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The American Story: A Narrative History of the United States

American history is more than a collection of interesting stories, so why is it most often presented as such? It matters why things happened in the order they did. Join social historian Dr. Heath Mitton as he unpacks the story of the American Republic with special attention to how social and economic factors drove the politics of ideas, from the American Revolution through the presidency of Barack Obama. These episodes originally aired as a regular segment on 610 KVNU's For The People radio program originating from Logan, UT throughout 2013. Daily episodes of For The People may be downloaded separately.

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4) States' Rights: Then and Now

The concept of states' rights and the idea of state nullification of Federal laws is as old as the American Republic itself. In this episode we get into the beginnings of the sectional crisis in the 1820s, and trace these popular contemporary themes of conservative Constitutional interpretation to their ideological roots.

35mins

10 Dec 2013

Rank #1

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6) Tocqueville's Tyranny of the Majority

"Democracy! Don’t you recognize that these are the waters of the deluge? Can’t you see them advancing ceaselessly with gradual but irresistible force?...Let us attempt, then, to foresee the future with open eyes and steady gaze.” -Alexis de Tocqueville In 1831, when Alexis de Tocqueville landed in New York, the United States was a country in transition. Caught somewhere in the evolution from an agrarian economy to commercial mercantilism, the young republic was a stage for competing and contradictory social paradigms. This episode explores the Frenchman's observations of early America, where he saw what has come to be known as the “soft despotism” of individuals in a democracy attempting to bend political power to their own benefit.

32mins

22 Dec 2013

Rank #2

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5) Negotiation & Compromise

A broad discussion of the art of compromise in American politics, focusing on the Compromise of 1790 between Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton. Why are ideological arguments ill-suited to the compromise needed to govern?

36mins

10 Dec 2013

Rank #3

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17) Cold War I: Welfare v Socialism

This episode begins a thematic approach to 20th century history as Dr. Mitton explores the emergence of the American superpower and the simultaneous development of the social welfare democratic state. -- And why these two themes are mutually reinforcing.

35mins

6 Feb 2014

Rank #4

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16) Pearl Harbor & American Leadership

What specific United States policy was Japan responding to when they attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941? How did the Depression lead directly to World War II? And why, after half a century as the largest economy on earth, did the U.S. finally decide to take up the mantle of world leadership in 1941?

34mins

3 Feb 2014

Rank #5

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15) Great Depression- Interlude to War

Two themes dominate 20th Century world history: The emergence of the United States as a global superpower, and the simultaneous emergence of the modern Social Welfare State. This episode examines the roots of both in the Great Depression. Was the depression inevitable? Was it a result of gross mis-management of the economy, or a natural by-product of laissez-faire capitalism...or both?

36mins

27 Jan 2014

Rank #6

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14) Wilson, WWI, & the End of Idealism

The U.S. has officially declared war just five times; yet American troops have been involved in hostile incursions on foreign soil a total of 272 times! In this episode Dr. Mitton begins a discussion of American in the world. Woodrow Wilson understood that, as the largest economy on the planet, United States had responsibilities in the global community. But the horror of World War I disabused most modernists of the ideological notions of a global order based on self-interested nation states. - Join the discussion of the ideas that shaped a generation...and likely led directly to the most destructive conflict in the history of humankind: World War II.

36mins

26 Jan 2014

Rank #7

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2) Genesis of Partisan Politics in U.S.

Despite the fact that no mention of political parties can be found in the Constitution, bitter partisan divides have characterized U.S. politics since George Washington's administration. In this episode Dr. Mitton first explores the unique qualities of the American political system that guarantee an acrimonious two-party system. Then he guides us through the issues that divided the country and characterized the first partisan battles of the 1790s. -- Issues and principles which are remarkably similar to those we still fight about today.

33mins

20 Jan 2014

Rank #8

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13) Progressive Era III-Jim Crow

Prof. Mitton discusses how Jim Crow laws were actually a progressive policy response to conditions in the South. And we begin a thematic approach to 20th Century American history with a brief outline of how we got from a deeply racist progressive Democrat in the White House (Woodrow Wilson) to a progressive African-American Democrat President just a century later.

35mins

13 Jan 2014

Rank #9

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12) Progressive Era II- Dueling Memories

Was the American West built by rugged individualism or by massive Federal intervention? Much of today's partisan battles are rooted in the stories both sides tell about the history of this era of American history. But the truth often lies outside either party's interpretation of events. For instance, can you tell the story of how the settlement of the West by Anglo-Americans led to the passage of the 16th Amendment establishing the income tax? What is the connection between the Transcontinental Railroad and the cultural breakthrough of womens' suffrage? Join Dr. Heath Mitton as he explores these and other lasting impacts of the Progressive Era.

36mins

13 Jan 2014

Rank #10