­times have to leap up and fast-for­ward sec­tions (for exam­ple, “mole ass­es” for “molasses” — par­ents don’t find that as fun­ny in the class­room as the stu­dents do.)

    We’re writ­ing today because of two inac­cu­ra­cies in Crash Course #6, Pre­lude to the Rev­o­lu­tion, which we’re proud to have noticed:

    1. The quote “shot heard round the world” does not come from “The Mid­night Ride of Paul Revere”, (which I had to mem­o­rize in my youth), it comes from Emer­son­’s “Con­cord Hymn”, (which I also had to mem­o­rize.) I am very old!

    2. The Stamp Act was not repealed because of the colonists’ protests, it was repealed because it was so cost­ly to enforce that George III would not make any prof­it from the tax.

    LOVE your pro­gram!

    Robin Arkell

  • Jeremy Bell says:

    Adolph Hitler had a mal­a­dy called “mete­orism”, which caused exces­sive fart­ing.

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