Sunday, April 25, 2010

History Channel: "America: The Story of Us" -- through the American Revolution

On Sunday April 25 the History Channel presented the documentary film “America: the Story of Us”, with the basic site here.  The program was introduced by President Obama. The byline for the film is "How America Was Invented".

The first part of the documentary traces the history of the early colonies with some surprises. John Rolfe made Jamestown boom by smuggling in tobacco, which would become the colonies’ biggest business. In earliest colonial Jamestown, African Americans were actually free.

Up north, pilgrims would make alliances with local native Americans.

The film fast forwards quickly into the causes of the Revolutionary War, which it puts in terms of personal self-determination, within certain social contexts.

During the war Americans innovated new rifles and new techniques of guerilla war, as demonstrated when they stopped a British march from Canada to New York. However, a British attack on New York from the sea would be the largest in history until 9/11/2001.

The Revolutionary War would foreshadow many of today’s military issues. It dealt with smallpox (bioterror), and steganography (using laundry).

George Washington would hire a Prussian soldier, Von Steuben, thought to be homosexual. The Prussian would reorganize how the Army trains and develop organizational corps structures still in use today. (Check Yahoo! answers here) Randy Shilts discussed Von Steuben in his book “Conduct Unbecoming” and the history certainly puts some perspective on today’s debate over “don’t ask don’t tell”.

The History Channel offers embeddable video on YouTube (on its own site the videos do not embed but there are more of them, somewhat in the style of Colonial Williamsburg Revolutionary City videos).

Here's a surprising account on how America got its name.

Further episodes will follow.

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