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.
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 Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.